Pelfrey moves past rough first start with Tigers

Veteran righty's command off, and Yanks make him pay

Pelfrey moves past rough first start with Tigers

DETROIT -- Six weeks ago, Mike Pelfrey made his Tigers Spring Training debut against the Yankees with three perfect innings, maneuvering through a lineup that didn't include Alex Rodriguez or Carlos Beltran but did feature Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann. It was a surprisingly good first outing, but it was one outing.

As Pelfrey stood at his locker and took questions following an 8-4 loss Saturday in his regular-season Tigers debut, the results had flipped like the temperature.

"The weather wasn't an issue," Pelfrey said of the 31-degree first-pitch temperature. "I just wasn't very good."

It was an American League outing this time, not Grapefruit League, but it was a single appearance. He wasn't always going to be the dominant pitcher from March 1, but the string of outings he put together after that suggest Saturday won't be a regularity, either. There's a middle ground in there for Pelfrey to find, a process he sounded ready to begin as soon as possible.

"It's kind of easy to turn the page," Pelfrey said. "I've been around long enough to realize when you leave balls over the middle and you leave balls up, they're going to get hit at this level. I'm a firm believer that this game's all about execution and making pitches, and I didn't do that, so I got my butt whipped. That's what happens."

The Tigers signed Pelfrey in December to a two-year, $16 million contract to fill a back-end rotation spot. His debut didn't carry nearly the anticipation of Jordan Zimmermann's outing Friday, but it also wasn't the home opener. The intrigue remains over his upside. He's coming off a 6-11 record and 4.26 ERA last season, but he's also coming off arm problems two years ago.

From the outset, a first-inning solo homer to Rodriguez on a full-count sinker, he was struggling.

A-Rod's solo homer

"He obviously didn't want an outing like that, his first time in a Tiger uniform," manager Brad Ausmus said. "I do think the cold weather had an effect, especially with the split finger."

Said Pelfrey: "I felt fine. I just didn't make pitches. I fell behind and left balls over the middle, and that's a bad recipe. Obviously they made me pay for it."

Whatever the cause, the command he had shown in the spring wasn't there. He threw first-pitch strikes to nine of 19 batters, and had 2-0 or 3-0 counts five times. Three of those batters reached base safely. Another had a sacrifice fly. Jacoby Ellsbury's bases-clearing triple on Pelfrey's 70th and final pitch came on a 1-0 sinker.

"I was all over the place," Pelfrey said. "I didn't do a whole lot of things to be successful today. I fell behind a lot of guys. I made a lot of mistakes, and that's a pretty good lineup over there."

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.