Boyd gets ahead of hitters, stays ahead in race

Boyd gets ahead of hitters, stays ahead in race

JUPITER, Fla. -- Matt Boyd is making it tough for the Tigers not to hand him the fifth spot in their rotation.

The 26-year-old southpaw turned in his most impressive outing this spring on Tuesday, limiting the Marlins to three hits with no walks over five scoreless innings in a 7-1 win at Roger Dean Stadium that wrapped up a two-day Grapefruit League road trip to Florida's east coast.

"It was a good one today," Boyd said of his fourth outing (third start) this spring. "Fun to get out there and go five innings. [Catcher] Alex [Avila] and I worked on some stuff, and the guys played some great defense behind me. It was a fun one."

Boyd, who gave up only one run on three hits in a three-inning stint last Thursday against the Mets, has allowed only one run and six hits over his past two Grapefruit League starts. He has registered nine strikeouts over eight frames in that span.

A key to Boyd's success against the Marlins was that he threw first-pitch strikes to 15 of the 17 batters he faced.

"He's actually pretty good at getting ahead of hitters, or has been lately," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "I thought he was really good today."

That bodes well for Boyd in his quest to secure a rotation spot before the Tigers break camp at the end of this month. Assuming that Daniel Norris, who has a 2.16 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP in 8 1/3 innings this spring, has the inside track on fourth-starter job, Boyd is in a battle with 33-year-old veterans Mike Pelfrey and Anibal Sanchez for the fifth spot. Pelfrey (8.00 ERA) and Sanchez (17.47 ERA) have not been as solid as Boyd has over the past week. Boyd's ERA fell to 3.86 following Tuesday's performance.

"Nothing's guaranteed," Boyd said when asked if he has established an edge in the rotation competition. "I just got to go out there every day and just keep working hard and let someone else make that decision for me."

'A good day all around'

The Tigers, who entered Tuesday's game against the Marlins having won only one game in their previous 11 this spring, turned in a solid all-around performance in all aspects.

Boyd and three relievers -- Kyle Ryan, Chad Bell and Warwick Saupold -- allowed only one run on seven hits and one walk. The offense also was clicking as the Tigers pounded out 14 hits, including three doubles and a three-run homer by Justin Upton, his fourth dinger this spring.

Upton also had a big play defensively in left field when he made a leaping grab near the warning track of a line drive by the Marlins' Brandon Barnes in the fifth inning after the Tigers had turned a 6-4-3 double play.

"We played all facets of the game today," Ausmus said. "It was a good day all around for the Tigers."

Steve Dorsey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.