Tigers' Below Heals Quickly From Surgery

DETROIT—In Duane Below's first four starts with Double-A Erie this season, the 24-year-old lefthander went 1-3, 6.39.

And the Tigers couldn't be happier.

Well, yes, the numbers could be better. But the fact that the Tigers' 2007 minor league pitcher of the year is back so quickly following Tommy John surgery last June makes the numbers he posts practically moot.

"I think (Below) set records for (the speed at which he is) coming back," minor league pitching coordinator Jon Matlack said. "From when he regained (range) of motion and all that, he's way ahead of other guys who have come back."

After three rocky outings, Below was impressive in his April 27 start at Bowie, allowing just two hits and a pair of unearned runs while fanning 10 in five innings.

"(We want Below to) show the ability to pitch rather than out-stuff people," Matlack said. "We want him to keep his team in the game for five innings, and we know it's going to be tough for him to get wins and easy to get losses.

"In the past he was a guy with good stuff who, on the days he had his good stuff, was going to be tough. But on the days he didn't, there was little in the way of adjustment. We're hoping that he has learned, through the rehab, how to pitch when he doesn't have that good stuff."

Below, who touches 94 mph and sits at 91 along with a curve and changeup, will pitch no more than five innings or 75 pitches per start all year, no matter how healthy his arm appears.

"Because of the speed at which he came back, he was afforded more of a chance to participate fully in spring training. But that was it," Matlack said.

"Maybe it allowed him to start the season rather than possibly miss the first week or two of the season."


• Righthander Jacob Turner, Detroit's top pick in last year's draft, returned from the disabled list for low Class A West Michigan on May 5 after missing three weeks with right forearm soreness.

• Daniel Fields, the Tigers' sixth-round pick in last year's draft, joined high Class A Lakeland April 17 and hit .256/.340/.326 in his first 12 games. Fields, a shortstop in high school, played center field for the Flying Tigers.