DETROIT -- While protecting a lead on Monday to help starter Max Scherzer to a rare 10-0 record to begin a season, left-hander reliever Drew Smyly began carving out his own history.
For the second time this year, Smyly tossed three scoreless innings to earn a save. He's the only pitcher in the Major Leagues to have done it twice this season, and no Tigers pitcher has earned more than two three-inning saves since 1995.
Manager Jim Leyland says he's the sixth starter in a five-man rotation, but they couldn't afford to send him down to Triple-A Toledo for more innings because he's so valuable in the bullpen.
"The fact of the matter is, he was our best option for our team right now," Leyland said, "We saw signs of that last night and at other places this year. He's done a good job."
Smyly has made 10 relief appearances when throwing more than 30 pitches, which is tied for the Major League lead, although he's the only one with an ERA under 4.00, at 1.95. He's also second in the Majors with 41 2/3 innings out of relief.
One reason for Smyly's success is the use of his slider. Opposing hitters have a .128 slugging percentage against the pitch, the third lowest in the Majors, according to STATS.
Leyland says he won't pitch Smyly for the next two days because he threw 33 pitches in Monday's 5-1 victory against the Orioles.
"He's actually responded really good in regards to bouncing back [between appearances in the bullpen]," Leyland said. "He's starting to get used to that a little bit. And I will assure you he will tell me today that he can probably go today, and definitely tomorrow, but I'll watch that. Maybe in an emergency tomorrow if I was convinced, but I don't think so."
Tigers sign seventh-round pick Harrell
DETROIT -- The Tigers selected Vanderbilt center fielder Connor Harrell in the 31st round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, but couldn't get him to sign on the dotted line. However, they finally got their target when Harrell agreed to terms with the team on Tuesday after being picked in the seventh round of this year's Draft.
Harrell was the only position player Detroit picked in their first 10 selections. Although he manned center field throughout college, Tigers vice president of amateur scouting David Chadd said the team expects him to learn all three outfield positions and that he won't be an everyday center fielder.
Harrell joins three other players that agreed to terms with the Tigers on Tuesday. The group includes Texas closer Corey Knebel (39th overall), shortstop Steven Negron from Miami Dade Community College (17th round) and right-handed pitcher Chase Edwards from Hill Junior College (24th round).
The team has now signed 23 of their 41 selections and 10 of their first 15 picks from this year's Draft.
With big stretch coming, starters to get rest
DETROIT -- The Tigers have an off-day coming up next Monday, and they plan to use it to give all of their starters an extra day of rest. They will not use it to push back Anibal Sanchez's spot in the rotation, which Jose Alvarez will fill.
It's not just a trust factor with Alvarez, who tossed six innings of one-run ball in his Major League debut on June 9 against Cleveland.
Monday is the last off-day the Tigers have before the All-Star break. They'll play 20 games in 20 days -- the longest stretch allowed without approval from the Players Association -- to close out the season's first half.
"Some guys like that OK, some guys don't really care, some guys would rather pitch five," manager Jim Leyland said, "but that's why you have a manager. Someone has to make a decision, and I'm going to take care of them.
"They work hard. Position players, that's a whole different thing. They work hard every day. But a pitcher, on those days he pitches, our guys, they work hard. They give you a lot, I appreciate that, and you want to make sure they have that in the bank for the second half. That's just my opinion."
Skipping Alvarez for a turn likely would not have made a difference in how many starts he gets. He'll make two starts regardless before Sanchez is eligible to come off the DL.
Thus, the rotation order will stay the same heading into the break. Unless something changes, that could leave Leyland with some interesting decisions for next month's All-Star Game. If this order holds, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander would both be on track to pitch the final weekend before the break against Texas.
Scherzer would be on schedule to pitch that Saturday, followed by Verlander on Sunday. Pitchers named to the All-Star Game who pitch on the Sunday before the break take part in All-Star festivities, by rule, but cannot pitch in the Midsummer Classic.
Leyland has bigger worries right now than finding an All-Star starter. Usually, he said, that works itself out.
Here's the catch: V-Mart only an emergency option
DETROIT -- Remember the Spring Training hints about Victor Martinez possibly catching in a game this season? The Tigers aren't ruling it out. But for now, it would have to be in an emergency.
Alex Avila's deep forearm contusion doesn't present such an emergency scenario. Though Avila could be ready to catch again in a matter of days, it was a safer move to put him on the 15-day disabled list and call up Bryan Holaday.
"You can catch Victor, sure," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "But that would be [as] a third guy."
In other words, they wouldn't feel comfortable going with Martinez as the primary backup to Brayan Pena, even for a few days.
Part of the problem is roster management. Since Martinez is the everyday designated hitter, the Tigers would have to give up the DH slot to move him behind the plate in the middle of a game. Leyland was able to maneuver that setup in 2011, when Avila was the primary catcher, but Pena arguably presents a different scenario.
The other problem, of course, is that Martinez hasn't caught in a game since Aug. 4, 2011, before he tweaked his knee a few days later in Kansas City.
That doesn't necessarily rule out Martinez catching at a National League park near season's end, but it's not a scenario they'd prefer to encounter.
"If it was a total emergency, he would probably go back there," Leyland said. "I'm sure he would go back there, he'd probably love it. But I'm trying to avoid that if I can."
Scherzer follows creative pattern between starts
DETROIT -- Max Scherzer is known for keeping up a pretty strenuous workout routine between starts. He's pretty good at fighting off the monotony, too.
A day after Scherzer delivered six innings of one-run ball to improve to 10-0 on the season, he was on the field at Comerica Park playing catch early Tuesday afternoon, well before batting practice. Instead of simply tossing the ball around with strength and conditioning coach Javair Gillett, however, he was running wide receiver patterns and getting in some agility work.
Later, he was long-tossing from various points around the left-field and third-base stands, running the steps in between.
Scherzer said he has done the patterns for a while. He has always liked running the ballpark steps for stair work, but throwing in-between allows him to do two activities at once.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Bobby Nightengale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.