Duane Below, a Britton, Mich., native, was called up from the Mud Hens to the Tigers in July.
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DETROIT -- The fairy tale of a child growing up to play for the professional team he loved doesn't happen every day, but for Duane Below, it's his daily reality.
A native of tiny Britton, Mich., 35 miles north of Toledo in Lenawee County, Below finds himself suiting up for the Detroit Tigers.
The left-handed pitcher began the year as a starter for the Mud Hens but got his much-anticipated call-up to the big leagues on July 20. There to see him in action at Comerica Park were countless friends and family from his childhood, along with many of his former coaches and teammates at Lake Michigan College.
"I'll always remember my debut," Below said. "Just the feeling and sensation of everything that goes along with being called up. It was just an exciting day, especially with everybody that came and supported me. There was close to a thousand fans there for me, and that was awesome to see."
Below's first start against the Oakland A's resulted in a no-decision for him, although he pitched well enough to earn a victory. Below went five innings and surrendered three runs, one earned, on five hits with two strikeouts.
In his second outing, he lasted just 4⅔ innings after giving up six runs, four earned, on six hits in a loss to the Chicago White Sox.
Below has since been converted to a long reliever and has made the adjustment well. The 25-year-old has a 1.93 ERA and eight strikeouts in 9⅓ innings spread over five relief appearances, including ⅓ of an inning Sunday against the Indians in which he allowed two hits, two walks, and one run.
"I really like him. I really like him a lot," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said of Below before the game. "He does a fantastic job in the bullpen, really, a good job.
"I like the fact that he's shown no fear and he's thrown strikes."
Below admits being a relief pitcher is still unfamiliar territory.
"I'm still trying to get used to not knowing when I'll pitch, because when you're a starter you know every five days you'll be out there," Below said. "Now being in the bullpen, you've always got to be ready."
Reliever David Pauley, who was acquired in a trade with Seattle at the trade deadline, has been aiding Below in his transition to the bullpen, because he too was a former starter.
One piece of advice Pauley gave Below is to anticipate when his time may come so that he still has the ample time to get himself ready that he was accustomed to during his days as a starter.
"Some of the [relief] guys can get up and start throwing right away, but I have to make sure I'm loose," Below said. "But for the most part it's been fun, and I'm enjoying it."
HAFNER HURT: Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner pulled up lame while attempting to stretch a single into a double in the sixth inning Sunday and was tagged out between first and second.
Hafner limped off the field with a right foot injury and did not return.
After the game, Hafner said he will undergo an MRI Monday to determine the severity of the injury.
BIG CROWDS: The Tigers eclipsed the two million mark in attendance for the seventh straight season and eighth time in the history of Comerica Park with Sunday's sell-out crowd of 43,388.
So far this season, 2,019,877 have come through the turnstiles to see the Tigers at home.
In addition, the three-game series with Cleveland was attended by 132,239 -- the most for any three-game series in Comerica Park history. The previous attendance record was 131,463, which was set in July, 2008, against the White Sox.
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