February 20th, 2010

Line of the day: Justin Verlander

It isn’t really a line so much as a proclamation, or a challenge, or just Verlander being competitive. But Verlander is calling it: He’s going to be perfect in PFP for the rest of camp, or at least when Jim Leyland is hitting PFP to him.

I can’t make this up.

“He won’t get me anymore this spring,” Verlander said, for quotation, Saturday afternoon. “He will not get another one past me.”

This came after Leyland got his second ground ball past him in as many days, and made no secret about it.

On Friday, the Tigers’ first workout, Leyland was crowing after putting some spin on a ball or two to get past Verlander. On Saturday, Verlander’s 27th birthday, Verlander called Leyland over to the PFP field to hit him some grounders.

Not only was Verlander bragging about being perfect himself, he pointed out that his entire group was perfect, including Zach Miner and Ryan Perry. Then Leyland put a sharp ground ball through the 5-hole on Verlander.

Seconds later, Leyland got one past Miner. But it was Verlander’s miscue that was the big deal.

“I got him two days in a row,” Leyland said. “We’ve only been here two days. I got him both days.”

Verlander is competitive, all right. But so is Leyland.

“He’s smart, though,” Leyland said of his ace. “There won’t be anything at stake until he goes perfect.”

Valverde: I can get maybe 74 saves here

Jose Valverde had been quoted in his native Dominican Republic as aiming for 50 saves this season with the Tigers. He reported to Spring Training on Saturday and raised that total by quite a bit.

“You know what? I can do maybe 74 here,” Valverde said.

Yes, he meant 74 saves. And yes, that would be a record, by far. Francisco Rodriguez saved 62 games with the Angels two years ago.

“This is a good team here,” Valverde said. “You look at everybody here. We have guys who guys who can hit 30, 40 home runs — Ordonez, Cabrera, all these guys. My guys in the bullpen here, Zumaya, all these guys. When the game’s on the line, Zumaya throws the eighth and he’s throwing 100, 101. This team is good. I think I can do 50 or more.”

Valverde is certainly a driven individual, and he has a high standard for what to expect from himself, and others. The same story in the Dominican last week said he was unhappy with his agents and their work on his free agency. He confirmed Saturday that he has cut ties with the agents at Beverly Hills Sports Council and gone somewhere else, reportedly to Scott Shapiro.

That shouldn’t affect how he performs with the Tigers, who signed him to a 2-year, $14 million deal last month.

“That’s over,” Valverde said. “You know what I mean? What’s in the past is in the past right now. I’m here for my team, and I support them.”

Too much pitching? Not according to Leyland

With eight or nine potential starting pitchers and a slew of relievers, speculation has percolated on what the Tigers might be able to do on the trade front by the end of Spring Training. Teams always need pitching, and the Tigers could use some offensive help, right?

Right, but there’s another statement that Leyland likes.

“The old adage that you can never have enough pitching will always hold true,” Leyland said Saturday morning.

“We don’t have too much pitching. I like what we’ve got. I’m really happy with what we’ve got. But the old adage still applies.”

That doesn’t mean that Leyland is against any trades. That’s Dave Dombrowski’s department. But clearly, Leyland likes to have as much pitching as he possibly can.

Leyland cited another phrase of his.

“There’s no such thing as a 12th pitcher for me,” he said. “If you’re going to be good, every pitcher is important.”

As evidence, he cited 2006, when Jason Grilli made some key appearances for them, and Zach Miner proved vital as a fill-in starter for Mike Maroth over the summer.

As far as the lefty relief corps, Leyland didn’t argue the point that they can probably only take three southpaws in the bullpen. But he did point out that Phil Coke and Bobby Seay both have a history of effectiveness against right-handed hitters.

More tidbits from Saturday morning:

  • Jose Valverde arrived at camp today and is working out, so all pitchers have reported. Max St. Pierre also reported, leaving Gerald Laird as the lone catcher not in camp yet.
  • Magglio Ordonez quietly came in today, quickly grabbed a bat and headed for the cages. He’s ready to go. Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Guillen aren’t here yet, but should be in the next few days.
  • On the top of relief pitching, Leyland mentioned a note he received following last year’s tiebreaker loss. “I got a letter from a lady chewing me out for not bringing in Verlander in relief,” he said. That wasn’t going to happen.
  • Leyland said he’ll use Valverde similar to how he used Fernando Rodney, bringing him in just for one-inning saves unless it’s an emergency situation, extra innings or he needs work to stay fresh.
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