DETROIT — It was, by all accounts, the best outing of the season for Mike Pelfrey. The oft-struggling starter was called on Friday night to pitch in relief of Jordan Zimmermann’s bombed start. With little time to warm up, he lasted longer than his teammate and delivered an effortless performance.
“I think adrenaline kicked in, and I probably threw eight fastballs and told them I was good,” Pelfrey said with a laugh. “I didn’t throw any offspeed pitches (warming up). I don’t know if I wasn’t planning on throwing any or not. I told them I was good, but it was probably all adrenaline.
“Kind of started stretching when the game (deficit) was getting there, so I had an idea, but I was pretty shocked on how fast I was ready to go.”
Entering Friday night, Pelfrey had not given the Detroit Tigers a single scoreless start this season. He wasn’t even supposed to pitch until this upcoming Tuesday. With four of the seven relievers having just pitched the night before, though, the Tigers couldn’t risk wearing the bullpen out further.
Pelfrey’s side session between starts generally entails 30-35 pitches, and he threw 48 pitches in Friday night’s game. Essentially, that’s all this outing was — except with opposing batters for background music. While he would’ve preferred not to have entered the game in the first place, for once Pelfrey was saving the bullpen rather than taxing it.
There has been little reason for Pelfrey to be cheerful after his starts this year. He’s straightforward with how his starts go, so his demeanor is rarely upbeat. Friday was different: the Pelfrey after the game could’ve been described as giddy were it not for the team loss, and he credited some of his success in the game with a sharp splitter.
“Yeah, I thought it got a little better as it went on, got a little flatter,” he said. “Maybe I was overthrowing, with a little adrenaline or something. I thought it got good, and the last inning was probably maybe the best it’s been in a while.”
Because the number of his pitches didn’t greatly surpass his side bullpen number, neither he or manager Brad Ausmus are concerned as to how it’ll affect Tuesday’s start. However, the team will cross that bridge when they come to it.
Pelfrey said he felt great after the game, and barring an appearance on Saturday, he expects to make his Tuesday start. But if they need to, the Tigers have plenty of alternatives they could go to.
The off day on Monday helps that situation. It gives the starting staff an additional day of rest where normally they wouldn’t, and because they currently have a six-man rotation a starter can be moved up without negatively affecting the rotation.
“(Michael) Fulmer's gonna still be pushed back a few extra days, regardless,” Ausmus said. “Not really involving him, we can manipulate Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, so to speak. Norris could come back, we could slot him in before Pelfrey or in between Pelfrey and Zimmermann. There's a lot of things we could do.”
Pelfrey has three days until Tuesday’s possible start. Regardless of whether he’ll pitch out of the bullpen beforehand, the Tigers need more of this Pelfrey going forward. But whatever happens over the next few days, this outing was a pleasant reprieve for Pelfrey ... and it’s been a long time coming for Detroit.