The plan for Drew Smyly has worked well so far. It continued to work well Monday, when Tigers manager Jim Leyland didn’t have to use his promising young pitcher.

“We have been lucky, to be honest with you,” Leyland said. “It’s worked out pretty good. He’s got time in, he’s throwing some pitches and getting some more experience.”

Smyly (2-0, 2.30 ERA) has had relief stints of every imaginable length this season over 17 games and 311⁄3 innings. He closed out Sunday’s 6-1 victory over Minnesota with 21⁄3 innings of relief — even though Leyland knows he’s not a reliever.

Smyly’s experience, stamina and temperament project him to be a natural starter. Leyland knows this, but he’s also comfortable with using the Baltimore Orioles’ time-tested practice of introducing starters to the majors out of the bullpen.

“I’m a big believer in that,” Leyland said. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. Get your feet wet coming out of the bullpen and eventually becoming a good starting pitcher. I think you can do that. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that myself.”

Smyly could be getting more innings in as a starter in the minors. But Leyland was frank about the team’s needs superseding Smyly’s development as a starter.

“From a selfish standpoint, he gives us the best team right now,” Leyland said. “And that’s what you’re supposed to do here at the major league level. You’re supposed to have the best team.”

Besides, it doesn’t sound as if Smyly is unhappy about being in the majors.

“He hasn’t come in and asked if he could go to Toledo and start,” Leyland said.