Matt Boyd's slider making an impression in spring training

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Asked if anything has stood out in spring training, with regards to his pitching staff, Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus singled out one thing in particular: Matt Boyd's slider.

“That’s one pitch that kind of jumps out,” Ausmus said Friday during his morning press briefing.

Ausmus referenced it last week too, describing it as a sort of hybrid between a slider and a cutter.

It’s still a slider, Boyd insists, just tighter, and without the large, sweeping motion from last season. Regardless of how it’s characterized, the pitch has made an immediate impression.

“It’s shorter, and firm, and harder,” Ausmus said, predicting that it could become a very effective weapon for the young lefty this season.

Boyd, who spent the last two months of last season with the Tigers after joining the organization from the Toronto Blue Jays in the David Price deal at the deadline, said he went into the offseason knowing he wanted to refine the pitch. He threw it in August and September, but it was met with mixed results.

He changed the grip and focused on repeating it over and over in the offseason back home in Washington -- he worked a lot with catcher Reese McGuire, a Pittsburgh Pirates prospect -- until he found he could throw it both consistently and with confidence. He said he is now as comfortable with it as he is with his other four pitches. The former Oregon State standout feels he is able to attack hitters with the entirety of his repertoire, changing eye levels and directions. His changeup and his curveball go straight down, his four-seam fastball tends to rise, his two-seamer veers left and his slider goes right.

“You throw it in there and it’s nice because it adds another dimension, right?” Boyd said.

Boyd said he is eager to use it in his first start next week, when he will take the mound for the Tigers' Grapefruit League opener against Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

“Yeah, I can’t wait,” Boyd said. “That's what you work for the whole offseason so I’m excited to toe it up against someone in a different uniform.”

Boyd enters camp with a chance to compete for the fifth starter spot, along with Daniel Norris, Shane Greene and Buck Farmer. He sounded confident in the state of the rotation, regardless of who nails down the gig.

“I think that, however you shake it out, the seven or eight guys that we have, we're going to have one of the best rotations in baseball, so I think it's going to be awesome,” Boyd said. “Competition breeds success and we’re all friends and we're all working towards that ultimate goal of bringing a title to Detroit. So I think it’s great.”

Boyd, who was 1-4 with a 6.57 ERA in 11 games for Detroit, said he benefited greatly from the experience he gained in the majors last year, and that was a driving force behind his self-evaluation heading into this offseason. He feels he has only improved as a result.

“I’m a firm believer in, ‘I’ve seen something once now and I know what to expect.’ I had some good outings; I had some really bad ones, so for me it was really looking at it for what it is and saying ‘Hey, this is what I really need to work on. I was deficient in these areas. In those areas, if I don’t evolve, I’m going to be done. That’s the nature of the beast, right?” Boyd said. “You’ve got to just keep evolving and I think those last two months were extremely beneficial moving forward.”