JUPITER, Fla. — Evan Reed is making quite a statement during Grapefruit League games, and could be earning himself a spot in the Detroit Tigers’ bullpen.
Reed threw two perfect innings against the top of the Florida Marlins’ batting order in Detroit’s 3-1 win on Sunday. He struck out Giancarlo Stanton and Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the sixth inning after earning another inning by requiring just seven pitches to get three outs in the fifth.
The big right-hander has fanned eight with no walks in six innings, while allowing only one run on two hits for a 1.50 ERA in five games.
"I know I belong now," said Reed, who was up briefly with Detroit last season. "The harder I’ve tried, the worse the results have been. But now I have faith."
Reed said Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones and minor league pitching coordinator A.J. Sager, his coach last year on the Toledo Mud Hens, worked on his confidence.
"Jeff and A.J. helped me a lot in getting me to just relax," Reed said. "They imbedded in me that my talent is good enough."
Reed had a 4.24 ERA with 17 strikeouts and eight walks in 23 1/3 innings over 16 games for Detroit last year, when he also posted a 2.54 ERA with 49 strikeouts and 20 walks in 49 2/3 innings for Toledo.
The Tigers claimed Reed, 28, off waivers from the Marlins 11 months ago.
"They designated me (for assignment) on the last day of spring training last year," said Reed, who learned the news in the same Roger Dean Stadium where he dominated the Marlins on Sunday. "No hard feelings."
But you could see the feelings rumbling inside Reed.
"Obviously," he added, "they did not think I was good enough to pitch for them. I want to make them regret it."
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said "velocity" is the thing he likes best about Reed, who is topping out at 97 mph and throwing as hard if not harder than any of the Tigers. Reed said he’d never done that this early in the spring.
"I’m really happy with the way I’m powering the ball down in the zone," Reed said. "I worked out with David Constant at Constant Performance in Anaheim (Calif.) along with a good group that included (Cardinals pitcher) Joe Kelly and (Diamondbacks outfielder) Mark Trumbo. This is the best shape I’ve ever been in."
Reed throws a four- and two-seam fastball, the latter of which he said "is sinking more than in the past." He also has a changeup and a slider which Ausmus said that Jones and catcher Alex Avila have observed as being "a lot better this year than last year." He got Saltalamacchia to take a slider for a called third strike.
"He threw a couple of good changeups to left-handers and obviously has the 95-97 fastball," Ausmus said. "Hitters have to honor that and start their swings earlier.
"He’s certainly done his job in getting noticed."
Porcello had been the subject of countless trade rumors in the last two years, but trading Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals during the winter pretty much put an end to the Tigers looking to deal Porcello and work left-hander Drew Smyly into the rotation. Porcello and Smyly are the fourth and fifth starters behind Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez.
"I don’t know where it started," Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said of the Porcello report. "There’s no truth to it. We are having no conversations along those lines — nor do we plan to."
Porcello gave up one run on four hits with three strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings against the Marlins.
"I was up in the zone today with a lot of my pitches," Porcello said. "But I was able to make pitches when I had to. My changeup had a lot better action on it than in the last two starts, and it’s something I’ve been working on. When I’m feeling it, it’s a legitimate swing-and-miss pitch."
Porcello has increased his strikeouts every season and had 142 last year. The changeup could help him get even more whiffs by keeping hitters off balance a bit more.
Giancarlo Stanton blasted a homer off Porcello that landed well beyond the left field wall and on the second-floor balcony of the Marlins’ administrative offices.
"I thought it was going to hit off the roof," Porcello said. "Thank God it didn’t."