Boyd building strong case to be No. 5 starter

Tigers may keep Anibal or Pelfrey, but lefty draws praise from Ausmus

Boyd building strong case to be No. 5 starter

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Matt Boyd registered 95 mph on his fastball on the Ed Smith Stadium radar gun during his five solid innings against the Orioles. He dropped curveballs at 75 mph. By contrast, he can do nothing about the $21 million due Anibal Sanchez, or the $8 million salary committed to Mike Pelfrey.

Boyd is in a rotation battle that has a lot of factors, Spring Training numbers among them. He can't control the salaries, and he can't do anything about what Sanchez and Pelfrey do or what impact they have on the Tigers' roster. All he can do is pitch.

"It's out of my control," Boyd said after his five innings of one-run ball in Sunday's 7-1 win. "All I do is take the ball and just keep going. I just want to do whatever I can to help this team win."

In the process, he is helping his cause. Manager Brad Ausmus won't call Boyd the front-runner for a rotation opening, saying nobody is in front until there's a decision made. But if it comes down to pure performance, he has a case.

Boyd K's Becerra

"He has probably pitched the best of the guys that are in the running," Ausmus said.

Sunday, Ausmus added, "might have been his best outing. He used all his pitches."

The numbers are impressive. Though Boyd has allowed 20 hits over 16 2/3 innings, he has held opponents to six runs while posting a 16-to-0 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The home-run balls that doomed him last spring have been nowhere to be found this year, with no homers allowed.

Boyd also has the best stuff. His range of mid-90s fastball and mid-70s breaking call is something Detroit's veterans can't offer at this point unless they gain velocity in the final days of camp.

He doesn't have the experience, but he's gaining on maturity.

Boyd induces double play

"Since we first acquired him, he seems to have matured," Ausmus said. "His in-game maturity has improved. He's able to handle bounces of the ball that don't necessarily go his direction, figurative bounces of the ball."

Boyd allowed his lone run Sunday in the second inning on back-to-back doubles into the corners by Chris Davis and Trey Mancini, but he struck out Chris Johnson and retired Paul Janish to limit the damage. A two-out blooper that fell in safely extended the fourth inning for him with runners at the corners, but he retired Janish again.

Boyd threw 77 pitches over five innings despite a 26-pitch second frame. He's where he has to be in terms of readiness and performance. If he doesn't make the rotation to begin the season, it'll most likely be a roster factor, allowing the Tigers to keep Sanchez or Pelfrey if they're effective and use Boyd as depth. Even then, it might be difficult to keep him away for long.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for 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.