Team Report - DETROIT TIGERS

The SportsXchange

INSIDE PITCH

DETROIT -- The Cy Young award didn't make right-hander Max Scherzer complacent.

Scherzer wanted to get even better this season, though statistically his 21-3 campaign in 2013 would be nearly impossible to top. His main aim this offseason was to work on his curveball, and he's been happy with the results four starts into the season.

"You never stay the same. You either get better or you get worse," said Scherzer, who is 1-1 with a 2.33 ERA. "I'm constantly going through my head, 'What can I do to get better?' I felt like I could improve my curveball and the consistency, the sharpness of it. I do feel it's been a better pitch so far. I'm actually able to pitch with it with two strikes and I can throw it in all counts."

Scherzer, who faces the Chicago White Sox in a Thursday matinee at Comerica Park, has only one subpar outing but didn't notch his first victory until his last start. He held the Los Angeles Angels to one run on three hits while striking out nine over seven innings on April 19.

"I'm able to pitch with four pitches right now, and that's very important to me," he said. "It allows me to carry that mix and really change my looks from the first at-bat to the third at-bat within a game. That's when I found I had a lot of success last year, and hopefully I can continue to do that in 2014."

Scherzer isn't just worried about his pitch repertoire. On Tuesday, Scherzer asked manager Brad Ausmus and first baseman Miguel Cabrera to work on slow rollers toward first base, in which he covers first. They went out before batting practice to try to perfect those plays.

Ausmus, a longtime catcher, had never seen a pitcher make such a request during his playing career. It was another example of Scherzer's desire to improve his game, even if he won one of the game's prize possessions last season.

"That's a challenging play," Scherzer said. "I have to have Miggy on board with exactly how he wants to attack the ball. It's just something that we weren't able to get to in spring training, just because of everybody's schedule. During the season, I wanted to get to it once it warmed up, and it was warm enough (Tuesday) to get out there and work on the in-between play, which is the hardest play there is for a pitcher to cover first. I know how hard that play is and if I can make that play, I can make any play."

NOTES, QUOTES

RECORD: 10-8

STREAK: Lost one

NEXT: White Sox (LHP Jose Quintana, 1-0, 2.37 ERA) at Tigers (RHP Max Scherzer, 1-1, 2.33)

PLAYER NOTES:

--OF J.D. Martinez received his second consecutive start on Wednesday and had a two-run single in the fourth inning. He came up just shy of a game-tying homer to center in the ninth. Martinez filled in for LF Rajai Davis, who got the night off. Martinez has appeared in all three games since his contract was purchased from Triple-A Toledo and will continue to serve as the No. 4 outfielder.

--INF/OF Don Kelly received his fourth start of the season, replacing RF Torii Hunter, who got the night off. Kelly got on base twice, including a single, in four plate appearances. Kelly's role hasn't been altered this season despite the change in managers from Jim Leyland to Brad Ausmus. He remains the team's top utility man, with the ability to fill in at every position but shortstop, catcher and pitcher.

--RHP Joba Chamberlain picked up his first save this season on Tuesday after the Chicago White Sox rallied for three runs in the ninth against LHP Phil Coke. Chamberlain has emerged as the main setup man in front of closer Joe Nathan. He has allowed three runs with 11 strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. Manager Brad Ausmus has seen steady progression from the former Yankee since spring training. "Across the board, his pitches have been better," he said. "His location has been better and he's attacking the hitters."

--DH Victor Martinez collected his 1,500th career hit on Wednesday with a ninth-inning single. He had two hits in the game to raise his average to .308. Martinez isn't the power threat that 1B Prince Fielder was the past two seasons, but he has provided adequate protection batting cleanup behind 1B Miguel Cabrera. He has struck out just twice this season.

--LHP Drew Smyly allowed a two-run homer to White Sox 1B Jose Abreu in the first inning on Wednesday, then settled down for a quality outing. Smyly, who got a no-decision in his second start this season, didn't allow another run while striking out seven. He was in line for the victory until the bullpen gave up four seventh-inning runs.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You never stay the same. You either get better or you get worse. I'm constantly going through my head, 'What can I do to get better?' I felt like I could improve my curveball and the consistency, the sharpness of it. I do feel it's been a better pitch so far. I'm actually able to pitch with it with two strikes and I can throw it in all counts." -- RHP Max Scherzer, who is 1-1 with a 2.33 ERA.

ROSTER REPORT

MEDICAL WATCH:

--RHP Luke Putkonen (right elbow inflammation) was placed on the 15-day disabled list on April 21. Manager Brad Ausmus said Putkonen had experienced some discomfort during spring training on certain breaking pitches and it continued to bother him at times in his early appearances. Ausmus doesn't believe Putkonen will be out for an extended period.

--LF Andy Dirks (lower back surgery in March 2014) went on the 15-day disabled list March 29. He was moved to the 60-day DL on April 21. He is expected to be out until late June or early July. Dirks said he has had problems with his lower back since high school, but it locked up on him early in spring training.

--RHP Bruce Rondon (Tommy John surgery on right elbow) underwent surgery March 29. He is out for the season.

--SS Jose Iglesias (stress fractures in both shins) went on the 60-day disabled list March 29. He is expected to be out most if not all of the season.

ROTATION:

RHP Justin Verlander

RHP Max Scherzer

RHP Anibal Sanchez

RHP Rick Porcello

LHP Drew Smyly

BULLPEN:

RHP Joe Nathan (closer)

RHP Al Alburquerque

RHP Joba Chamberlain

LHP Ian Krol

LHP Phil Coke

RHP Evan Reed

RHP Justin Miller

CATCHERS:

Alex Avila

Bryan Holaday

INFIELDERS:

1B Miguel Cabrera

2B Ian Kinsler

SS Andrew Romine

3B Nick Castellanos

SS Danny Worth

UT Don Kelly

UT Andrew Romine

UT Victor Martinez

OUTFIELDERS:

LF Rajai Davis

CF Austin Jackson

RF Torii Hunter

OF J.D. Martinez

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