LHP Drew Smyly earns spot in Detroit’s rotation

Called into manager Jim Leyland’s office on Sunday morning, Drew

Smyly heard the news he’d hoped for all spring.

Smyly, a 22-year-old lefty who has never pitched above Double-A,

had earned a spot in the Detroit Tigers’ rotation.

”Excited is an understatement,” Smyly said. ”From the

beginning I thought I had a good shot. I knew I was capable of

getting the job done, but everyone else is probably capable,

too.”

Leyland announced Smyly will be the fifth starter, and also said

right-hander Luis Marte had gotten the final spot in the

bullpen.

”Our pitching is set,” Leyland said.

The AL Central champions got down to their limit of 12 pitchers

by optioning Duane Below and Bryan Villareal to Triple-A Toledo.

That left Smyly as the winner of the monthlong competition for the

starting spot behind Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer

and Rick Porcello.

The Tigers will send Smyly to Toledo for one start on April 5,

bypassing the fifth spot in the first turn through their rotation.

He will be brought up to start April 12 against the Tampa Bay Rays,

the final game of a season-opening homestand.

Smyly made his pro debut last year and has only seven starts in

Double-A. As for his jump to the big leagues, he said: ”I think

people do it all the time. They (Tigers management) have been

around baseball for years and they have confidence in me and I’m

sure they’re not wrong. I mean, I have confidence in myself to be

able to get outs.”

Smyly’s lack of experience was only one factor in the decision,

Leyland explained.

”I took the guy that I thought had good stuff, a good delivery

and threw strikes,” he said. ”How that plays up here, we’ll wait

and see. That usually plays pretty good anywhere.”

Smyly has been in four exhibition games and is 0-0 with a 2.84

ERA. He will pitch Monday against Toronto.

The 25-year-old Marte pitched four times for Detroit last

season. This spring, he was 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA.

Below, 26, pitched in 14 games for the Tigers last year and

started two. He will be one of five left-handed starters in

Toledo.

”My heart aches for a few of those kids,” Leyland said, ”and

I also thought that with all the left-handed firepower we had

coming into this camp, there was no doubt in my mind that we’d find

at least one left-handed reliever out of the bunch, and we did

not.”

The Tigers will go with two lefty relievers, Phil Coke and

Daniel Schlereth. Joining Marte from the right side will be Collin

Balester, Octavio Dotel, Joaquin Benoit and closer Jose

Valverde.