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Tigers have quietly effective, versatile lefty in Ryan

Lanky southpaw held opponents to .636 OPS in 2016
MLB.com @beckjason

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Tigers lefty reliever Kyle Ryan had the chance to meet one of his predecessors, Andrew Miller, this offseason. They have the same agent, and when Miller went to a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game, Ryan -- who lives down the road in Auburndale, Fla. -- was there.

"We got to sit down and talk while watching football," Ryan said. "He's a great guy, unbelievable guy, definitely influential. But what he did is stupid for our stock. He raised it crazy lengths. Hopefully he can do it again and again and again. Just not against us."

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Tigers lefty reliever Kyle Ryan had the chance to meet one of his predecessors, Andrew Miller, this offseason. They have the same agent, and when Miller went to a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game, Ryan -- who lives down the road in Auburndale, Fla. -- was there.

"We got to sit down and talk while watching football," Ryan said. "He's a great guy, unbelievable guy, definitely influential. But what he did is stupid for our stock. He raised it crazy lengths. Hopefully he can do it again and again and again. Just not against us."

The Tigers, try as they might to reacquire him, do not have Andrew Miller. They do have a versatile lefty in Ryan, who has done everything from spot start to long relief to lefty-lefty situations over the last couple seasons.

"I'm kind of in the same position," quipped Ryan, who is at least similarly lanky to Miller at 6-foot-5. "I just don't throw as hard. And I don't have the wipeout slider."

Ryan has neither the flashy stuff nor the intimidating demeanor, but he was quietly effective out of the Tigers' bullpen last year. Amidst the damage incurred by Detroit pitching this spring, the 25-year-old has shown signs of doing it again, maybe more effectively.

"He's certainly our most consistent lefty," manager Brad Ausmus said, "and he may be our most consistent pitcher so far in Spring Training."

With a perfect frame Friday, Ryan has 4 1/3 innings of one-run ball so far in Grapefruit League play, having allowed two hits and two walks along with four strikeouts. Both hits and the run came in his first outing.

Ryan hasn't been working on a new pitch or tweaking mechanics. All he's looking to do is spot his sinker on both corners. It's a pitch that did wonders for him last season.

Ryan held left-handed batters to a .225 average (20-for-89) with 22 strikeouts. Right-handed hitters didn't fare much better, batting .241 (28-for-116). His .636 opponents' OPS was the ninth-best mark among American League relievers.

Ryan credits teammate Justin Wilson with helping him figure out his game.

"Just be myself," Ryan said. "Don't let the batter change me. Just because I know who the guy up there is doesn't mean I pump up and throw harder. Be who I am. I don't throw hard. I let my ball do what it normally does and just sink."

If Ryan can do that again, he and Wilson have the chance to complement each other. While Wilson is Detroit's primary lefty reliever, Ausmus views him as more of a traditional setup man than a lefty-lefty guy. That leaves plenty of room for Ryan.

"It's not easy being a LOOGY [lefty one-out guy]," Ryan said. "It's not easy throwing one pitch and knowing that you just blew it. But that's why we're in the bullpen. There are hopefully 180-some games in the year and you get to throw possibly 80 of those games, so there's always redemption."

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.

Detroit Tigers, Kyle Ryan