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Tigers' pitchers are hot, hitters not

Tigers' pitchers are hot, hitters not
VIERA, Fla. -- It was an interesting parade of pitchers the Detroit Tigers sent to the mound to face the Washington Nationals.

The new starter everyone wanted to see, Edwin Jackson, was joined by a couple pitchers vying for the final rotation spot, another pair hoping to earn a bullpen role and Joel Zumaya, who always makes things interesting.

Most of the pitchers said they felt an adrenaline rush the first time out this season, but they settled down and pitched well in a 2-1 loss Thursday to the Nationals at Space Coast Stadium.

"I hope we hold teams to two runs all year long," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I'll take my chances with that. But we've got to get more than one run."

Jackson pitched for the first time for his new team, striking out three in two hitless innings.

"There was some adrenaline rush going after throwing batting practice and those bullpen sessions," Jackson said. "But I feel good overall."

He threw only two breaking balls and added he simply tried to work on fastball command and get his work in as quickly as possible.

Jackson, acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays for outfielder Matt Joyce after going 14-11 for the American League champions, hasn't been under the media spotlight on a team where nearly every other pitcher has something to prove or is trying to make the 12-man staff.

"I'm not a guy who needs a lot of attention," Jackson said. "If I get it, so be it."

The only thing he craves is getting the ball when it's his turn to pitch.

"Everybody needs to be an ace on their day (to pitch)," Jackson said. "Just give me the ball every fifth day."

Leyland likes what he sees of Jackson but doesn't want him putting too much on his shoulders. He told Jackson: "Don't try to win 25 games. Just be yourself."

Nate Robertson, trying to regain a rotation spot, gave up a bloop hit before Wil Nieves crushed a double to deep center. But that was the last hit Robertson gave up in two innings that ended with a 1-2-3 fourth.

"I was happy to see Nate come back after the bloop," Leyland said.

"He kept it down to minimum damage."

Rick Porcello, the 20-year-old prospect who has been impressive enough to earn an outside shot at that final rotation spot, gave up one run on two singles in one inning and took the loss.

Coming in from the bullpen for the fifth inning was unsettling for him, and Tigers bullpen coach Jeff Jones had to calm him down.

"I was bouncing off the walls in (the bullpen)," Porcello said. "I told Jonesy, 'I can't do this relieving.' He told me to sit down."

Catcher Matt Treanor visited on the mound to get him focused.

"When I get the adrenaline flow the next time," Porcello said, "I'm going to make more of an effort to step off (the rubber) and slow myself down."

Zumaya hit ex-Tiger Dmitri Young on the right shoulder and wrist with his second pitch of the game, and followed that with a walk. But he got a pop-up, ground out and fly out to the warning track to escape without a run.

"I had the jitters, man," said Zumaya, who was shut down last season with a displaced shoulder fracture.

"It is still fractured in there," he said. "It's not going to heal and will never reattach. You can either go in and replace it or just leave it.

"But I'm not going to have setbacks this year. I'm 100-percent healthy."

Zumaya said he was just working on throwing fastballs over the plate but said he might start out hitters with curves in his next outing. He was pleased with simply being back on the mound again with his teammates, adding that he wasn't throwing at optimum velocity.

Left-handers Clay Rapada and Macay McBride followed Zumaya with hitless innings of their own. But the Tigers could manage only two hits, both singles, and lost to even their Grapefruit League mark at 1-1.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: February 28, 2009

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