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Detroit 6, Baltimore 4: Duane Below leaves door open for Drew Smyly, Gerald Laird injures knee

Final - 3.30.2012 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Detroit Tigers 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 2 6 8 1
Baltimore Orioles 0 1 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 4 5 2
WP: Brayan Villarreal (1 - 0)
LP: Jim Johnson (0 - 3)

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The main storyline today wasn't the Detroit Tigers winning 6-4 in come from behind fashion over the Baltimore Orioles. Nice as a win is, the real stories were Gerald Laird's knee injury. Duane Below's ineffectiveness keeping the door open for Drew Smyly to win the 5th starter job and the return of Miguel Cabrera to the lineup.

With all other in-house options having been sent to Tiger Town, the 5th starter derby is down to Below and Smyly, with Smyly having the inside track. Below may have the edge in experience, but Smyly has been the better pitcher this spring. But it's damn near a "best performance in your last spring training start wins the gig" situation. Both were scheduled to start a game before Grapefruit League play ended, Below getting the nod today.

Saying Below struggled to find the plate is being generous. He walked 4, allowed 3 hits and 3 runs, all in just 3 1/3 innings After Below channeled his inner Fernando Rodney against the Orioles, odds are Smyly just might win a rotation spot with a good start on versus the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday.

With the 5th starter spot still in question, let the punny stuff begin!


On the behalf of the BYB staff...I apologize!

From all accounts, initially the Laird injury did not look good. Don Kelly, playing 1s base, slid into Laird's knee trying to catch a foul pop. Beat writer Twitter reports claimed Laird was in visible pain, needed to be helped off the field, unable to put weight on his left knee. Immediately, thoughts of Brandon Inge becoming the Tigers' backup catcher ran rampant in the game thread and on the social networks.

Not to worry.

MLB's Jason Beck, Becks Blog:

Laird will be re-evaluated on Saturday, according to the team. He’ll be evaluated on a day-to-day basis from there, but Laird said he should be ready to go again in a couple days.

"It’s all right, right now," he said. "It feels fine. My biggest goal is to be healthy for the season. I’m just glad I can make the season. Being a catcher, I don’t want to mess with the knees."

You can now stop speculating on Inge, Omir Santos, Pudge Rodriguez, or anyone else backing up iron man Alex Avila. G$ will be on the job!

Also of note was the return of Cabrera to both the starting lineup and 3rd base. He has not missed a beat since breaking his orbital bone, clubbing a 2 RBI double in his first at bat, going 2-3 on the day, and easily handling the one ball hit to him. I think Cabrera is ready for the regular are we all!

For the game itself, the Tigers pulled out a victory thanks to the bat of prospect Tony Plagman. Plagman homered in the 7th to tie the game at 4 all, then gave the Tigers their winning margin in the 9th with a 2 RBI triple to right.

Forced to stretch out due to Below leaving the game early, the Tigers' bullpen was a standout. Luis Marte, Kevin Faulk, Octavio Dotel and Brayan Villarreal (who got the W) combining to toss 5 2/3 innings of 1 hit, 1 run, 8 K ball. Entering the game for Below, Marte may have clinched a spot in the bullpen by striking out 5 in 2 1/3 innings.

The home stretch of spring training continues Saturday afternoon, as the Atlanta Braves take on the Tigers in Lakeland. FSD will carry the game, so we can all see Rod Allen's starring turn in the new Ace Hardware commercial.