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Hardy continues to impress out of bullpen

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Blaine Hardy didn't come to camp as an oft-mentioned name among the Tigers' lefty relief candidates, but after a week in Grapefruit League play, he's doing his best to make himself into one.

His perfect seventh inning Wednesday against the Astros improved Hardy's spring totals to five innings of one-hit shutout ball with a walk and two strikeouts.

He made an impression on Tigers officials last August when he tossed a complete-game one-hitter for Triple-A Toledo. This seems to be continuing it.

"The first couple outings, it was more along the lines of just trying to get my arm in shape," Hardy said. "The numbers were there, so that's fantastic, but I just want to make sure my pitches are where they need to be to start the season. But for the most part, I've been ecstatic about the way I've been pitching so far."

The Tigers signed Hardy last April after the Royals released him late in Spring Training. He went 8-3 with a 1.67 ERA between Toledo and Double-A Erie, but he seemed to thrive after joining the injury-depleted Mud Hens rotation. His approach, he said, didn't change.

"For the most part, I've always taken a relief approach into starting, going a batter at a time," Hardy said.

He doesn't have a power fastball, but his combination of command and movement has made an impression with manager Brad Ausmus.

"The pitch that stands out is the curveball," Ausmus said. "He's got a fastball and cutter to go with it, but when he throws the curveball, it starts in the zone and breaks out of the zone and you see hitters swing and miss at it a lot."

That kind of pitching would seem to lend itself to more of a general relief than a lefty specialist. In a bullpen with multiple left-handers, as Detroit seems poised to be, that could be a strength.

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.
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