KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) - This time last spring, Detroit Tigers pitcher Drew Smyly was wearing No. 80 and preparing to spend his summer at Triple-A Toledo.
After getting some unexpected experience in the majors, he looks ready to stick around.
Smyly extended his scoreless streak to nine innings, strengthening his bid for a spot in Detroit's rotation as the Tigers beat the Atlanta Braves 9-2 on Thursday night.
The 23-year-old lefty yielded two hits and fanned four in four innings, striking out the side in the second. He is competing with Rick Porcello for the final spot in the rotation and said he's not taking anything for granted.
``I don't think I am any more different on the field than I was last year, except I am a lot more confident,' Smyly said. ``I know I don't have a spot as a starter on this team but, hey, I wore No. 80 this time last year. It's no different, but I'm not wearing No. 80 anymore.'
Tigers manager Jim Leyland was adamant that no decision had been made on the fifth starter and that none would be made anytime soon.
``He has been throwing good,' Leyland said of Smyly. ``A lot of it is experience. He got his feet wet last year and he pitched in some big games. I'm not going to say if it all comes down to the last week.'
Smyly broke camp with the Tigers last season, making the team as the No. 5 starter. Despite two stints on the disabled list and a brief trip to Toledo in June, he made 18 starts for Detroit and finished 4-3 with a 3.99 ERA in 23 outings overall. He also pitched in four postseason games, helping the AL champions reach the World Series.
Danny Worth doubled twice and went 3 for 3 with two RBIs for the Tigers, raising his batting average to .389. Brennan Boesch got his first hit of the spring after sitting out two weeks with oblique issues.
Braves starter Julio Teheran allowed one run in four solid innings, lowering his ERA to 2.00 in his longest outing of the spring. One of baseball's top pitching prospects, Teheran made one start for Atlanta last season and is a serious contender for this year's rotation.
He has been working on a two-seamer and a changeup and said they were working for him Thursday.
``Everything worked well and I am gaining confidence every time out,' Teheran said. ``I am consistently making pitches, but the important thing is I don't just want to make the team, I want to be on the team the whole year.'
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez liked what he saw from Teheran.
``He is going to be a force to be reckoned with,' Gonzalez said.
Juan Francisco homered for the Braves off Brayan Villarreal.
The Tigers scored five times in the seventh, capped by a two-run double from Nick Castellanos.
NOTES: Leyland said he is about ready to make some roster moves to get certain players more at_bats. ... Tigers starters have not allowed a run in 23 innings over the past seven games. ... Gonzalez has been impressed by Francisco, projected to platoon with Chris Johnson at third base following Chipper Jones' retirement. ``He's really swinging it well so far,' Gonzalez said.
The Associated Press News Service
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