Boyd ‘right where he needs to be’ in camp

Detroit Tigers

JUPITER, Fla. — For much of the spring, Matthew Boyd has run into few roadblocks while preparing for the upcoming season. He’s essentially sailed through most of his starts, and as a veteran pitcher who has overcome some rather significant injury setbacks in more recent times, having an uneventful Spring Training has been a welcome development.

That doesn’t mean he’s not going to “nitpick” — a word used by both Boyd and manager A.J. Hinch.  

Boyd was mostly happy with his start against the Cardinals in the Tigers’ 8-4 loss on Saturday at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium and for good reason — three of his four innings were flawless, and he was efficient enough to require throwing another simulated inning in the bullpen when his official outing had concluded.

But the Cardinals got to him in the second, sending eight men to the plate and logging five hits — two for extra bases.

“I guess I was frustrated with giving up a couple hard hits, more than anything,” Boyd said. “That’s not really what I go off of, but in the moment, that’s what frustrated me.”

The hits came off of a variety of pitches in Boyd’s repertoire. Willson Contreras doubled off a changeup, for example, while Taylor Motter launched a 384-foot homer off a 91.1 mph four-seamer. The important takeaway, however, is not the hits, but the fact that Boyd is comfortable with all of his pitches, and they’ve all been effective this spring. That wasn’t necessarily the case a couple of years ago, prior to him undergoing flexor tendon surgery in 2021.

What’s important now? Boyd is on schedule, on track and should be properly stretched out when the regular season rolls around in a couple of weeks.

“Matt Boyd will be pretty hard on himself, wanting to be a perfectionist,” Hinch said. “But he came down to the bullpen to simulate a fifth [inning] up. He’s right where he needs to be, where he is in camp.”

Tork goes deep
Spring Training is not the time to get too excited (or worried) about what a player does in a single game, or even over the course of a single week. But Spencer Torkelson hitting a fifth-inning leadoff homer off Cardinals lefty Matthew Liberatore was an encouraging sign for a couple of reasons. First, it was his first long ball of the spring, and second, it was one of several hits he’s logged in the past week, hinting that things might be starting to come together for him at the right time, with the days ticking down until the regular season opens.

“I’m sure it felt good for him,” Hinch said. “It arguably wasn’t even hit as well as his outs. He stayed with his approach and all of his prep and game planning. The hits are starting to come. That was a good sight to see.”

Torkelson has hit safely in five of his past seven games, and he has five hits in his past 12 at-bats. The Tigers struggled mightily to find any power in their lineup in 2022, so perhaps their recent power surge — they’ve collectively recorded six homers in their past two games and have 39 this spring — should be taken as an encouraging sign.

“None of us had a great year last year,” Torkelson said. “I told people that in the offseason, when they ask how we’re going to be, the guys that had down years — no way it happens again. We’re too good to dwell on that year. You take it for what it is, you learn from it. I like where we’re at.

“Not looking too far down the road, but we’re in a good spot, we’re hammering balls and we’ve got a good energy around the offensive mindset.”

Ibáñez returns
Prior to Saturday’s game, Hinch gave a mostly green light to Andy Ibáñez, confirming that if the third baseman came through the afternoon without any setbacks, he’d be cleared to return to Team Cuba for the World Baseball Classic semifinal game Sunday.

Ibáñez, who had been kept out of game action with a left finger sprain, played a clean game without incident and registered the fourth-hardest hit ball of the day (106.1 mph, per Statcast) on a double-play ball in the fourth inning.

“I need to talk to the trainers, but if all passes as I expect it would, he’ll go to Miami from here and should be with team Cuba tomorrow,” Hinch said after the game.

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