Oliver Making Steady Progress

Tigers' lefty overcoming command problems





DETROIT—In 2011, lefthander Andy Oliver struggled with his control and led the International League with 80 walks in 147 innings.

Through the first six weeks of this season with Triple-A Toledo, the 24-year-old again ranks among the IL leaders in walks. But the Tigers believe Oliver is making strides toward solving the command issues that plagued him a year ago.

"If (Oliver) is not walking guys, he is getting himself into better counts," Toledo pitching coach A.J. Sager said. "In the past he would walk guys, and he would pitch himself into a hitter's count even to the guys he wasn't walking.

"He gives himself a better chance (for success) with more pitches in the strike zone."

Oliver, a second-round pick in 2009 out of Oklahoma State, was 3-3, 3.99 with 55 strikeouts and 38 walks in 50 innings for the Mud Hens this season. However, the number that best points out Oliver's development is a .172 opponent average, the lowest for any starter in the IL. Last year, opponents hit .272.

"He has simplified things a little bit and isn't trying to do too much with his fastball," Sager said. "He understands that he has a good fastball, and throwing it downhill from a good arm angle will lead to success."

Sager said Oliver has made some subtle changes, both mechanical and mental.

"Andy has become aware that his fastball is good enough that he doesn't have to be fine with it, he has to put it over the plate and give himself a chance," Sager said.

TIGER TALES

• High Class A Lakeland outfielder Daniel Fields had abdominal surgery after going on the disabled list May 4. He was batting .250/.310/.395 with eight steals in 18 games.

• Outfielder Danry Vazquez was sent back to extended spring after hitting just .162/.218/.222 in 29 games with low Class A West Michigan. The 18-year-old was taken off the Whitecaps roster to make room for outfielder Steven Moya, who returned from a hamstring injury after batting .377/.421/.507 in 19 April contests.