Tigers GM Al Avila spoke with reporters ahead of the team's winter caravan kickoff Thursday afternoon. Tony Paul, The Detroit News
Detroit – What you notice first about Matthew Boyd, as he sat with his teammates at the Tiger Den inside Comerica Park Thursday, is there’s less of him.
Never has he seemed overweight or out of shape, typically carrying 230 pounds comfortably on his 6-3 frame. But clearly, he’s changed his body this winter. He is leaner – 15 pounds leaner, to be exact. His face is unmistakably more taut.
And, as you might expect with Boyd, the body changes were a result of a calculated plan as he looks for ways to take his steadily improving game to another level.
Boyd hired a health and performance coach this offseason, Devin McKee, a former defensive back at Central Washington, who is on staff at the Athletic Training Institute in Bellevue, Wash., where Boyd has trained since he was 9 years old.
“We did DNA-based testing,” said Boyd, who turns 28 next Saturday. “We basically looked at my genes and found out what works for me and what doesn’t work for me. I was fighting losing battles with diet stuff, when I thought I was eating healthy.
“We changed that.”
He attacked this with the same methodical intensity he brings to the craft of pitching. He studies and learns the fundamentals, he develops a routine and he steadfastly sticks to it.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s about staying away from certain foods because of certain genes that I have that would create fatty tissue, create fat, just useless. I found I have a gene that doesn’t let me process saturated fat very well, so I need to limit my saturated fat intake.”
He cooks his food in avocado oil now. He eats a lot more vegetables, too, from three to six servings per meal. He learned he was predisposed to Celiac Disease, so he’s eliminated gluten from his diet. The 15 pounds essentially melted off his body.
“It’s just little things, really,” he said. “Not wholesale changes, just slight alterations to what we did. And I am already reaping the benefits.”
Boyd said he has more energy. He’s pushing more weight in the weight room. He’s running as good as ever, stamina-wise.
“All my training is solid,” he said. “I didn’t lose muscle, I lost bad weight, stuff that was useless. I got rid of excess baggage, the inflammation, the fat. It’s just, like, I am refining things. This is whole-life approach.”
The end game here, for Boyd, is consistency. He had, for all intents and purposes, a breakout season last year. He posted career-bests in ERA (4.39), WHIP (1.157), WAR (2.1), starts (31), innings (170.1), strikeouts (159) and opponents’ batting average (.228).
But there were too many pockets of inconsistency for his liking, especially toward the end of the season. In his last five starts, he allowed 17 runs (14 earned) and 10 home runs in 23 innings. Opponents slugged .617 with an OPS of .931 against him.
“I am excited to see how this is going to translate throughout the season,” he said. “I want to see how this is going to affect me in August, September and October.”
It’s been a transformative offseason for Boyd, to say the least. In November he and his wife Ashley went to Uganda, where they have built a refuge for young girls who were rescued from the sex trade through their Kingdom House foundation.
They brought the girls shoes, clothes and supplies and spent 10 days with them.
“It was just amazing,” Boyd said. “My wife and I celebrated our anniversary in Paris on our way back and honestly, I couldn’t even process that. Our minds and our hearts were still back in Uganda.”
His mind and heart, and body, have been all about baseball since he’s been back.
“Last year was a year of growth in a lot of ways,” he said. “I really learned how to use my slider. Partially that was out of necessity early on. But as the season went on, I got my fastball command back and that’s when things started to take off and things got really fun.
“With the fastball command came command of all my pitches. I know if I can stick to that, it’ll be huge for me. But just taking care of my body in a different way, refining that – that should make it better for me going forward.”