I know I've gotten away from these links roundups. I always mean to get back to them, but, eh, whatever. However thought I'd make an exception today since tonight's starting pitcher isn't just a rookie making a debut. He's a Michigan native making his MLB debut (as I'm sure you've heard and will continue to hear all day.) So to honor Duane, here's a few feel-good stories for your Wednesday afternoon.
Hens pitcher targets areas to improve after the break -- John Wagner, Toledo Blade
Below told John Wagner of the Toledo Blade he has to be more consistent across the board.
"I need to throw more first-pitch strikes and have fewer walks. I need to get more groundouts than flyouts.
"It’s little things like working off my fastball, working my pitches in-and-out and up-and-down. And it’s getting a hitter out on two or three pitches instead of working deep into a count. There’s always room for improvement, ways to get better."
Of course if he studies the defensive statistics in Detroit he might change his mind on that ground ball thing. Far better to let batters put it in the air against this team! Just ask Rick Porcello.
Hen's pitching coach A.J. Sager added:
"He’s been able to throw pitches at different speeds for strikes, he’s not afraid to pitch inside, and he pitches to both sides of the plate."
"He fields his position well, and he holds runners well," Sager said. "And he prepares well. He does a lot of things that give himself a chance to win."
Duane Below shaped by small-town roots -- Jon Paul Morosi, Detroit Free Press
This is a reprint from 2008. So first off, I must say this is a great reminder of what the Freep is missing. Jon Paul Morosi was in a world of his own when it came to feature writing, and the Freep hasn't found anyone yet who can match him.
'I like when people say I can't do this or I'm not a prospect. It just drives me.'
Also I learned Britton is apparently somewhat near Cabelas, so that's got to be pretty fun for them anyway. And a congratulations to the anonymous restaurant customer, Britton is back on the map. (But I did have to google maps it myself ...)
Anyway, it's a great read. The most interesting part: Below didn't even have plans to play baseball at any level beyond the local American Legion team.
Tigers manager explains going with Duane Below over Justin Verlander -- Tom Gage, The Detroit News
Some people thought the Tigers should just skip the fifth spot in the rotation and go with Justin Verlander. Earlier, Jim Leyland had said he didn't just sit around picking his nose and putting a boogie on Lloyd McClendon's arm and laughing about it as Lloyd says "EWWW! GROSS" and tried to purple nurple him back during the fifth inning, he thinks about these things. And he wanted Verlander to face AL Central opponents. (Left unsaid was Leyland's assumption that Don Kelly could pitch for a win against the A's). Leyland added that he wanted to make sure Verlander got an extra day of rest, as they do like to watch his work load.
Small-town pitcher Duane Below making an impression on Tigers | MLive.com
Steve Kornacki spoke to Duane Below during spring training for MLive.com.
"We’re real small for sure," Below said. "The people back home are all pretty excited for me and enjoy coming up and talking to me about the Tigers. Since I’m in camp, some people think I am going to be with the Tigers. I tell them, ‘No,’ I tell them I might be in Erie and might be in Toledo."
Duane Below called up to Tigers; will start tonight against Oakland - Adrian, MI - The Daily Telegram
A little trivia via Daily Telegram writer Scott McNeish:
Below will become the 10th Lenawee County native to play in the major leagues and first since Blissfield graduate Ray Soff pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1986 and 1987.
Small-town boy beats big odds to reach majors -- Dave Dye, Fox Sports Detroit
Dave Dye traveled to Britton and spoke with some locals about how excited everyone is for Below's debut.
"Everybody knows everyone, everybody helps everyone," said Diane Straits, manager of The Bullpen Sports Pub, the only restaurant in Britton. "We don't even have a stop light. We have stop signs. There's a gas station down the road. They sell pizza, very good pizza. There's also a post office, the fire department; that's about it.
That's pretty much a description of the town I graduated high school from. Manton pride, or something. (Bonus points if you actually read this far down and know where Manton is.)