Boyd struggles to find rhythm vs. Jays

Boyd struggles to find rhythm vs. Jays

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Matt Boyd said Daniel Norris' back injury doesn't affect his competition for the Tigers' fifth-starter job.

"More than anything, you're just praying for him to get better," Boyd said of Norris, whose quest for the open spot in the Tigers' rotation ended with non-displaced fractures in his spinous process. "We came up together. I want to be side-by-side with him in his rotation. That's kind of the dream."

With Norris opening the season on the disabled list, however, there's a rotation spot to fill. And while Norris tries to battle through his back issue, Boyd spent Thursday battling the Blue Jays, and to a certain degree, himself.

"I had no rhythm out there," Boyd said after the club's 6-4 loss. "I beat myself and I put myself in position where I wasn't repeating my delivery."

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Boyd fell behind some of his old Blue Jay teammates, paid for a fastball over the plate to Justin Smoak and didn't get much help from his defense on pickoff opportunities gone wrong. Yet he had enough success changing speeds -- including a low-70s curveball that he dusted off late in his outing -- that he showed the potential to control an ultra-aggressive lineup like Toronto if he can locate his pitches more consistently.

"He showed signs," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He'd throw a real good pitch or a real good slider or a really good changeup, and then he'd have trouble throwing it a second time."

Boyd gave up four runs (three earned) on seven hits over 3 1/3 innings, walking two and striking out three. The one extra-base hit he allowed was Smoak's homer, a drive to left-center off a 91 mph fastball. The outing doesn't end Boyd's quest for a big league rotation slot, but it doesn't help him compete with Shane Greene, who will get his next opportunity Friday against the Braves at Joker Marchant Stadium.

"I just didn't have it," Boyd said. "It's the kind of game where you go out and you have to battle to put your team in a position to win. That's the way it goes some days. I know what I need to do to make the adjustments."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.