Notes: Long day for Miner
Byrdak impresses in relief; Tigers ready for Interleague slate
BOSTON -- Zach Miner had no idea what was awaiting him in Boston when he woke up in Toledo around 4:15 a.m. ET. He had to get there first.
After struggling to calm the nerves of a Major League callup and get to sleep Wednesday night, Miner had to find his wallet once he woke up and then hurry to get to Detroit Metro airport. He arrived with about a half-hour to spare, but with check-in over, he had to talk his way onto his 6:26 a.m. flight.
He somehow did it without mentioning what his job was. Of course, at that point, Miner didn't know the details of his job for the day, either.
"I figured with the doubleheader, I'd probably be throwing today," Miner said. "I was getting ready for that."
He thought it would be in relief. It wasn't until he arrived at Fenway Park around 9:30 a.m. that he found out from manager Jim Leyland he was starting in place of an ill Mike Maroth.
"He told me when I got here," Miner said. "He asked, 'How do you feel?' I said, 'Good.' He said, 'Are you sure?' I said, 'Yeah ...'"
With that, he was back in the Tigers rotation, if only for a day. He didn't have enough time or sleep to worry about it, or reflect back on his sizzling summer last year. He just had to pitch.
"I think if it had been any other day, if it hadn't been the first day I'd been called up, then I probably would've been a little more tired than I was," Miner said. "When I was getting loose, I was feeling pretty good for having three hours of sleep."
For 5 1/3 innings, Miner kept the Tigers close in an unlikely pitching duel with Julian Tavarez. He retired seven straight batters at one point and didn't allow an extra-base hit. He fell one pitch shy of leaving with a 1-1 game.
All in all, it was an impressive package that looked more like the Miner who won six consecutive starts last summer than the version that struggled down the stretch.
"He threw a few more sliders, curveballs, changeups. He's a four-pitch pitcher now," Leyland said. "He did an excellent job."
It was a much different outing than his stats at Triple-A Toledo would've predicted. But for the last few outings, Miner has been a more aggressive pitcher after taking a good look at himself a few weeks ago.
The breaking point came after an April 15 outing in which he gave up seven runs over 1 1/3 innings, raising his ERA after three starts to 47.25. He was still thinking about being cut at the end of Spring Training, and he was out of whack mechanically.
"I just sat in the clubhouse after [that April 15 game]," Miner recalled. "I wasn't enjoying myself playing baseball and I wasn't enjoying myself at home. I can't keep going on like this. I just have to approach this [different], not like it's a job, but I wasn't separating it. I was caring so much about how I was doing that it was affecting me at home, and that was affecting me on the field. I was just like, 'You know what, if I'm good enough, I'm going to go out there and do it. And if I'm not, I'm not going to let it get to me.' I've been a lot better since then."
He stopped worrying about pitching perfectly and started challenging hitters. As a result, he hasn't given up an earned run in his last two Triple-A starts, covering 13 innings.
"I think the biggest thing is just not caring if they hit it," Miner said. "They're going to hit it. These guys get paid a lot of money to hit it. You just have to keep them off-balance and pitch your game. Not that you try to let guys get hits, but I was trying to throw a complete-game shutout every time I stepped on the mound. Sometimes, three runs in six innings is good enough to get a win."
Sometimes, three hours of sleep is good enough to work in the Majors.
"I had a lot of coffee in me from the plane ride," Miner said. "If you can't get excited to come pitch at Fenway Park, you probably shouldn't be playing baseball."
Byrdak-k-k-k-k: While Miner's performance was a surprise, Tim Byrdak's performance once Miner left was arguably more impressive. Entering with runners on second and third and one out in the sixth, Byrdak struck out five of Boston's next six batters, including the top third of the Red Sox order, capped by a called third strike to David Ortiz leading off the bottom of the eighth.
He hit 92 mph on the stadium radar gun to strike out Doug Mirabelli for the final out of the sixth inning.
"Changeups, sliders, fastballs," Leyland summarized. "He's done very well."
Interleague strength of schedule: According to an informal survey of the standings by MLB.com's Tom Singer, the Tigers will play what currently shapes up as the second-toughest Interleague schedule in the Majors. The five National League teams on Detroit's docket -- the Cardinals, Brewers, Mets, Phillies, Nationals and Braves -- entered Thursday a combined 13 games over .500.
Only Atlanta has a more difficult Interleague slate. Other than the Tigers, the Braves must face the Red Sox in two series, along with the Twins and Indians. It's a difficult enough slate that Chipper Jones complained about it to reporters recently. However, while the Braves play 15 Interleague games, the Tigers have 18.
Coming up: The Tigers return home for a World Series rematch against the Cardinals, beginning with a 7:05 p.m. ET opener Friday night at Comerica Park. Andrew Miller will make his first Major League start when he takes the mound opposite Braden Looper (5-2, 2.29 ERA).
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.