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Boyd sets sights on staying in Tigers' rotation

Left-hander to rely on experience in his battle for the No. 5 spot
MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- Matt Boyd spent the final nine weeks of last season in the Tigers' rotation. He will spend Spring Training competing for the chance to start in 2016.

If Boyd exits Spring Training with the fifth spot in the rotation, or if he makes it to Detroit soon after, he'll thank the lessons he learned from his late-season stint.

DETROIT -- Matt Boyd spent the final nine weeks of last season in the Tigers' rotation. He will spend Spring Training competing for the chance to start in 2016.

If Boyd exits Spring Training with the fifth spot in the rotation, or if he makes it to Detroit soon after, he'll thank the lessons he learned from his late-season stint.

"I've been there before," Boyd said during TigerFest. "I know what to do now."

That has proven to be a theme of Boyd's pro career.

While Daniel Norris was the top prospect acquired from Toronto in the David Price trade, Boyd meant more than depth. Detroit bought on the upswing, having watched him surge from middling Double-A starter to Eastern League sensation to midseason fill-in for the Blue Jays.

Boyd took the lessons from his rough second half at Double-A New Hampshire in 2014 (1-4, 6.96 ERA in 10 starts) and excelled there to begin '15 (6-1, 1.34 ERA in 12 starts). It's the same thing Boyd did at Class A Dunedin from 2013-14.

Boyd learns, adjusts and advances. It's a far bigger learning curve in the Majors, especially after just seven starts at the Triple-A level, but he showed enough signs to believe he has a chance.

Boyd's good moments were outstanding. His first Major League win came against the eventual World Series champion Royals with seven innings of one-run ball in Kansas City, followed by six innings of two-run ball with six strikeouts against them in Detroit in September.

Video: KC@DET: Boyd looks strong in first start with Tigers

Boyd's bad outings, correspondingly, were extremely so. Those same Royals he constrained in two starts hit him around for six runs in an inning-plus on Sept. 3 at Kauffman Stadium. Boyd gave up three home runs against his old squad in Toronto on Aug. 28, and another trio in 2 2/3 innings at Texas to close out his season, resulting in 17 homers over 57 1/3 big league innings for the season. Boyd's 2.67 home runs per nine innings marked the highest rate of all MLB pitchers with at least 50 innings last year.

"I did have a stretch of good success up there," Boyd said, "and at the same time, I had some train wrecks for outings. It's learning how to minimize those [bad outings] so that they don't get out of control. That really separates a top-notch pitcher from an average pitcher.

"At the same time, it's being honest with the mistakes that you made, recognizing that. ... That being said, I feel like I've always continued to improve, to make the necessary adjustments. I just want to build on that."

Good or bad outing, Boyd was an extreme fly-ball pitcher. Even his win at Kansas City came with four times as many flys (20) as grounders (five) according to baseball-reference.com. His key will be to balance that out with a two-seam fastball and slider, two pitches he has worked on this offseason to tighten.

"More than anything, I want to repeat my delivery, locate my fastball," Boyd said.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.

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

Detroit Tigers, Matt Boyd