What to expect from Verlander?
While we all await Nate Robertson’s two innings tomorrow against the Nationals, followed by Dontrelle Willis’ outing against the Blue Jays Friday, there’s still the case of Justin Verlander and what to expect from him. It seems to be widely agreed upon that last season was a fluke, but it’s tougher to really form an expectation on what he can do this year. Obviously, the better his performance, the better the Tigers’ chances at a rebound.
Logically, he shouldn’t have the same troubles of run support that he did at the start of last season. That takes out some of those losses last year. Personally, I don’t expect velocity to be a question again. The more important questions are how he’ll pitch in close situations and whether he can hold down his pitch count and go deeper into games. As high as hopes are for bounceback seasons from Willis, Robertson and/or Jeremy Bonderman, the front end of the Tigers rotation is still the place where they could use an innings-eater to give their bullpen an easy night every turn or two through the rotation.
As Leyland pointed out, Verlander’s stuff is good enough to do it, if he can avoid trying to make the perfect pitch. Two innings in a Spring Training game probably aren’t enough to tell how he’s progressing on that, but they’re a sign as to how his pitches are going. On Wednesday, they were in and out.
Other notes from the spring opener, in no particular order …
- Brandon Inge didn’t need long to start showing his range at third base. He nearly retired Casey Kotchman on a roller down the line, and stopped another ball that ended up foul. He also had a throwing error a little later in the game.
- Leyland noted that he liked the way Zach Miner looked in his two innings of work, including a good offspeed pitch. As has been written, Miner needs to keep mixing his pitches and keep hitters off-balance.
- The numbers in the box score won’t necessarily look good on Brandon Lyon, but Leyland noted in his postgame remarks that Lyon isn’t throwing his curveball yet. He’s primarily focused on building his arm strength at this point in camp.
- As the box score also shows, Gerald Laird does not move badly for a catcher. His stride will not remind anyone of Pudge circa 2005/2006, but it moves him along.
- Jair Jurrjens on facing the Tigers, his original organization: “It was a little awkward. I grew up here. This was my first team and I did everything here. It was a little strange warming up in the other bullpen, but it had to happen someday, and I’m glad the first one’s done.”
What to look for Thursday against the Nationals:
- Pitchers: Edwin Jackson, Nate Robertson, Rick Porcello, Joel Zumaya, Clay Rapada and Macay McBride
- Regulars: Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Guillen, Magglio Ordonez, Adam Everett
- Dmitri Young is in Nationals camp, but as a non-roster invitee.
- Wilfredo Ledezma is also in Nationals camp. He’s scheduled to pitch in relief at some point in the game.
- This is the ballpark where, last year, a Tigers prospect ended up being stuck in the bathroom when the door jammed so tightly that it took a stadium crew to come in and remove it. Here’s guessing the door will be closed very carefully on Thursday.