After 7 years, Tigers' Myles Jaye has successful big-league debut

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Myles Jaye surrendered two hits in 3.1 scoreless innings of relief Saturday against the Indians.

Detroit — It was probably fitting that when right-hander Myles Jaye made his big-league debut, Bryan Holaday would be his catcher.

“We have three good catchers here and any one of them would’ve been great,” said Jaye, who after seven years in the minor leagues threw 3.1 scoreless innings Saturday in his debut during the Tigers' 5-2 loss to the Indians. “But with Doc having caught me all year, it helped ease the nerves, for sure. It was easy to get on the same page.”

Their connection goes beyond their work in Toledo this season. Jaye was acquired from the Rangers in March 2016, in a trade that sent Holaday to the Rangers. Now, after two months together at Triple-A Toledo, they sit in neighboring lockers in the Tigers’ clubhouse.

And it was Holaday’s familiar target behind the plate that Jaye zoned in on.

“I just focused on his glove,” Jaye said. “That’s all I focused on. I didn’t even know who was in the box to be honest. I’m glad to get the first one out of the way.”

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Jaye was invited to big-league camp this spring, and he even got the start in the exhibition game against Florida Southern. But his spring went off the rails quickly and he had to start the season at Double-A Erie.

“I wouldn’t say I was mentally weak at the time,” he said. “But I knew I was better than what I was showing.”

The demotion to Double-A was a blessing in disguise because it reconnected him with pitching coach Willie Blair.

“He was with me last year and saw where I was then,” Jaye said. “The first bullpen I threw down there, he was like, ‘Something just isn’t right.’ From there we went back and looked at video.

“We found out my arm slot was way too high and it was making all kinds of other stuff not work.”

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Once he dropped his arm slot, his season took off and he wound up getting promoted to the rotation in Toledo in July. His numbers, 3-6, 3.58, aren’t indicative of how well he was pitching.

“It looked like the moment wasn’t too big for him,” said Gene Lamont, who managed Saturday while Brad Ausmus served his one-game suspension. “He pitches inside pretty good, good slider. He was impressive.”

With a two-seam fastball hitting 91-92, he wasn’t overpowering the Indians hitters but he wasn’t giving up much hard contact, either. Of the two hits he allowed, one was an infield single. He also induced six ground-ball outs.

“I caught him a lot in Toledo and he’s been great,” Holaday said. “I thought his composure on the mound was excellent and he attacked hitters. He used his sinker really well and got a lot of ground balls.”

His fastball is sneaky, too. It plays firmer than the velocity would suggest.

“I really don’t know, I might hide it a little bit,” Jaye said. “But it does seem to get on guys a little quicker than they think it is.”

This was the first time Jaye has pitched out of the bullpen.

“It was pretty crazy,” he said. “The first inning they told me to get hot, with two outs. I was like, ‘All right, here we go.’ But I was able to settle back down and they told me I had the sixth. There was still some nervous energy, but once I got on the mound it was just me and Doc’s glove.”

Twitter: @cmccosky