Ledezma feeling better after solid outing
Left-hander held Yankees scoreless for six innings
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Nobody's worried about Wilfredo Ledezma anymore, including Wilfredo Ledezma.
Less than two weeks ago, the Twins were pounding his fastballs that wouldn't stay down in the strike zone, and his pride was taking a little beating, too.
After two better outings, including six scoreless innings against a Yankees lineup that featured mostly regulars in Friday's Spring Training finale, he's feeling a lot better about himself as he prepares to open the season in the Tigers' rotation for the first time in his career.
"I've felt great the last two games I threw," he said. "Big confidence [boost]. Every time I threw, I told myself to pitch the way I have to."
The way he has to pitch isn't all that complicated. Though he's a power lefty who mixes in movement to keep hitters off-balance, he hasn't been a high strikeout guy. Thus, his key to success has been in keeping his fastball low. A mechanical adjustment once the heater started rising helped him regain his form.
By dropping his shoulder and head, Ledezma stays in form as he delivers to the plate. It's a form he can fall out of, but one he was able to maintain through most of the season.
"Last year I threw everything out and down," he said. "When I came here this year, every pitch was up. I worked a lot on that."
At his best, Ledezma isn't merely a power arm, but a guy who can rack up ground balls. He played the Yankees into that on Friday, inducing nine ground ball outs compared with just three fly balls. The only extra-base hit he allowed was a Gary Sheffield double in the first inning.
Ledezma's last start a week earlier went pretty similar -- six innings with a run on five hits against the Cardinals in Jupiter. He's pitched more innings in his last two starts (12) than in his previous five combined (10 1/3). Though part of that difference is the natural innings buildup towards Opening Day, he also allowed 13 runs on 18 hits in those five outings.
"His last two outings, that's pretty good stuff," Trammell said. "We hope that's the case when the season starts."
That's why the Tigers aren't going to nurse Ledezma in what the Tigers hope will be his first full season as a Major League starter. He'll be the fifth starter in technical terms, yet both Trammell and pitching coach Bob Cluck have said they have no plans to skip his spot when off days could allow them to go with four starters on regular rest. Instead, all the starters will receive an extra day between starts.
So barring rainouts, Ledezma will make his regular-season debut during the Tigers' opening homestand Saturday against the Indians and will start again the following Friday at Kansas City.
Still, he has more than a week between his Spring Training finale and next Saturday's start. With the Tigers' bullpen in flux and Ledezma needing work between outings, Trammell admits there's a chance Ledezma will at least be available for relief work in Monday's season opener and possibly Wednesday afternoon as well.
"That gives us some cover," Trammell said. "He could help us."
Those will be the big games for him as he tries to establish himself as a big league starter. Yet in Venezuela, Ledezma said, Friday's outing on ESPN was a relatively rare chance for his family there to see him on TV.
Asked if he thinks family and friends were watching, he said, "I think so. And I know they're going to be happy."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.