LAKELAND, Fla. -- Matthew Boyd stepped onto one of the many mounds at the back fields of the Tigertown complex Friday morning, threw his latest bullpen session, hit one of the training fields briefly, then retreated to the training room for his scheduled post-throw workout. By the time he was
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Matthew Boyd stepped onto one of the many mounds at the back fields of the Tigertown complex Friday morning, threw his latest bullpen session, hit one of the training fields briefly, then retreated to the training room for his scheduled post-throw workout. By the time he was done, his Friday morning was nearly over.
While training, Boyd's movement is tracked, recorded and stored on a bracelet he wears. The info is sent back across the country, where a performance coach analyzes the data, looking for trends and putting together a workout plan with Boyd for the upcoming week.
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What began as a plan to optimize what Boyd eats has become a complete routine covering everything from nutrition to sleeping patterns, between-start workouts to recovery plans.
"It's to feel great all the way through, just to be the best I can for my team from Day 1 until the last day," Boyd said. "If I'm at my best, I can put my team in the best position. Last year, I realized there's more I can get better at."
Last year was the first full season Boyd spent in the Tigers' rotation. He led the team with 31 starts and 170 1/3 innings, and finished with a 9-13 record, 4.39 ERA and a 4.45 FIP. He had a 4.08 ERA in mid-September before two rough outings inflated his numbers.
Though the rough finish raised the question of fatigue, Boyd says he felt fine. He lost focus, he said, while his grandmother was gravely ill in September, before passing away after the season ended.
Still, Boyd was looking for ways to improve heading into 2019. He spent much of his previous offseason working on his pitches. This offseason, he focused on his health.
Boyd has worked out every winter near home at Athletic Training Institute in Bellevue, Wash., alongside fellow Major Leaguers James Paxton and Michael Conforto. When the facility hired Devin McKee as a health performance coach, Boyd met him at season's end.
"I've eaten clean the last few years. I've read about how different foods affect your brain and whatnot. I've done intermittent fasting, things like that," Boyd said. "I've invested in some machines that help recovery. At that point, I was like, 'OK, I really want to take this to the next level.'"
Boyd underwent DNA tests to determine what foods his body reacts to better and what health conditions he might be predisposed to genetically. He had his heart rate and other vitals tracked to determine workout recovery and optimal sleeping patterns.
Some changes were obvious, others more individualized. With help from McKee, Boyd adjusted his diet to take in more monounsaturated fats found in olive oil, avocados, nuts and grass-fed beef. He cut out whole grains and pasta and added more vegetables. He added more fish to his diet. He also tracked when and where he ate his meals.
The resulting changes helped Boyd drop 15 pounds and improve his body-fat percentage.
"I wasn't planning on losing weight. I felt good where I was," Boyd said. "But once I started eating the way I did, it just kind of happened. I don't see it, but everyone says you can see it. That wasn't the goal, but it was kind of a byproduct. …
"I feel better. I have more energy. I'm sleeping better."
Beyond that, McKee and Boyd used data to look at how he recovered from workouts, how soundly he slept, his energy levels and movements, his exposure to light and his circadian rhythm to optimize a schedule around his daily cycle, pitching days and travel during a season.
Boyd is far from the first routine-oriented pitcher the Tigers have had. His former teammate, Justin Verlander, was meticulous in formulating a routine and sticking to it, down to the minute, leading into a start. The data and feedback provide another step in the process.
"We monitor all that," Boyd said. "It's something that's really kinda cool and hands-on. We break it down every week. [McKee is] another guy that I'm going to have in my corner to help me recover and hopefully pitch 200-plus innings this year."
Boyd has a Spring Training routine he's following now. With data from the bracelet and his own observations, he and McKee put together a regular-season schedule. Still, as the father of a young child who wakes up during the night and early in the morning, there are some variables he'll never control.
"With a little kid, it's hard," Boyd said. "I don't want to make it sound like I'm the one always waking up. My wife is the one who does a lot of the work, because I probably sleep a little too heavy. Spring Training's easy because we're waking up early. In the season, I'm sure there'll be some trial and error. There'll be some adapting, because I'm daddy first and husband first."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.