Tigers' rook gives Crew the hook

Tigers' hit attack backs Figaro in debut

DETROIT -- Alfredo Figaro didn't need a coach or teammate to tell him what to think as he watched his first Major League changeup go deep off Ryan Braun's bat and over the left-field fence on Saturday.

"I said to myself, 'Welcome to the big leagues,'" Figaro said.

Figaro said it was a lesson. The offensive outburst supporting him provided more of the welcome. And after Fernando Rodney sealed the Tigers' 9-5 victory over the Brewers at Comerica Park, he saved the ball for his cousin, Figaro.

"He said, 'Good job, man,'" Figaro said. "He said, 'I know you can be here. I told you, you can be here. So be relaxed and you can take your spot. That's your spot.'"

The Tigers would no doubt like him to take the rotation spot that opened when Dontrelle Willis went on the disabled list, but they didn't know what to expect in Figaro's debut on Saturday. Detroit knew his stuff from Spring Training, but it didn't know what the results might be. So much of that depended on how Figaro would react to being in the big leagues.

Like Rodney, Figaro was relaxed. He didn't dominate, having allowed eight hits and two walks over his five innings, but he didn't wither under the pressure, either. By working in and out of trouble in his first few innings, he kept what shaped up to be an OK outing from being far worse.

"He did OK," manager Jim Leyland said. "He had pretty good control, but not real good command. But he did fine. He has an outstanding arm. I thought he handled himself very well for the first time."

Figaro came from Double-A Erie with four potential big league pitches and the track record for strikeouts, and he mixed in just about all of them early. He ramped up his fastball from the mid 90s up to 97 mph in the right counts, and he had an occasional nasty arsenal of offspeed pitches when he needed them.

Figaro went from a 96-mph fastball to a nasty 86-mph slider in fanning Casey McGehee in the opening inning before he used back-to-back breaking balls to strand two runners with a popout from Corey Hart. Figaro got McGehee again swinging at a 97-mph heater in the second to strand runners at the corners for the second successive inning.

After Detroit's three-run second put Figaro ahead, up came Braun to lead off the third. When Figaro hung an offspeed pitch over the plate, Braun pounced.

Considering the warm weather and a steady breeze blowing out to left, it was not a good day to leave pitches up.

"That was my first changeup, and he hit a home run," Figaro said. "That's all right. That's baseball. Welcome to the big leagues. Then let me throw a little bit harder. No more changeups. You're going to see my slider. Hit it."

The fastball geared up, but he didn't overuse it. If anything, he seemed to settle in, even as the Brewers put more runners on base. J.J. Hardy's strikeout and Jody Gerut's popout stranded two more in the third inning after Braun's homer. Hardy struck out on a breaking ball again in the fifth after Mat Gamel's two-out triple.

"I thought he had real good poise," Leyland said, "and I thought he was able to tune it up a notch when he got in a little jam. He tuned it up to 97 [mph] a couple times. I was surprised, really, and I was surprised that he didn't just decide to go out and throw hard all the time.

"I thought he pitched. I thought he did a pretty good job."

The Brewers would agree.

"Good stuff, definitely. Really good stuff," Braun said. "He missed his spots a few times, but overall, he had good stuff. Better command of his fastball than his offspeed pitches, but you can see why he's pretty highly touted. He definitely has a chance to be pretty good."

Figaro was already going to get at least another start; that was decided when the Tigers called him up. Now, there's a curiosity to see how he reacts the second time around.

"It's all about talent," Leyland said. "It's not about age or service, veteran, rookie. It's not about that. It's about talent. It's about being able to get the job done."

Meanwhile, the same Detroit team that was held to three runs or fewer for seven straight games until last Thursday has now scored 25 runs over the past three days, all of them Tigers victories. Yet while Miguel Cabrera's second home run in as many days and Placido Polanco's solo shot continued Detroit's power resurgence, the bulk of the offense came on three-hit efforts from Don Kelly, Cabrera, Marcus Thames and Josh Anderson.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.