I know, I know, we're only a month into the season. However, the American League's leader in ERA is… Tigers rookie left-hander Drew Smyly. Through four starts, he's 1-0 with a 1.23 earned run average. That's almost a half-run better than the next closest guy on the list, White Sox right-hander Jake Peavy (1.67).
"We're very pleased," says Jim Leyland. "So far, it looks like we made the right decision coming out of spring training. He's done very, very well." Smyly won the job against a slew of more experienced and highly rated hurlers. The list included Jacob Turner, Duane Below, Andy Oliver and others.
On Saturday, Smyly earned his first win. It came with the team in a major slump, losing five straight. "It felt good," he says. It's always exciting, getting that first win. It's even better coming at a time when the team really needed it." The win came at one of the most famous sports venues in the world, Yankee Stadium. "It was awesome. My parents were there. We got to share that together. It's like a dream come true. That's what you think about when you're a kid, playing in Little League. I had a blast doing it."
Smyly says he isn't putting too much thought into his great start. It's early. "I've got about 26 starts to go. Just got to keep making quality starts. Hopefully, I can stay consistent and see how things go."
When the Tigers drafted Smyly in 2010, the front office had high hopes. Scouting director, David Chadd, compared him to Cliff Lee. One of the reasons, the cut fastball. It's a devastating pitch. To the batter, the cutter looks like a regular fastball, but it cuts in on the right-handed hitters at the last moment. "I think by far it's the most important pitch I have," Smyly says. "If I get behind, I can throw it. If I get ahead, I can throw it. If it's 2-0 or 2-1, and the hitter's looking for a fastball and you throw that, it cuts just enough to miss the sweet spot of the bat. They're not looking for it. It gets in on their hands. It's not really a strike-out pitch, but if I want to get a quick out, a ground ball, a pop up, it's a great pitch. It's my favorite pitch."
Leyland on Delmon Young, and Other Issues
Delmon Young will not start on Friday, his first day available from his suspension. Young has to sit out a week after he was arrested early Friday morning outside the team hotel in New York. He was allegedly drunk and yelled anti-Semitic slurs at a panhandler. Jim Leyland says Young not starting has nothing to do with his arrest. "He needs to get back into the routine a little bit," the manager says. "He needs to get out on the field, take fly balls, BP on the field, all that kind of stuff." Leyland is not ruling out putting him in as a pinch-hitter. "Would I put him in the game if I needed to? Sure. But he will not start Friday's game. But he'll be in there very shortly."
Leyland also talked about Victor Martinez, who paid a visit to the clubhouse on Monday. Martinez is hoping to return in September after tearing his ACL during an offseason workout. Leyland was asked if the energy Martinez can bring to the clubhouse can help the team. He's not buying into Martinez's leadership helping this team any. "Don't get too caught up in that stuff. We love Victor Martinez. He's a wonderful guy. He's a wonderful teammate. But his contribution is what he does on the field and the big hits that he got. People always talk about that stuff. I've said this a thousand times in my life. I've never seen a leader who hits .215 or .220. Never in my life. Never. Most of the leaders hit .300, hit a bunch of home runs, knock in a bunch of runs or pitch a lot of great games. Those are the leaders. Believe me."
Leyland will be in Toledo tomorrow night to watch Doug Fister pitch. He's battling a side strain. "I just want to see what the delivery looks like, what the movement looks like, what the command looks like. I don't expect him to be pin-point. All I'm hoping is that he gets through the game 100 percent healthy." Leyland hopes to have Fister back in the rotation on Monday in Seattle. Leyland says, if Fister's command is off, it will not have any role in his decision on whether to bring him back to Detroit. "I think the main thing is health."
Daniel Schlereth was recently sent down to Toledo after an awful first few weeks in Detroit. It looks like he might've been hiding something. Schlereth went on the disabled list with the Mud Hens for left shoulder tendinitis. Leyland says he always expects his players to be honest with him on whether they're injured. "The first time, to my knowledge, that anyone at the Major League level heard anything about Schlereth was after he went down to Toledo. So that's Schlereth's fault. I also admire guys who try to pitch through it. I think Schlereth's a trooper and was hoping to get by. If someone's hiding something and they tell you they're fine, what are you going to do?"