Results tagged ‘ Justin Verlander ’

What Greinke deal means for Sanchez, Verlander

Now this offseason market gets real for the Tigers.

I’m off for vacation heading into the holidays, so I won’t be writing about it much the next couple weeks, but I thought it was worth a blog post to set the scene. Because now that Zack Greinke has his deal — reportedly six years and $147 million from the Dodgers — the pitching market is set for others to follow. That includes Anibal Sanchez, regarded by many as the next-best free-agent starter on the market.

For the Tigers’ purposes, that also means Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, both two years away from free agency (when most teams try to lock up the starting pitchers they covet while security is still a big deal for them).

The belief going into the Winter Meetings was that a Greinke deal with the Dodgers would be good for the Tigers, because it would take this offseason’s biggest spenders out of the market for Sanchez. None of the other potential suitors have the financial might that the Dodgers do with new local television money coming.

Well, Greinke is a Dodger, but it’s no longer a certainty that Los Angeles will stop there. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that the Dodgers have interest in both Sanchez and fellow free agent Kyle Lohse. Whether that interest has a financial limit remains to be seen; the Dodgers payroll is picking up speed towards $200 million. But if they’re interested, they’re going to be a major factor that might force the Tigers to make a very difficult decision.

So, too, could the Rangers, if they want to make a pitch for Sanchez after losing out on Greinke. So, too, could a couple other teams. Maybe the Angels, still with room for a starter, try to answer their neighbors’ news. Maybe the Royals, who have made pitching their top priority this winter, could make a run after all. Maybe the Red Sox try to bring back their former prospect. Maybe a contending team in need of a starter has been quietly waiting for the Sanchez bidding to pick up so it can make a move.

Greinke’s contract didn’t get into the $160+ million territory that had been rumored, but it’ll still rank as the highest average annual salary for a right-handed pitcher (CC Sabathia still holds the overall pitching mark at just under $25 million). Sanchez isn’t in that class, but Greinke’s contract will still have a major impact. Sanchez is just four months younger than Greinke, but he has more than 600 fewer Major League innings of wear and tear. He isn’t nearly as proven, but he also isn’t as taxed.

One talent evaluator observing the Sanchez situation at the Winter Meetings said he doesn’t believe Sanchez will get as much money as many might expects. He might get the years, but not the money. That’s all relative, of course, but it’ll be interesting to watch.

But you know who is easily in Greinke’s class, even above it? Justin Verlander. He’s eight months older, and he has more innings, but he has a lot more accomplished on his resume as well. If Greinke is worth just under $25 million, what could Verlander get on the market in two years, still in his early 30s?

It’s the Tigers’ goal to make sure it never gets to that point. It won’t be cheap, but Verlander’s a superstar, and Tigers owner Mike Ilitch loves having superstar players. If it’s going to happen, this is the offseason to do it. But Greinke’s contract shifts the market a little bit, both in money and in years.

Scherzer, too, is two years out from the open market. He doesn’t have nearly the resume, but he’s coming off the best season of his career (though 2010 is close on the secondary numbers). He also has Scott Boras, an agent who eschews long-term contracts before a pitcher hits the open market. If the Tigers are going to make Scherzer a Tiger for years to come, it is not going to be easy. What Greinke’s deal does for Scherzer is show that you don’t have to be a true ace to get a big-time contract. That, too, is dangerous for the Tigers.

Cabrera, Verlander named finalists for AL awards

Justin Verlander won’t get a chance to repeat for American League MVP, but Miguel Cabrera will get his chance to keep the award in Detroit. Verlander will settle for a shot at another AL Cy Young award.

MLB Network announced the finalists for baseball’s major end-of-season awards Wednesday night, and to no surprise, Cabrera and Verlander were in the middle of them. Cabrera was announced as one of five finalists for AL MVP, while Verlander was named among the three finalists for Cy Young.

Neither was a surprise, though Verlander actually wasn’t among the three finalists for AL Outstanding Pitcher honor at last week’s Players Choice awards. Unless you spent the last three months outside the country, you know that the AL MVP debate basically an argument over Cabrera’s Triple Crown and Mike Trout’s strength in metrics. The other three MVP finalists announced were Texas’ Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton, and Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano.

The Cy Young field is more open. Verlander’s 17 wins marked his lowest total since 2008, but he again led the league in innings and strikeouts while ranking second in ERA. He again led all AL pitchers in Wins Above Replacement. Whether that’s enough to put him on top 0f a field that includes 20-game winners David Price (also the ERA champ) and Jered Weaver is difficult to answer.

The Cy Young award winner will be announced next Wednesday at 6 p.m., also on MLB Network. The league MVP honors will be announced the next night.

Dombrowski’s end-of-season remarks (with notes)

There are few things faster in baseball these days than a Bruce Rondon fastball. It has been clocked as high as 102 mph, including during the Futures Game in July at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium.

The only thing faster in the Tigers organization than Rondon’s fastball might be the track he’s on.

Dave Dombrowski’s end-of-season remarks are an annual tradition now, painting the roadmap for the Tigers offseason, both for what they might look to do and what their plans are with pending players. It also seems there’s usually a prospect or two that gets some lift out of it.

Three years ago, it was Scott Sizemore. Last year, Drew Smyly got a mention. Today might well go down as the day Dombrowski set the path for Rondon.

Everybody figured him to be a closer of the future with these guys. Tuesday was the day we found just how near that future might be.

“I would not discount Bruce Rondon in the competition for our closer role for next year,” Dombrowski said. “I’m not saying he’s going to be our closer, but I do not discount him in that role.

“He is a guy that throws — and people don’t sometimes believe this, but it is true — he averages 100 miles an hour and topped off at 103, and throws his breaking stuff for consistent strikes.”

Dombrowski confirmed what others had speculated, that Rondon was a serious consideration for a call-up leading into September this year, which would’ve made him eligible for the postseason roster. Had they known that Valverde was going to struggle the way they did, they would’ve done it, which would’ve put a whole different look on Detroit’s closer by committee.

“This guy is a special potential closer with the makeup of a closer,” Dombrowski continued, “and normally you’re not going to thrust that in a young guy’s hands and say automatically, ‘It’s your job.’ But it would not surprise me if he earned that job. With the number of good arms that are out there, there are not many arms like this, and he cherishes that type of role.”

Dombrowski wasn’t the only one touting Rondon. When Leyland was asked about the difference between going with a closer by committee in a postseason and doing that for a full season, he hesitated.

“I’ve handled those situations before, but who’s to say we won’t have a closer,” Leyland countered. “I think we will have a closer. I think it might be a surprise closer, but I think we might have one. And I’m not talking about Phil Coke, by the way. Not that I don’t like Phil Coke.”

Someone then mentioned Rondon.

“Rondon’s a good name. Here’s a kid, who knows? Believe me, I’m not putting my blessing on Rondon as a closer for next year, but I’m just mentioning that name as a possibility. When you’ve got an arm like that, that’s a possibility. Now, could he handle it mentally, could he handle it in a three-tier stadium with the bright lights? I don’t have a clue.”

It’s an interesting contrast. The last Tigers reliever who threw as hard as Bruce Rondon does was Joel Zumaya, who crashed the roster to become a force in a setup relief role in 2006. At no point did Zumaya ever earn the closer’s job, partly because of injuries but not entirely.

The last rookie to have any sort of closing job in Detroit was Franklyn German, who shared the job in 2003. However, a closer’s role on a 43-119 team isn’t exactly like a regular job. German shared the team lead in saves — with five.

If you count Fernando Rodney’s time down the stretch in 2005, the Tigers have had experienced closers in the role every year since 2006.

“You see [Aroldis] Chapman close and there’s been other young guys close for clubs,” Dombrowski said. “I know it hasn’t been our normal situation. People know how good an arm Zumaya had, this guy has every bit and it comes out easier with less effort in his delivery.”

Dombrowski is aware of their track record. He’s also well-aware he has a team that’s expected to win next year, a team that opened as a World Series favorite this week.

“I think you also have to be open-minded and flexible,” Dombrowski said. “It’s just like a couple years ago when in 2006, Verlander and Zumaya jumped up pretty good for us at that point. This guy [Rondon] is a talented guy. He’s a rare talent. You would not believe the number of clubs that called me about Bruce Rondon to trade him. If I had a choice of any young closer in baseball to give an opportunity to in any organization, it would be him. Now would be ready? I don’t know that. But he is that good.”

Here’s a roundup of the other remarks he had:

  • Dombrowski was on the fence on whether Dirks has a full-time starting role for next year: “Dirks is a good player. Is he an every-day player at this point? I don’t know. He might be. I know he’s a real good player. Can he combine with somebody? So I think we’ll just kind of look at that.”
  • Dombrowski poo-poohed the idea that they could non-tender Brennan Boesch. “We’ll tender him a contract,” Dombrowski said. “He’s not where we would like him to be at this point, because if we did he’d have been on our roster for the postseason, so that’s a pretty obvious summation. But I think it’s the case that he still has ability, he can still hit the ball out of the ballpark. We still see some untapped potential, and he has struggled some.”
  • When asked what went wrong in the World Series, Dombrowski cited the offense, and pointed to an article that said they went 1-for-17 when putting pitches in play that were over the middle of the plate (not sure which article, otherwise I’d provide a link). “They pitched well,” Dombrowski said, “but we also didn’t hit the pitches we could handle. Why didn’t they do that? Was the timing a little bit off? Maybe. Did they keep off timing with the layover, did they keep them off-balance with the stuff that they threw, changing speeds? I’m sure that, too. Did they start pressing a little bit, try to do too much? Maybe a combination of all that. But it’s almost hard to believe when you say they went 1-for-17 on balls down the middle of the plate.”
  • Quintin Berry will go into camp with a chance to compete for a spot on the roster. Coincidentally, Leyland said that with Victor Martinez back, they’ll have a use for a pinch-runner on their bench.
  • The Tigers will designate Don Kelly for assignment later on this week, Dombrowski said, to open a spot on the 40-man roster. From there, clubs will have a chance to claim him, just as they did when the Tigers designated him in August. If he isn’t claimed, however, the Tigers would like to bring him back on a minor-league contract to compete for a roster spot. “He knows how well thought of he is here,” Dombrowski said. “But I also know that other people are in a position where somebody may offer him a better opportunity. That’s what guys look for when they’re free agents.”
  • No comment on the status of Ryan Raburn, because Dombrowski hasn’t had a chance to talk with him yet. They still have him under team control for a year, so technically they don’t have to do anything if they want to keep him. If they want to use his roster spot for someone else, well, that’s another matter, and one they would probably want to talk with him about.
  • Dombrowski did not want to get into the possibility of contract talks with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, both two years away from free agency. That’s a matter he still has to discuss with ownership. However, he said they’d like to have both for a long time.
  • Avisail Garcia, Dombrowski said, is a “tough call” on whether he makes the roster next year. “He has star potential,” Dombrowski said. “He’s a five-tool player. I’m not sure that he’s ready as a corner outfielder to give us the contributions that we need on an overall basis at this time, but I’m not sure that he’s not. He is going to play everyday in winter ball for Magglio’s team in Venezuela. I think he’s a guy that we’ll keep a real close eye on in how he develops over the wintertime.”
  • If the Tigers can’t re-sign Sanchez, Dombrowski didn’t sound particularly strong about getting another starter to fill his spot, saying it would have to be a substantial improvement over what they have.
  • Smyly would not be viewed as a full-time reliever.
  • Dombrowski is not concerned about Scherzer going into the offseason. “What happened,” Dombrowski said, “was [his shoulder] got tired like a lot of your muscles get tired, and it’s just more a mater of it needing some rest and then building it back up. So he got some rest and built it back up, but at that time period you don’t have a chance to go out there every five days and build it up. So the feeling is with Scherzer that he’ll be absolutely fine.”
  • A second lefty reliever isn’t a high priority for the Tigers to acquire this winter. Dombrowski believes they can fill the spot in-house, though he didn’t rule out adding an arm.

Verlander will be featured on E:60

DVR alert: Around the same time Max Scherzer will be throwing his first pitches against the A’s tonight at Comerica Park, Justin Verlander will be featured in this week’s episode of ESPN’s newsmagazine, E:60. The piece profiles Verlander’s background growing up as a high-energy kid who had to learn how to focus and how it impacted him to grow up to be who he is today. It also looks at his newfound fame and his love of sports cars.

The show airs at 7 p.m. Verlander is expected to be the second piece, after New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz. If you miss it, you might be able to find it on re-airings later in the week.

Verlander vs. Sale next Sunday night?

Jim Leyland has used the Tigers’ recent rash of off-days to give Justin Verlander an extra day between starts for the last couple turns in the rotation. This stretch coming up is why.

They’re off next Monday before going to Kansas City and then hosting the White Sox, but Leyland confirmed yesterday he’ll start Verlander on his regular four days’ rest and pitch him Tuesday in KC, slotting him ahead of Anibal Sanchez in the pitching order. More importantly, that puts him in line to face the White Sox — twice.

The Tigers will open with Max Scherzer against the White Sox next Friday night, then Doug Fister on Saturday (if he’s healthy, or Drew Smyly if he’s not), then Verlander on Sunday night on ESPN. That series finale could be huge, if the White Sox keep their rotation in order, because Chris Sale would be in line to start for Chicago.

It would be a matchup of two AL Cy Young award candidates (not necessarily the two front-runners, the way David Price is pitching lately). It would also be another challenge for the Tigers lineup against a tough left-hander, something they could also get on Saturday against Francisco Liriano.

The Tigers are responsible for half of Sale’s four losses this year and eight of the 45 earned runs he has allowed. Five of those came over seven innings July 21 at Comerica Park, including a three-run home run from Brennan Boesch. He has gotten back into his high-strikeout form in August, including 13 strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball against the Yankees on Wednesday in Chicago.

By shuffling the rotation, Verlander will also get two more starts against postseason contenders, facing the Angels in Anaheim and getting a rematch with the White Sox during the four-game series in Chicago in mid-September.

Scherzer, Strasburg put up dueling outings in strikeout race

The pitching story in Detroit rigtht now is Max Scherzer trying to succeed Justin Verlander for the Major League strikeout crown. For now, at least, the national race also has Stephen Strasburg in it.

While Scherzer’s seven-inning, eight-strikeout performance pushed him past Verlander for the AL strikeout lead and R.A. Dickey atop the Major League leaderboard, Strasburg was simultaneously dealing in Washington, where he struck out 10 Atlanta Braves over six innings of four-hit, one-run ball for his 15th win. Strasburg (183) passed up Dickey (181) for the NL lead, but fell a few short of Scherzer (186).

Scherzer still leads Strasburg in strikeout rate, but barely. Strasburg bumped his rate to 11.33, just behind Scherzer at 11.34. At this point, you have to stretch it out three decimal points to figure out whether Scherzer has a higher rate than Kerry Wood’s mark in 2003 (11.345 for Wood, 11.336 for Scherzer).

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard that the Nationals have a innings range for Strasburg in his first full season following Tommy John surgery. If general manager Mike Rizzo holds to it, it’s difficult to envision Strasburg racking up enough strikeouts to lead the big leagues at season’s end if everyone else has at least two or three extra starts. For now, though, it’s quite a race. He could still beat out Scherzer for strikeout rate if he finishes with at least 162 innings pitched.

And it’s not just Strasburg. Add Felix Hernandez (179) to Verlander, Dickey, Strasburg, Scherzer, and five pitchers sit within 11 strikeouts of each other for the lead. All but Verlander started Monday or Tuesday, and Verlander will pitch Thursday.

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.

“I’d like to be back in again to close behind Verlander,” Rodney said. “Whatever I have to be, I want to be the pitcher they go to.”

Verlander officially named AL All-Star starter

The Tigers have turned to Justin Verlander for wins at Kauffman Stadium for seven years. Why wouldn’t the American League All-Stars?

Statistically, AL manager Ron Washington could’ve justified several choices for starting Tuesday’s All-Star Game, from Major League ERA leader and 2011 All-Star Game starter Jered Weaver to AL wins co-leader David Price to White Sox sensation Chris Sale. In the end, he turned to the man many recognize as the nastiest pitcher in baseball.

“He is one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, not just the American League,” Washington said of Verlander at a Monday press conference at Arrowhead Stadium. “The joy that I have of giving him the ball tomorrow, he’s well-rested. I expect a lot out of him, and I know he expects a lot out of himself.”

Thus, a year after Verlander made the All-Star team but couldn’t pitch amidst a season that earned him MVP and Cy Young honors, he gets to make the first pitch.

“What an honor it is to start my first All-Star Game,” Verlander said Monday. “I’ve been to a few in the past and some I haven’t had the opportunity to pitch like last year and some I’ve pitched out of the bullpen. But this is something different, and I’m going to relish every moment and hopefully play a part in helping the American league win.”

Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder will bat fifth for the AL All-Stars. Former Tiger Curtis Granderson will start in center field behind Verlander for the first time since Game 162 (the game before the tiebreaker) of the 2009 season.

Verlander enters the All-Star break tied for the Major League lead with 128 strikeouts and topping the big leagues with 132 2/3 innings pitched and five complete games. His 2.58 ERA ranks him fourth among AL starters, while his nine victories put him two off the league-leading pace.

His WHIP ratio — walks plus hits to innings pitched — is 0.95, 96 hits and 30 walks over 132 2/3 innings. He’s averaging 0.7 home runs per nine innings, actually better than last year.

Verlander tossed a complete-game four-hitter last Wednesday to beat the Twins, his fourth win in his last five starts, then said he didn’t want a 2011 achievement award, starting an All-Star Game based on last year.

“Yeah, I had a good year last year, but I shouldn’t be [awarded] for that,” Verlander said last week. “If I get to start in the All-Star Game, I want to know it’s because I’ve been the best pitcher up to this point. …

“You’re not owed anything in this game. Whoever’s the best pitcher up to this point is owed that. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity last year. And who knows if I’d have had it anyway? [Jered] Weaver was really good up to that point as well.”

This numbers say he shouldn’t have to worry about that. As a result, Verlander will add an All-Star start to a resume that includes the 2006 AL Rookie of the Year award, a World Series start as a rookie, a Cy Young and an MVP, all before he turns 30 next February.

Verlander will be pitching on five days’ rest, and he won’t pitch again until Sunday in Baltimore, meaning he should be good for two innings of work if Washington wants that.

His history in Kansas City is impeccable, with a 9-2 record and 1.83 ERA. He hasn’t lost at Kauffman Stadium since 2009, going 4-0 in five starts. He tossed a 131-pitch complete game there April 16, during which manager Jim Leyland made the now-famous mound visit to tell his ace he was going to get him fired for leaving him in that long.

His success there prompted Verlander to joke what kind of reception he might get when he’s introduced.

“I can’t wait to see if I get booed or cheered,” he said last week. “It’s in Kansas City, but it’s AL, so they should be cheering for us. But it’s a division rival.”

He won’t have to wait long to take the field and find out.

Verlander wants to be judged on 2012, not 2011 for All-Star start

Now that Justin Verlander is done for the first half, he’s thinking about his All-Star assignment, and he’s thinking about the field of potential starters. And as he waits to see how AL All-Star manager Ron Washington calls it, he made it clear he’s not expecting anything based on his Cy Young and MVP awards from last year.

“Yeah, it would be nice. It would be fantastic,” Verlander said. “But I know there are some other guys out there having exceptional years. In my opinion, the All-Star Game is year-to-year. This is the halfway point of 2012, not the end of 2011.

“Yeah, I had a good year last year, but I shouldn’t be [awarded] for that. If I get to start in the All-Star Game, I want to know it’s because I’ve been the best pitcher up to this point.”

The fact that he wasn’t available to pitch in the All-Star Game last year, having pitched in the Tigers’ final game before the break, shouldn’t factor in, he said.

“You’re not owed anything in this game,” he continued. “Whoever’s the best pitcher up to this point is owed that. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity last year. And who knows if I’d have had it anyway? [Jered] Weaver was really good up to that point as well. It would be nice. I’d like to have that on the resume, but like I said, there are some other guys out there having fantastic years as well.”

Pitching updates: Fister could start Wednesday

The pitching news coming out of Saturday’s win was a little bit surprising. Manager Jim Leyland decided to go ahead and move Justin Verlander up to start Thursday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field on his standard four days’ rest, despite 127 pitches over six innings against the Reds this afternoon. The extra rest for Verlander before this start was a big factor.

When asked if that means Rick Porcello will have his start moved up to Wednesday, however, Leyland said he wants to wait and see on Doug Fister, who had an encouraging session here. Fister is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday, so he could start the middle game of the series at Wrigley.

Fister is dealing with a left side strain coming out of his Memorial Day start at Fenway Park. He has been throwing off of flat ground, but throwing hard. If he feels good in a mound session, that could be the trigger that gets on out on the mound again as soon as possible.

No word on how far Porcello would be pushed back if Fister’s ready, or if Casey Crosby would move to the bullpen.

UPDATE: Sunday’s Tigers notes list Porcello as the scheduled start for Wednesday. Will check during pregame interviews later today to see if that’s now a lock.

On the bullpen front, Octavio Dotel said he’s feeling better, but still not ready to go. He’s hoping that if he feels good throwing on Sunday, he can be available in the bullpen Tuesday in Chicago.

 

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