Smyly keeps eyes on Phillies' Lee to pick up tips

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Most starting pitchers will tell you that they don't care who's starting on the mound for the other team. They try to beat the opponent, not the opposing pitcher.

Cliff Lee is not most starting pitchers. For Drew Smyly, he's the standard for his style of game. So when Smyly wasn't pitching during the first two innings, he was watching Lee, trying to get a tip, to notice something that could help his game.

"Every pitch," Smyly said afterward, "I was in the dugout just watching it. I always like seeing how he attacks the hitters, what he throws in certain counts, because I feel like we're pretty much the same. I always like to take notes when he pitches.

"He commands his pitches so well, in and out. Guys never know what's coming. Watching that, it's what I want to do. You know, I'm not going to blow a fastball by every guy, so I have to work in and out."

They have a lot more in common than that. Both hail from Arkansas, and both were Razorbacks in college. They have the same agent, and they both go home during the offseason, when they've found themselves working out at the same place in Little Rock on occasion, along with Cubs pitcher Travis Wood.

"I don't know if he tries to emulate me," Lee said of Smyly, "but he has asked a few questions and I try to give some pointers here and there, and I'm more than happy to help those guys out."

The intensity of Lee's workouts, and the repetition involved, amazed Smyly, but he did pick up ideas. His best tip of the winter, however, might have been a mechanical tweak that Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones made during TigerFest to improve Smyly's changeup.

Smyly threw just a few changeups during his two innings of one-hit ball Monday, and he hit the strike zone with only one. He said the feel for it, however, was much easier than what he had thrown last year, when he was trying to force the motion.

"My command for it is better," Smyly said. "My feel for it is better. The angle of it, it's more changeup-like. Sometimes last year it would cut on me. It's a lot more consistent."