Verlander, Granderson, Rodney teammates again for All-Star Game
The last time Curtis Granderson played center field behind Justin Verlander, he came up with a game-saving diving catch in the eighth inning. Fernando Rodney had already relieved Verlander at that point, on his way to his last save of a Verlander start.
That was the last scheduled regular-season game of 2009, a Tigers win that kept them alive for the one-game AL Central tiebreaker known as Game 163. Everyone knows how that story ended, and the dealing that happened afterwards — Granderson traded to New York, Rodney lost to free agency.
For one All-Star Game, they’ll all be teammates again, along with Miguel Cabrera. It wasn’t lost on Granderson, now a Yankees star.
“Justin’s obviously a great competitor,” Granderson said Monday. “He’s been a great teammate coming up. We made the team together in ’06, got a chance to be a part of a World Series together, and he’s continued just to blossom and grow and be one of the best pitchers in the game right now. And there’s no question why he’s the starter tomorrow.
“He’s dominant and he’s a guy that everyone talks about has the ability to throw a no-hitter every time he steps on the mound, and that’s a credit to him working hard and continuing to set the bar high.”
Verlander was a 19-game winner back then, a budding young arm still finding his full repertoire of pitches. He has found it in the two-plus years since Granderson became a Yankee.
“I would say, if anything, he’s found more ways to get you out,” Granderson said. “He used to trust, ‘Hey, I’m going to throw the fastball by you and I’m going to have a lot of success,’ but now he kind of messes with you a little bit.
“He knows he’s got the fastball. He’s got different fastballs now, some that are 91-93 [mph] and some that are 98-99. And any one can come out at any time. He’s got the changeup working now. He’s got the big curveball that he’s always had. And he can do it at any time. It doesn’t matter if you’re a lefty or a righty, if you’ve had some hits off of him or if you haven’t, he’s got a good chance to get you out every time you step out there.”
Granderson, too, has blossomed, from one of the game’s great young center fielders into an All-Star starter and one of the most recognizable Yankees outside of the core group that has been there for years.
As for Rodney, that 2009 season was supposed to be his career year, a 37-save season that saw him blow only one save chance. He got the final four outs of that Verlander win, then tossed 48 pitches over three-plus innings two days later at Minnesota. At the very least, it was his payday season, drawing a two-year, $11 million contract offer from the Angels that winter. He recorded 17 saves over the course of that contract.
This year has been better, earning him his first All-Star selection. He’d still like one more chance to save a Verlander win.