Smyly will stick around, fill in for Fister if needed, bullpen if not
While Fister said his round of playing catch on Saturday “was a positive,” head trainer Kevin Rand was equally optimistic, shooting for the pitcher to take a full bullpen session while the Tigers are in Kansas City.
“Absolutely. Optimistic because today was a real good day for us,” Rand said Saturday. “We’ve got some steps yet to take but by the same token, I think he was very encouraged by how things went today.”
That would put Fister in line to make his next scheduled start on this coming Saturday. With Smyly representing essentially an ‘extra’ starter, there were thoughts that he could be headed back to Toledo in exchange for an additional reliever.
“It’s simple arithmetic. It’s not hard to figure out. You’ve got Smyly for protection if Fister’s not ready, and if Fister’s ready, then Smyly by that time can fall into the bullpen, as a long guy,” manager Jim Leyland said. “So it’s pretty simple math.”
It can’t have hurt that Smyly, making his first big-league appearance since hurting his side on July 6, was lights out against the Angels Saturday. He went six innings, giving up just one earned run on four hits, despite a less-than-airtight defense behind him.
“Nah, he pitched so good last night, we’re sending him to Disney World. Yeah, he’ll be here,” Leyland joked
“I thought Drew Smyly won the game for us (Saturday) night. I thought we put him in a bad situation a couple times. He really pitched good (Saturday) night. We got him in a couple tough spots, and ... damn, he saved our ass. He pitched out of it. That could’ve been disaster. I was really impressed with him. I thought he did a helluva job.”
As for Smyly, who has only pitched out of the bullpen as a pro during spring training, he’s up for the new challenge, if needed.
“If they want me to be here and think that I can help the team out, help the team win down the stretch, that’s a big honor in my eyes,” Smyly said Sunday morning. “Any way I can help, you know? If I start here or there or throw an inning out of the bullpen or long relief, whatever they have planned for me, I’m just happy to be here to be a part of it.”
The Tigers are minus a long reliever, having sent Duane Below down to Triple-A to get innings, then sending his replacement, Luke Putkonen, down as well, to open the spot to bring Smyly up.
It will be a change for Smyly to have to speed up his warm-ups in the pen, but it’s not something he thinks he can’t handle.
“Obviously, you’ve got to have a more aggressive mindset, but it’s just getting your arm ready to go fast enough to where you know you can go in and compete to get an out that fast. When you’re a starter, you can long toss and warm up and throw as many pitches as you want in the bullpen. When you come into the game, I guess you’ve just got to get it going a little faster,” he said.
“I can get warm pretty quick. If I was in the bullpen, I don’t think it would be any problem for me. I mean, if I was in the bullpen in the major leagues, I don’t think it would take me long to get ready to go out and throw.”