Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 7/18/13
DETROIT -- Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Drew Smyly probably wouldve made a great fireman or tightrope walker. His focus under duress also would come in handy as a Secret Service agent or high-rise window washer. Hes as cool a customer as Ive ever seen, Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones said. Smyly faces the best hitters opponents have to offer, but the fans waiting in line for hot dogs seem more rattled. He quickly looks in for the catchers sign and throws as if theres nothing to it -- like hes lobbing stones into a lake. Ive always been that way -- laid-back and nonchalant, Smyly said. I have plenty of emotion on the inside, but I just dont show it. He just keeps taking the baseball from Tigers manager Jim Leyland and puts out the fire or keeps one from starting. Smyly, 24, and closer Joaquin Benoit have been the lone constants in Detroits bullpen. Its Smylys job to get the lead to Benoit, and Smylys seldom failed. He's 4-0 with a 1.91 ERA. With 56 23 innings logged, hes second among American League relievers. His 0.97 WHIP is third among relievers with at least 40 innings pitched, and his 58 strikeouts are tied with Toronto Blue Jays All-Star Steve Delabar for the fourth most among relievers. Hes been huge for us, Jones said. I cant imagine where wed be without Drew. Hes won a lot of games for us. With complete cool. Nothing seems to affect him, Jones said. Hes very professional and looks the same every day, no matter what the situation is that he comes into. And that doesnt change, no matter what happened when he was on the mound. He comes into the dugout, and you cant tell how hes done. Thats very, very rare -- especially for a young guy. Smyly, out of the University of Arkansas, was Detroits second-round pick in 2010. The lanky lefty started last season and would like to start again, but his Game 1 showing in the ALCS against the New York Yankees foreshadowed his temporary move to the bullpen. Smyly pitched 2 13 scoreless innings and got the victory after the Tigers squandered a 4-0 lead in the ninth. With Smyly holding the Yankees in check, the Tigers finally prevailed in the 12th. That was exciting, Smyly said. I couldnt believe it. To get that opportunity and pick up my teammates meant a lot. Only he didnt show it. Hes been great, Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez said. Drew looks like a 10-year veteran out there. "It is surprising -- a guy that young doing what hes doing. Thats not easy. Tigers catcher Alex Avila was asked if hes ever seen Smyly show emotion on the field. No, Avila said with an incredulous stare. Not at all, ever. Avila said Smylys nonchalance can be misconstrued. I would not say that hes oblivious to the situation, Avila said. But does Smyly make him wonder? Yeah, Avila said with a smile. But now that hes learning the league, he gets more involved with what to throw in certain situations. Benoit grinned before adding, Hes just Drew, and because he does what he does, theres no need to change. Jones said the cutter is the pitch that makes Smyly special. Drew throws mostly fastballs and cutters, with a few curves, Jones said. We put in a lot of work in the offseason and spring training on the changeup, with the possibility of him being one of our starters. "Its the pitch he was lacking as a starter. Its shelved for now, but he throws it when he warms up so he doesnt lose the feel. The cutter has been a really big pitch for him this year, and it was inconsistent last year. But we adjusted his grip, and he picked it up immediately. He gets it in on the hands (of batters), and its become an out pitch for him. And he locates his fastball, between 90 and 94 mph, very well. Smyly began throwing the cutter -- the signature pitch of all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera -- accidentally while pitching for the Razorbacks. I had a blister and couldn't throw my fastball with the usual grip, Smyly said. So I tried to get on the side of it and developed a little cutter. Jonesy helped me tune it up so I could really trust it. Philadelphia Phillies All-Star Cliff Lee, who also pitched at Arkansas, gets an assist on developing Smylys cutter. I tried to pick it up from Cliff Lee, Smyly said. I asked him for tips. Its just a feel pitch, and mines more of a slider, actually. But his biggest adjustment has been converting from starter to reliever. Smyly was 4-3 with a 3.99 ERA as a rookie in 2012, when 18 of 23 appearances were starts. Rick Porcello won the spring-training competition for the final rotation spot, but Leyland kept Smyly as a reliever. Starting pitchers are more routine-oriented, Jones said, and we had some concerns about him coming out of the bullpen. But he took to it like a duck to water. Said Smyly: I didnt have a choice, and I wanted to help this team win and be in the major leagues. Im still adjusting to it -- finding the right times to work out and rest. "But I had to adjust or I wouldnt have been here very long. He hopes to return to the rotation, though. Its their say, Smyly said, and I just want to help the team win. But one day in the future, yeah, I want to start. There wasnt a hint of demand in his comment, and he simply shrugged his shoulders. Rolling with the punches fits into his personality. Im a couch potato in the offseason, said Smyly, who lives near Little Rock, Ark. I play a lot of golf, but like to chill and watch movies. "I like comedy, action, anything thats good. Im in line at the box office a lot. Smyly said both of his parents, Todd and Toni, plan everything and are anxious by nature. I dont know why I am like I am, Smyly said, but I just go with the flow.
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