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Lewicki learns lessons in big league debut

Right-hander allows 5 runs in 5 innings vs. Royals
MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- Artie Lewicki doesn't pitch like former Tiger Max Scherzer, but he sounds like him. He might think through a game a little like him, too.

As Lewicki discussed his Major League debut and his challenges in the Tigers' 7-6 loss to the Royals on Monday, it sounded like Scherzer was back in the home clubhouse at Comerica Park -- analytical, competitive and a bit perfectionist, all with a bit of pace in his speech.

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DETROIT -- Artie Lewicki doesn't pitch like former Tiger Max Scherzer, but he sounds like him. He might think through a game a little like him, too.

As Lewicki discussed his Major League debut and his challenges in the Tigers' 7-6 loss to the Royals on Monday, it sounded like Scherzer was back in the home clubhouse at Comerica Park -- analytical, competitive and a bit perfectionist, all with a bit of pace in his speech.

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"I feel like I'm definitely more than capable of going out there and giving quality outings," the University of Virginia product said after five runs over as many innings. "I don't think I showed what I'm capable of today, but it was good to get the first one out of the way -- first strikeout, first loss, hopefully only loss."

Lewicki paused for humor on the last point.

"Obviously, there's going to be more in my career," he said, "but you know what I mean. It's definitely going to be something I can learn from, move forward and hopefully make the best of this."

Lewicki approached his interview like he approached his outing, delivering with a purpose, getting the ball back and repeating. The Royals put up 11 hits, yet he mitigated the damage with only one walk. Despite all those hits, he finished five innings on 85 pitches, 62 of them for strikes, and he probably could've pitched the sixth if the Tigers needed.

"He throws strikes, and he's not afraid of the hitters," manager Brad Ausmus said. "It's his first time facing Major League hitters, and first time in a Major League stadium. That can be a little bit daunting. And he did fine."

It's not rare for a pitcher to give up so many hits and still be that efficient, but it is for a youngster. He's the first pitcher to give up 11 or more hits over five or more innings in 85 pitches or fewer in his Major League debut since Cleveland's Jeff Shaw in 1990.

Asked what he learned, Lewicki could answer in two words: "Pitch down."

That was his downfall. While Lewicki moved the radar gun up and down with fastballs ranging from 86.5-94.1 mph according to Statcast™, attacking an aggressive-swinging Royals lineup by varying his speeds, he struggled to get pitches down in the zone. He might have been pressing himself to make a perfect pitch, he said, even as he kept an emotionless face on the mound.

"I feel like I threw a lot of strikes. I just don't think that they were quality strikes," Lewicki said. "They could've been more on the edge of the plate instead of down the middle, or more low. I just wanted to challenge them. I didn't want to go out there and give stuff away, walk guys, put guys on. So I threw it there, and they beat me."

His loss came down largely to two elevated third-inning pitches, a curveball over the plate that Melky Cabrera lined to the fence in left-center field for a two-run double, followed two pitches later by a high changeup that Eric Hosmer sent out for a two-run homer and a 5-0 Royals lead.

Video: KC@DET: Hosmer skies a two-run homer to left-center

After that, Lewicki settled in and escaped further damage.

"Anything above four inches above the knees is high here," Lewicki said. "I think that's where I lived most of the day."

He'll get a chance to take those lessons to the mound again, albeit in a more challenging environment. With Jordan Zimmermann and Michael Fulmer sidelined, Lewicki will keep his turn in the rotation. If he stays on turn, his next outing would be Sunday against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Detroit Tigers