Results tagged ‘ Justin Verlander ’

Early spring training Tigers rotation is set

While Tigers manager Brad Ausmus doesn’t have a season-opening rotation order yet, his rotation for the first few games of Spring Training is set. It’ll begin with prospect Drew VerHagen, who will start the team’s traditional opening exhibition with Florida Southern College next Tuesday at Joker Marchant Stadium.

Before you start speculating about VerHagen’s chances to knock on Detroit’s door as a potential sixth starter in case of injury, remember that Tigers top pitching prospect Andy Oliver started against the Mocs two years ago, the last time the exhibition led off the Spring Training game.

From there, the projected Major League rotation begins to slot in. Drew Smyly, back in a starting role, will lead off the Tigers’ Grapefruit League slate against the Braves next Wednesday at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex, followed by Rick Porcello in the back half the home-and-home set against the Braves Thursday at Lakeland.

The Tigers’ first split-squad day Friday will feature the reigning Cy Young winner and an insurance starter. Max Scherzer will face the Yankees in Lakeland, while Jose Alvarez makes the trip to Clearwater to face the Phillies.

Ausmus had already ruled out Justin Verlander from the first turn through the Spring Training rotation as he builds up his workload following core muscle surgery. The goal is to get Verlander five starts this spring, which should be enough to stretch him out for the start of the season.

Alvarez, who filled in for Anibal Sanchez while he was on the disabled list last summer, could provide an insurance plan if Verlander suffers a setback and isn’t ready for the start of the season.

In many springs under Leyland, the early rotation would provide a clue on the Opening Day starter if you counted out five game days from each start. Sure enough, Scherzer’s start Feb. 28 would put his spot on turn for March 31 if everybody stays in order (and if you consider the Tigers’ off-day March 19 as a day for someone to start a minor-league game, as has been the case in recent years). Because neither Verlander nor Sanchez have been slotted in yet, it’s a little fuzzier, but for now, it looks like a much easier path to Opening Day for Scherzer than anyone else.

Dombrowski: We anticipate Verlander being ready

No sooner did the headline of Justin Verlander possibly not being ready for the start of the season emerge than Verlander got in touch with Dave Dombrowski on Friday to let him know how he’s progressing in his rehab from core muscle surgery. He has been cleared to start his throwing program, and will begin by playing catch on Monday in Lakeland.

Even before that news, Dombrowski sought to reign in the headlines. If Verlander’s rehabilitation goes as planned, Dombrowski said, Verlander’s status for the start of the season won’t be a question. Dombrowski isn’t willing to guarantee it yet because he doesn’t want to prompt Verlander to push himself to the risk of re-injury. Nor is manager Brad Ausmus.

“All the reports from [head athletic trainer] Kevin Rand are he’s doing great,” Ausmus said Saturday at TigerFest. “I’ve talked and texted with Justin, and he’s telling me he’s going to be ready. But you have to be smart about it.

“At this point, I’m not concerned. The reports have been so good, maybe I’m naïve, but I’m not concerned.”

That caution, Dombrowski said Saturday, was the point of his remarks earlier in the week.

“If it’s a natural healing process, I anticipate him being ready,” Dombrowski said.

The natural healing process means no setbacks. If it happens, it also means no worries.

“I do not anticipate him not being ready,” Dombrowski said, “but I also don’t want him to rush. I want him to make the normal progression.”

Though Verlander has been healthy for virtually his entire eight-year Major League career, never missing a start for injury, nobody knows Verlander, and how hard he pushes himself in workouts, than the Tigers and their staff. For that reason, Dombrowski and manager Brad Ausmus are trying to avoid giving Verlander a reason to risk a chunk of the season trying to be ready for season’s start.

“Primarily, I’m going to listen to Kevin Rand. That’s his area,” Ausmus said. “But from a practical standpoint, I think what you said is dead-on: We’d rather he start a little slow and be sure he feels well. And if he does, he can crank it up the farther away he gets from the surgery date.

“For the most part, I’m going to rely on Kevin and Justin. And we need Justin in be honest. Justin takes a lot of pride in not missing a start, but he has to be honest about how he feels, because we don’t want to push him past that breaking point where all of a sudden we’ve lost him until May.”

For that reason, they’ll have a fallback plan. They’ll have an extra starter stretching out in Spring Training regardless, given the number of pitchers from Triple-A Toledo in camp. With three off-days in the season’s first two weeks, they can map out their rotation to require a fill-in starter only once.

“There’ll be a point in Spring Training where we’re going to have to be sure, or have the insurance policy that if Justin can’t make a start, we have somebody else to do it,” Ausmus said. “There’ll be that kind of tipping point.”

Verlander commits $1 million to Wins for Warriors initiative

After all the debate on what’s going on with Justin Verlander on the mound, his work off the field took another step. On Wednesday, the Tigers announced that Verlander has committed $1 million to launch an initiative with the Detroit Tigers Foundation to support mental health efforts of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families in the Detroit area as well as his home area of Richmond and Norfolk, Virginia.

The Wins and Warriors initiative will work to sustain two programs that work with veterans and their families: Give An Hour and The Mission Continues. Both are national organizations. The funding will help Give An Hour, which asks mental health professionals to donate an hour a week to free mental health services for veterans and their families, launch new posts in Detroit and the Richmond-Norfolk area in Virginia. The Mission Continues awards community service fellowships to post-9/11 veterans, and will use the Wins for Warriors funding to create three new fellowships — one in Detroit, one in Richmond and one in Norfolk.

Wins for Warriors is also conducting a fundraising campaign through Crowdrise for further support, with Verlander matching each donation through the end of the regular season. He’ll also be offering up incentives to donate, from signed baseballs to on-field pregame events to an offer to watch a 2014 game from his suite at Comerica Park.


Jeff Jones on Scherzer: “We’ll keep him calmed down”

A year after Justin Verlander’s infamous All-Star first inning, nobody on the Tigers is trying to hide from it. But it’s also clear that nobody wants a repeat of it. The fact that Max Scherzer has his regular coaching staff around him this time, including highly trusted pitching coach Jeff Jones should help.

Scherzer has joked a few times about not taking the mound with too much energy like Verlander did. But just in case, Jones said earlier Tuesday that he’s going to check on his 13-game winner beforehand.

“We’ll talk about that,” Jones said. “I’m going to tell him I want you to come out and pitch the same way you do in the first inning of any game. Because I don’t think it’s going to be beneficial commandwise at the mound to try to do more. There’s no sense in getting out of whack while you’re here.

 “You don’t want to change anything. We’ll talk about it. We’ll keep him calmed down.”

Verlander shutting down contract questions

Remember the piece from a few days ago, quoting Justin Verlander saying he didn’t want any contract negotiations during the season? Well, he doesn’t want any questions regarding contract negotiations starting … right … about … now.

The question on his contract came up as expected after his 5 2/3 innings of work Wednesday against the Phillies.

“I’ve got no comments on contract anything,” Verlander said. “We’re one start away from Opening Day and I’d prefer to talk about that.”

Does that signal anything going on, considering Verlander has taken questions on his contract status all spring? At this point, there are no signs that anything is close. The Tigers haven’t commented on Verlander’s contract status all spring, other than GM Dave Dombrowski saying he’d like to keep Verlander in a Tiger uniform for a long time. Verlander’s agent, Mike Milchin, is known for not saying much of anything to the media on negotiations.

It could also be that Verlander didn’t want to take questions on contract talks on this particular day.

Here’s the thing about Verlander: Though the Tigers don’t close spring training until Saturday, when they wrap up Grapefruit League play against the Rays at Tropicana Field and then fly to Minneapolis, Verlander goes into regular-season mode starting Thursday. His final spring start was moved to Wednesday so that he could start Opening Day on his standard four days of rest. He is a creature of routines, and his regular-season routine starts now.

It’s hard to tell whether there’s any room for Verlander to take on contract talks in the midst of that routine. The fact that Verlander isn’t talking about it could suggest that he is, or it could suggest he’s just shutting everything down now. It’s hard to tell with him.

Does this week’s pitching reveal next week’s rotation order?

Long answer short: Not sure, but there are some clues.

Jim Leyland said Tuesday he still wasn’t ready to reveal his rotation order after Justin Verlander’s Opening Day assignment, even after announcing Rick Porcello will complete the rotation. This is now getting into bizarre territory; usually when the Tigers open a season on the road, Leyland announces his starter for the home opener shortly after his Opening Day starter, if not at the same time. At this point, we still don’t know who that might be. Whether it has anything to do with the Twins having not announced their starters yet is anyone’s guess.

What we have right now, though, is a pitching order for the final games of Grapefruit League play. Justin Verlander will get his final spring tuneup on Wednesday, then Anibal Sanchez on Thursday, then Max Scherzer on Friday, then Doug Fister on Saturday. Verlander is starting on an extra day of rest Wednesday so that he can be on turn for Monday on his regular four days’ rest.

It’s possible the Tigers could slot Sanchez, Scherzer and Fister in order from there and have them all pitching on an extra day’s rest. It’s also possible Scherzer and Fister could close out the series in Minnesota on four days’ rest each, though it seems unlikely they’d make Sanchez wait more than a week before his first regular-season start. All we can gather for sure is that there’s no way Fister could go from wrapping up his spring training on Saturday to starting off his regular season on Wednesday, especially the way he has pitched.

The widespread belief in recent weeks has been that Scherzer would start the home opener as a reward for last season. However, he has been very good pitching at Target Field the last couple years (3-0 in 3 starts, 4 runs, 14 hits, 19 1/3 innings, 23 strikeouts). Now, he would be on six days’ rest going into the home opener, two more days than normal. Fister doesn’t have that same history in Minnesota, though he has been good at Comerica Park since becoming a Tiger.

To get back to the original question: You can read quite a bit into this week’s order and come up with a good guess at the rotation. I wouldn’t be ready to swear to that quite yet, though.

Porcello, Sanchez, Verlander start off Tigers spring slate

The main news out of Tigers camp Monday morning were the starting assignments for the first few games of the Grapefruit League. Remember, the Tigers don’t play their annual exhibition against Florida Southern until the middle of March. Instead, they’ll dive straight into Major League play by facing the Braves at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex on Friday.

Rick Porcello will start that game. Anibal Sanchez will start Saturday against the Blue Jays at Joker Marchant Stadium. Justin Verlander starts Sunday against the Phillies in Lakeland. All of those games start at 1:05pm ET, and all of them will be on 97.1 FM back in Detroit and online at MLB Gameday Audio.

Still to be slotted are Max Scherzer, Doug Fister and Drew Smyly. The Tigers are trying to juggle six starters for five spots, and they’re trying to stretch out Casey Crosby’s innings as well to get him ready for a likely assignment in the rotation at Triple-A Toledo, so they’ll have some juggling to do. They have only one set of split-squad games, which comes up on March 2.

Verlander gets 13th at Pebble Beach Pro-Am

Justin Verlander will report to Spring Training with pretty good bragging rights about his golf game, having done more than holding his own in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. He and PGA Tour pro Robert Garrigus teamed up for a 13th-place finish, five strokes off the lead and two strokes out of a top-10 finish.

After making the cut Saturday with a third-round 63, Verlander and Garrigus carried their momentum with a solid final round on the Pebble Beach course for a second straight day, threatening the top 10 before a bogey at the end cost them. They finished in a three-way tie for 13th at 26-under, tied with 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and businessman David Novak.

Verlander beat out Matt Cain, who didn’t make Saturday’s cut. Whether that gives Verlander top billing for baseballers at Pebble Beach this year depends on how folks consider Astros owner Jim Crane, who finished tied for third.

Verlander, whose competitiveness has been known to carry over to the golf course, seemed to have a good time with it this weekend, if his Twitter feed is any indication. He snapped off several pictures along the way, and talked about playing catch with his caddy on the fairway at hole #1 Saturday. That should be good news for pitching coach Jeff Jones, who had talked with Verlander about maintaining his throwing program while he was away this week.

No word yet on when Verlander joins the team in Lakeland. Though Monday is technically reporting day for Tigers pitchers and catchers, Verlander already reported, having worked out at the ballpark for several days before this past week.

Back on the Verlander (World Baseball Classic) watch

wbclogoRealistically, there are two things to watch for with Justin Verlander this spring, but with no contract talks going on (at least from what Verlander said last week), the World Baseball Classic is the one generating news. The latest update came Wednesday from’s Jon Heyman, who cites sources saying USA Baseball officials are growing optimistic Verlander will opt to take part.

It’s slightly surprising, given what Verlander was saying last week about waiting to see how he feels in early throwing workouts. But with Kris Medlen and Andy Pettitte both reportedly out, Team USA desperately needs starting pitching, and it isn’t hard to envision pressure being applied to Verlander, who played for Team USA in international play when he was in college and enjoyed the experience.

Final rosters have to be set February 20, so Verlander has just about a week of formal workouts plus early throwing sessions to gauge his arm, which he said last week will be the determining factor for him. It’s not simply about making sure his arm is fine. If he’s going to pitch in the event, he said, he’s going to have to be able to throw without holding anything back or pacing himself. So he’s going to have to be ahead of schedule compared to his normal spring routine.

“In Spring Training games, you can afford to hold a little bit back,” Verlander said last Thursday. “But all of a sudden, you put yourself in a situation like that, and it’s pedal-to-the-metal. There’s no holding anything back. When you’re playing for your country, it means something.”

Add in the fact that Verlander began his throwing program later this offseason to let his arm rest after another long postseason run, and even Verlander admitted last Thursday that it should theoretically make him less likely to take part. But it’s hard to tell Verlander he can’t do something.

The Tigers don’t have a say in this one, and even if they did, they wouldn’t try to tell Verlander what to do. The decision is all his, and I expect he’ll get a slew of questions about it for the first week of camp.

Verlander: “I would love to play my career here”

The Tigers began the Detroit portion for their winter caravan Thursday with a media luncheon, and as with last year, Justin Verlander was the center of attention once the interviews began. He talked about his upcoming appearance in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, his offseason workouts (he put off his throwing program this winter after a long season and didn’t began throwing until earlier this month) and the outlook for the team.

Once the scrum died down, then came the discussion about his contract status. He has two years left on his current deal, usually the time when teams consider extensions for guys they want to keep. The Tigers have said very little about their plans on that. Verlander let his side be known.

“There haven’t been any talks,” Verlander said. “I’ve made no secret that I love Detroit. I grew up in front of these fans. I feel like I’ve been a big part of this city, and this city has become a big part of me. So I, obviously, would love to play my career here.

“I’ve made this point before, that the ultimate goal for me is the Hall of Fame, and I would like nothing better than to go into the Hall of Fame with the Old English D on my chest. That doesn’t happen too often nowadays, for somebody to play with a team through their whole career. You see Chipper Jones, what he did, that’s something special.  But, like I said, there’s been no talks yet.”

Asked if he’d prefer having those talks now or whether they might be put off until next offseason, Verlander said, “It doesn’t matter. I mean, that’s not up to me.”

When asked how important it would be to him if he became baseball’s first $200 million pitcher, Verlander let out a laugh.

“Loaded question there,” Verlander smiled as he pondered. “Well, you guys know me and how competitive I am with every aspect of everything. But I’m my own individual. I don’t look at anybody else and say he did this, he did that. It’s what I’m comfortable with when it comes to something like that. There’s been no discussions as of yet. Don’t know if there will be.”

The fact that there’s no public timetable for talks at this point doesn’t mean that it’s not going to happen. If you remember back to this point three years ago, Verlander sounded back then like there was nothing close. Two weeks later, they had a deal.

A new deal now would be more complicated. Instead of a promising young pitcher on the rise, Verlander has arrived, now at the top of his profession. Still, the Tigers have a talent for putting together deals without prolonging talks.

In other news, Verlander said he has not yet decided whether he’ll pitch in the World Baseball Classic, where a potential spot is waiting for him on Team USA. How he feels in his bullpen sessions early in camp will help him decide, he says. If he does take part, he admits it would be hard not to go all-out against hitters, which would be a big  change from his usual Spring Training approach of every pitch with a purpose. That might be enough to keep him out.

“In Spring Training games, you can afford to hold a little bit back,” Verlander said. “But all of a sudden, you put yourself in a situation like that, and it’s pedal-to-the-metal. There’s no holding anything back. When you’re playing for your country, it means something.”