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Smyly proving value through versatility

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ANAHEIM -- Drew Smyly picked up his first win of the year by pitching the 13th inning in the late hours of Wednesday evening in Seattle. Less than 72 hours later, he came on to get the final out of the first inning at Angel Stadium. He was not making the start.

That sequence, more than anything, describes Smyly's role in the Tigers bullpen. He fills the long-relief role, but with a bullpen by committee setup, the second-year left-hander might come on for situational work.

It's not for everybody. Yet unexpectedly, Smyly might fit it better than anyone on the staff. At the very least, it's the most valuable role for Smyly if he isn't going to start.

"I think Smyly's done a good job for us all along," manager Jim Leyland said Sunday morning.

It's normally a role for veteran relievers, since they know their arms and know how to warm up efficiently. Smyly, however, seems to have a veteran's calm demeanor along with a young arm that can handle the workload.

"I've seen veteran guys do it," pitching coach Jeff Jones said, "but I think a younger guy [can handle it better] because they can bounce back easier.

Smyly fell an out shy of essentially pitching a quality start Saturday. The problem with that was that he entered with a 9-0 deficit after the Angels hit eight singles and a grand slam off starter Rick Porcello.

Had the Tigers not plated a run in the 14th inning Wednesday, Smyly might well have had to do the same thing there. Usually, when Leyland goes to his long reliever in an extra-inning game, he'll stick with him until the game ends or until there's a save situation for his closer.

Smyly said he treats all those situations the same.

"I was just trying to throw it over the plate," said Smyly, who threw 63 of his 87 pitches for strikes Saturday. "You've got to get three outs, one batter at a time. Everything else, I don't think about."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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