Matthew Boyd to start Opening Day for Detroit Tigers vs. Cleveland Indians

Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — Detroit Tigers left-hander Matthew Boyd is scheduled to be the Opening Day starter, manager AJ Hinch announced Monday. The Tigers begin the 2021 season April 1 against the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park.

This is the 30-year-old’s second consecutive Opening Day start.

“He’s had success,” Hinch said last week. “He’s also had to work back from some challenges, just the way his last couple of years have gone. He’s a presence on our team. He’s a presence on our pitching staff. A lot of people turn to him for a lot of reasons. He’s a glue-type guy and brings the team together.”

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Last season, Boyd started on Opening Day on July 24 against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park. He allowed four runs on six hits and two walks, with two strikeouts, in a 7-1 loss.

Boyd finished the year with a 6.71 ERA across 60⅓ innings in his 12 starts. He gave up an MLB-leading 45 earned runs and 15 home runs, while accumulating 60 strikeouts compared to 22 walks. Battling a hamstring injury in summer camp last July forced him to tweak his mechanics on the fly.

This spring, Boyd owns a 2.08 ERA in four starts, giving up one run in each of his past three outings. He has 13 strikeouts and five walks across 13 innings, allowing two home runs to his 51 batters faced. He is expected to get one more start in spring training.

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“From a mindset standpoint, from a reliability standpoint, those things are rock solid,” Hinch said. “Now the performance will follow.”

Acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2015 David Price trade, Boyd was at his best during the beginning of the 2019 season. He racked up 178 strikeouts in 132⅔ innings (22 starts), with a 3.94 ERA, leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.

The Tigers refused to trade him.

He finished 2019 with a 6.11 ERA in his final 53 innings in 10 starts.

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Boyd’s struggles at the end of 2019 and through the 2020 campaign opened the door for right-hander Spencer Turnbull to earn the frontline starter role, but he is away from the team for COVID-19 protocol reasons.

Turnbull is “unlikely” to return to camp before the squad breaks for Detroit on March 30 — after the spring training finale against the Tampa Bay Rays — to prepare for the regular season.

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“He’s not reporting or doing anything baseball-wise here with us,” Hinch said Sunday. “Obviously, we’re getting toward the end of camp. It’s getting more and more unlikely that he’s going to be able to do much between now and then, as of right now. We’ll see as we get toward the end of camp, if he’s available or not.”

Before Boyd, the three most recent Opening Day starters for the Tigers were Justin Verlander (2009-14, 2016-17), Price (2015) and Jordan Zimmermann (2018-19).

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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