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Lack of adjustments costly in Boyd's '17 debut

MLB.com @beckjason

CHICAGO -- Matthew Boyd won the final spot in the Tigers' rotation with one of the best Spring Trainings of any pitcher in Detroit's camp, in part by recording a 23-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He barely beat out Anibal Sanchez, who allowed one run over his final 18 innings.

Both pitched in Thursday's 11-2 loss to the White Sox and allowed five runs on five hits with one home run. Boyd walked four and struck out two. Sanchez walked two and fanned four. Their eerily similar lines after closely competitive springs both reinforced the point: While the Tigers broke camp from Spring Training less than a week ago, it seems much longer than that once the regular season gets going.

Full Game Coverage

CHICAGO -- Matthew Boyd won the final spot in the Tigers' rotation with one of the best Spring Trainings of any pitcher in Detroit's camp, in part by recording a 23-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He barely beat out Anibal Sanchez, who allowed one run over his final 18 innings.

Both pitched in Thursday's 11-2 loss to the White Sox and allowed five runs on five hits with one home run. Boyd walked four and struck out two. Sanchez walked two and fanned four. Their eerily similar lines after closely competitive springs both reinforced the point: While the Tigers broke camp from Spring Training less than a week ago, it seems much longer than that once the regular season gets going.

Full Game Coverage

"He just looked out of whack," manager Brad Ausmus said of Boyd. "I don't know if it was rust or not, but he didn't look the same."

Boyd hadn't pitched in a game in a week. He was originally scheduled to get a longer layoff than that before starting Saturday against the Red Sox in Detroit, but when rains washed out Wednesday's game, Ausmus moved Boyd up and gave Jordan Zimmermann and Daniel Norris extra days to recover from food poisoning and shoulder fatigue, respectively.

Blame the chilly weather and gusty winds, or blame Ausmus for moving him up. But Boyd looked nothing like the left-hander who took over the rotation race and beat out veterans with guaranteed contracts. He struggled to find a grip on his secondary pitches, battled command of the corners regardless of pitch selection, and gave up hard contact.

His arm angle, which he lowered last summer, stayed low. However, he said, it was too low.

"My arm slot was kind of dragging," Boyd said. "It was getting a little low and that was causing stuff to sweep and whatnot. It's something I just need to pick up on.

"I was aware of it. I just couldn't make the right adjustment. I knew what I needed to do. I just didn't do it fast enough."

Boyd did not cite the temperature, 48 degrees at first pitch but with winds that made it feel colder. But his struggle with breaking balls, which had been more effective this spring, seemed to tie in.

"Excuses aside, cold weather makes it tougher," catcher James McCann said. "Balls are a little slicker. You don't have the same kind of feeling in your hand. It definitely adds a different dimension, especially first start coming out of Spring Training. It's a different feel, and it takes some time to get used to."

Boyd threw 11 breaking balls, but just six for strikes. Two drew swings, but both connected. His 16 cutters drew 11 swings, according to brooksbaseball.net, but only one miss.

"It's just kind of the nature of the beast," Boyd said. "You have to deal with cold weather."

That also left him struggling to finish off hitters. He reached two-strike counts on 10 of the 17 batters he faced, but got outs on just half of them. His final pitch was a 1-2 offspeed pitch that he tried to get down and in on Geovany Soto and ended up hanging, and Soto deposited it into the left-field seats for a three-run homer.

Video: DET@CWS: Soto launches a three-run shot down the line

"That's a product of coming out of my delivery," Boyd said.

Said Soto: "When a couple guys start rolling, it can be contagious. I think that's what happened today."

By the time Boyd could figure out the adjustment, the game was rolling with too much momentum. He has five days to adjust for his next start, Tuesday against the Twins.

"Today was just constantly making adjustments, and I didn't make the right one," Boyd said. "But I know what I need to do, work on it the next five days and prepare myself for my next week."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. 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, Matthew Boyd