Smyly works on his offspeed pitches

Smyly works on his offspeed pitches

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Drew Smyly continues to work on his entire pitching repertoire in his return to life as a starting pitcher, dusting off a changeup he never had to use in relief last year against left-handed hitters. His third start of the spring on Saturday was a continuation of that effort.

He held the Mets scoreless for three innings, issuing a walk and recording three strikeouts, while none of the three hits off him left the infield. Pitch-wise, however, he wasn't real happy.

"I was making myself work way too hard, throwing a lot of pitches," Smyly said. "I felt I was behind to almost every hitter, and that's not good. You're not going to get very far when you're pitching behind everybody. But if you take the positives out of it, I was able to work out of those jams every inning. That's good to be able to make your pitches when they count. I'm happy about that, [but I] just felt a little off."

Smyly pitched with a runner in scoring position in all three innings, and a leadoff runner on in the first two. He went to three-ball counts on three of his first eight batters -- including a walk to Matt den Dekker that put two on with none out in second. His end to that threat, a strikeout-throwout double play, came on a full-count fastball inside.

For the most part, though, the pitches he had to execute were offspeed.

"Today, it seemed like I was behind to every hitter," Smyly said, "and when you get behind, they start gearing up on the fastball. That's a good time to work on your offspeed [stuff], throw it when you have to throw it for a strike, throw it 3-1, 3-2."

Smyly might not completely leave relief work behind. The Tigers could use their two off-days during the team's first road trip to skip Smyly in the rotation and watch his innings.

Jason Beck is a reporter for 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.