Detroit Tigers left-hander Drew Smyly can certainly handle the pressure of competing for a spot in the rotation. After all, he didn't exactly wilt under the pressure while throwing two shutout innings in Yankee Stadium in the playoffs last fall.
Smyly is competing with Rick Porcello for the fifth spot in the starting rotation this spring. He beat out five young starters for the fifth spot in the rotation last spring.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland has confidence in how his 23-year-old left-hander handles pressure. He certainly liked what he saw in the American League Championship Series, when Smyly pitched two shutout innings, threw 21 of his 29 pitches for strikes and earned the victory out of the bullpen in Game 1.
"I think Smyly's demeanor, which we knew going into camp last year at this time, showed up in New York in October," Leyland said. "He wasn't starstruck. He didn't get awed or anything. He just kind of went about his business."
Smyly seems pretty mellow all the time, whether he is standing on the mound in a tight game or just sitting in front of his locker stall. The only thing that has rattled Smyly in Florida this spring was when he nearly stepped on a black snake outside his apartment.
Smyly estimated the length of the snake at about 6 feet.
"I'm guessing it was a water moccasin," he said. "I don't know snakes."
Smyly was asked if he had time to take a photo of the snake with his cell phone.
"No," he said. "It was in a hurry. It wasn't chilling."
Smyly isn't relaxing either. He has spent a lot of time recently working with pitching coach Jeff Jones on his changeup, a pitch he didn't trust and rarely threw in 2012.
"I've been working on it a lot," Smyly said. "I didn't really even throw it much last year, because it just wasn't that good, but I've been working on it a bunch. Jonesy has helped me a lot with it, so it's coming along pretty well.
Smyly said he sometimes went an entire start without throwing a single changeup last season, but he knows the pitch could be a difference-maker for him if he masters it.
"A ton," Smyly said when asked how much the pitch could potentially help him. "I've known my whole life I need that pitch. It's just I've always had trouble with it."
Detroit Tigers' Drew Smyly brings improved changeup, same calm demeanor into battle for spot in starting rotation
Michigan Live | Feb 21