February 11th, 2014

Verlander talks Leyland, Scherzer, contracts

Spring Training 001

The big story about Justin Verlander on Tuesday was his throwing status and his expectation that he’ll be ready for the start of the season. However, Verlander touched on quite a few other topics today in his first interview with reporters since last fall. Among the bigger topics was his transition from pitching for Jim Leyland, his only manager since 2006, to Brad Ausmus, whom Verlander faced as a pitcher (0-for-2 with a double play).

Verlander and Leyland had their differing views, to the point where Leyland often joked that they rarely see eye-to-eye on anything, but deep down they liked and respected each other. The dynamic between Verlander and Ausmus is bound to be different.

“That’s what’s exciting about it, right? I don’t know, I’m kind of anxious, nervous,” Verlander said. ” And when it comes down, what do I call [Ausmus]? I say Skip, and immediately this picture of Jim Leyland pops into my mind. I’m going to have to talk with him: ‘Hey, what do you want me to call you? I’ll try to call you Skip.’ It might take me a little while before it really sets in.

“Eight years of my life, [Leyland] been the manager. It was a great relationship Jim and I had. He’s still going to be around, which will be nice, becuase he’s a friend of mine now. He was a friend of mine. But it’s going to be interesting for me to see the differences, because I’ve never had another manager other than Jim. We’ll see a different managerial style.”

When Verlander’s record against Ausmus was pointed out, he smiled.

“That’s kind of a weird thing, right? I always thought it was weird with managers, especially guys like Andy Pettitte when Girardi was his catcher. I always thought, ‘That’s when you’re getting old.'”

Verlander knows he’s getting old, but he insists he’s not feeling it, despite his offseason injuries.

“No, I feel great,” Verlander said. “I lost a little bit of weight. I just keep telling everybody I’m like a fine bottle of wine. I’m getting better with age.”

Other insights from Verlander …

  • On the new-look roster: “I’m excited. Obviously it’s tough to see a teammate go like Prince and Fister. They’ve been around for the last couple years for some pretty special years. We weren’t able to win it all, but it was a lot of fun, and they were both a huge part of that. But you also need to understand that the game of baseball, this is a business. There’s a lot of money involved and you can’t just keep everybody. It just doesn’t work like that with the contracts people are getting these days. It’s the business side of it. I’m excited about the guys we brought in. I think we got more athletic. I think that’s the obvious thing you look at. I know I’ve talked about it with a few guys, I think maybe those tight ballgames that we had last year where we weren’t able to manufacture a run, that might be a little different this year. Brad’s got some options at his disposal with guys getting on and maybe being able to steal a bag in a big spot, whatever.”
  • On possibly recruiting Max Scherzer to stay: “Max is his own guy. You guys know Max, man. He’s going to make his own decisions, but I don’t think I need to be a recruiter. I think from what he’s been saying, he’s made it loud and clear that that he wants to stay in Detroit. Whether that’s possible or not, I don’t know, but I don’t think he needs to be recruited. I think what this organization has done has recruited him — not just the players here. I think he enjoys being part of this team. I think the success that we’ve had, Mr. Ilitch has thrown so much more into this team than a lot of poeple would at his own risk, and he’s put a great product on the field. You can’t ask for anything more than what he’s done for this organization and this city. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to be a part of that?”
  • On the explosion in salaries across baseball: “I think it’s great. Obviously, as a player you see the contracts and it’s great for everything that the players before us fought for, to get to where we are, to have free agency and we can exploit that and use it to our advantage. And the contracts show how good the game is going. I know the Dodgers are a great example of that. Their local TV deal allows them to spend a lot of money. I think it’s great for everybody involved. They’re getting money from their local fans and their TV deal and they’re putting it back into their ballclub and that’s the way it should go. It really bothers me when you see teams making a lot of money and then just shoving it in their back pocket and not putting a good product on the field. I feel like you owe it to your fans and your local area to at least put a good product on the field, and you see a lot of teams getting revenue sharing and stuff and they don’t put it back.”
  • On attending the Super Bowl and his history with Russell Wilson: “I know his family very well. It’s a crazy story. I was in a suite, and a couple of the guys got asked over to the suite right next to us to take some pictures and stuff. I’m like where are they going, and they’re like, ‘Russell Wilson’s family is right next to us.’ I went over there and it was like a family reunion. I go over there and give his mom a big hug and talk to his brother for a little bit. It was just really cool and really ironic, just happenstance that they were right next to us.”