This following article is from Mlive.com, written by Steve Kornacki and can be found by clicking here
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- There is a pitcher nobody was talking about when spring training began who has been turning heads with the Detroit Tigers.
“We’ve got a lot of equipment in camp,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “…But how about Duane Below? He’s pitching great.”
Below threw two shutout innings Saturday against the Toronto Blue Jays and struck out Rajai Davis, a proven major league hitter, and top catching prospect J.P. Arencibia. He followed Phil Coke to the mound and faced the Jays’ regulars in the third and fourth innings, and will come in after Coke again Wednesday against the Houston Astros in Lakeland.
“I was a little excited,” Below, 25, said. “I just wanted to get outs and slow myself down, keep the right tempo. To get that first one out of the way was good. They’re major league hitters -- the first I’ve ever faced -- but I just wanted to throw them strikes, put the ball in play and get outs. We have an amazing defense.”
Below could become one of those defying-the-odds stories baseball tends to produce. He attended tiny Lake Michigan College and was born, raised and resides in Britton -- population 699. The Lenawee County town is located 20 miles southwest of Ann Arbor.
“We’re real small for sure,” Below said. “The people back home are all pretty excited for me and enjoy coming up and talking to me about the Tigers. Since I’m in camp, some people think I am going to be with the Tigers. I tell them, ‘No,’ I tell them I might be in Erie and might be in Toledo.”
Below, a 19th-round pick in 2006, is rated the No. 15 prospect in the organization by Baseball America. The left-hander was 7-12 with a 4.93 ERA last year at Double-A Erie, and struck out 103 with 37 walks in 126 innings. He was Detroit’s minor league pitcher of the year with West Michigan in 2007, going 13-5 with a 2.97 ERA.
He is a power pitcher who led the Midwest League with 160 strikeouts in 2007 and topped the Florida State League with 126 strikeouts in 2008 before missing much of 2009 with a sprained left elbow.
Below got defending American League home run champion Jose Bautista to fly out in his first outing.
“I got away with a high changeup that Bautista hit foul,” said Below. “I was just thinking, ‘Don’t give him anything to hit out. Stay down in the zone.’ I learned from that.”