LAKELAND, Fla. — Called into manager Jim Leyland’s office on Sunday morning, Drew Smyly heard the news he’d hoped for all spring.
Smyly, a 22-year-old lefty who has never pitched above Double-A, had earned a spot in the Detroit Tigers‘ rotation.
“Excited is an understatement,” Smyly said. “From the beginning I thought I had a good shot. I knew I was capable of getting the job done, but everyone else is probably capable, too.”
I took the guy that I thought had good stuff, a good delivery and threw strikes. How that plays up here, we’ll wait and see. That usually plays pretty good anywhere.
— Jim Leyland, on picking Drew Smyly for Tigers’ rotation
Leyland announced Smyly will be the fifth starter, and also said right-hander Luis Marte had gotten the final spot in the bullpen.
“Our pitching is set,” Leyland said.
The AL Central champions got down to their limit of 12 pitchers by optioning Duane Below and Brayan Villarreal to Triple-A Toledo. That left Smyly as the winner of the monthlong competition for the starting spot behind Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello.
The Tigers will send Smyly to Toledo for one start on April 5, bypassing the fifth spot in the first turn through their rotation. He will be brought up to start April 12 against the Tampa Bay Rays, the final game of a season-opening homestand.
Smyly made his pro debut last year and has only seven starts in Double-A. As for his jump to the big leagues, he said: “I think people do it all the time. They (Tigers management) have been around baseball for years and they have confidence in me and I’m sure they’re not wrong. I mean, I have confidence in myself to be able to get outs.”
Smyly’s lack of experience was only one factor in the decision, Leyland explained.
“I took the guy that I thought had good stuff, a good delivery and threw strikes,” he said. “How that plays up here, we’ll wait and see. That usually plays pretty good anywhere.”
Smyly has been in four exhibition games and is 0-0 with a 2.84 ERA. He will pitch Monday against Toronto.
The 25-year-old Marte pitched four times for Detroit last season. This spring, he was 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA.
Below, 26, pitched in 14 games for the Tigers last year and started two. He will be one of five left-handed starters in Toledo.
“My heart aches for a few of those kids,” Leyland said, “and I also thought that with all the left-handed firepower we had coming into this camp, there was no doubt in my mind that we’d find at least one left-handed reliever out of the bunch, and we did not.”
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
Lefty Smyly, 22, earns spot in Tigers’ rotation
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