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Published: Thursday, 2/28/2008

Pelfrey focusing on Mets' rotation; Tigers win their exhibition opener

Tigers right fielder Magglio Ordonez holds up the chain and Old English 'D' he wore into the dugout as a joke yesterday. Tigers right fielder Magglio Ordonez holds up the chain and Old English 'D' he wore into the dugout as a joke yesterday.

LAKELAND, Fla. - Mike Pelfrey knows he needs to throw lights out for the New York Mets this spring for two reasons.

First, he's a dark horse trying to make the Mets as the fifth starter in a rotation that grew deeper after the team acquired Johan Santana. Second, he simply doesn't want to make the bus trips throughout Florida all of next spring training.

Pelfrey made his spring debut yesterday in a 4-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers, but he impressed Mets manager Willie Randolph with two innings in which he allowed only one hit and faced the minimum six batters. He struck out one and left with a confidence boost.

"I don't know if it was a dominating performance, but I know I did a lot of things right," Pelfrey said. "All I wanted to do was be aggressive and throw strikes and that's what I was able to do."

Pelfrey pitched in 15 games for the Mets last season, going 3-8 with a 5.57 earned run average. He struggled with his control and his confidence as the season wore on and he spent about half of the season in Triple A. He doesn't want to go back there this year, but he'll face some stiff competition. After Pedro Martinez, John Maine and Santana, the Mets will let Oliver Perez and Orlando Hernandez battle it out with Pelfrey for the final two spots in the rotation. Pelfrey appeared to be a lock for it until the trade for Santana closed one of the spots.

"I went two scoreless innings and I was doing everything I wanted," Pelfrey said. "I just wanted to locate my fastball. That's what sets batters up for sliders and change-ups."

Matt Wise, just acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers, kept Pelfrey's attitude in check.

"I thought we were supposed to run together," Wise said. "He goes two innings like that and he doesn't have time for the rest of us anymore."

Pelfrey said in two years of being with the Mets, he has only had to ride the bus one time to a spring training road game. The Mets train in Port St. Lucie, about a two-hour drive from the Tigers home in central Florida, and he said one of the perks of being a bona fide major leaguer is not having to ride the bus.

Jeremy Bonderman started for the Tigers and allowed runs in each of the first two innings. After that, Jason Grilli, Zach Miner, Preston Larrison, Tim Byrdak and Denny Bautista shut the Mets down the rest of the way, allowing only two hits over the last seven innings.

Pelfrey, Matt Wise, Brian Stokes, Pedro Feliciano and Jorge Sosa held the Tigers to only one hit through six innings, but the Tigers erupted for four runs in the seventh off of Willie Collazo. Nonroster player Wilkin Ramirez had a two-run single and Mike Hessman tripled during the rally.

TIGER NOTES: Starter Nate Robertson is expected to start against the Toronto Blue Jays today, but his wife, Kristin, went into labor yesterday. Tigers manager Jim Leyland said that if all goes well, Robertson will still start against the Blue Jays. ... Bonderman was limited to only throwing his fastball and change-ups. Leyland said sliders were off limits. ... The game was played with a temperature of 59 degrees, but the wind made it seem much colder. ... Magglio Ordonez was hit by a pitch in the fifth inning and immediately replaced by a pinch runner. Leyland said there are no injury concerns. ... Robertson, Aquilino Lopez, Armando Gallaraga, Jeff Gerbe, Matt Mantei and Bobby Seay are expected to pitch for the Tigers against Toronto.

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