Results tagged ‘ Justin Verlander ’

Day 7: First serving of Big Potato

Jose Valverde doesn’t really talk a whole lot in spring training. When he does, well, he holds court.

So, while I wrote a piece for the site gauging Valverde’s chances of challenging Eric Gagne’s consecutive saves record, I didn’t really get into the Valverde personality. It doesn’t get muted for the spring.

He didn’t do anything like last October, when he supposedly guaranteed a Tigers win in the Division Series. But he also wasn’t completely serious, either.

“To be so serious, I would be old quick,” Valverde said. “I don’t want to be old.”

No danger.

When asked if he thinks he can reach Gagne’s record of 84 consecutive save opportunities converted, Valverde neither dodged nor hesitated.

“I don’t know,” he answered immediately. “Have to ask God first. I do whatever God tells me, and that’s it.”

If he gets there, he said, “I’ll be celebrating a lot.”

“I have started working right now for some dancing if I get 85 saves,” he proclaimed, much like he said he’d have a new dance in place if he saved the All-Star Game last summer.

When asked about the noise he creates in workouts, he indicated he has no place for peace and quiet.

“I want it to be noisy everywhere,” he said.

“I’ll be loud like crazy in my car, with music and everything,” he continued. “When my friend rides, he told me, ‘What are you doing? I said, ‘Do your thing. Let me do mine.’”

Other highlights …

  • On fatigue last year: “Me, it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been pitching, I never get tired. The Tigers pay me for that. How can I be tired?”
  • On credit to the bullpen for his success: “It’s not only the relievers, the starters too. Because all these guys like Porcello, JV, [if they don't] go seven innings, I don’t do my job. I have to do it for everybody, not only for the relievers. I have to play for my third baseman, my first baseman, for the whole team.”
  • On whether he’s superstitious talking about his save streak: “I have a lot [of superstitions]. If I had to do all my superstitions right now, we’d be here until tomorrow. I have three pieces of gum in my pocket, my water all the time. I have a lot.”
  • On new teammate Octavio Dotel: “You know, Dotel is 21 years old right now. You have to take care of this guy. It’s great. Dotel is one of the guys I think everybody wants to play for. He’s played for a long time. He’s played for Houston, Oakland, the Yankees. He knows what he’s doing. I watched this guy pitching last year, and I feel great, because [the Cardinals] won the World Series last year [with him]. The Tigers have a chance to win the World Series.”
  • On his contract situation (he’s a free agent next winter): “You know, I have to play first. I have to do my job first. After that, I think about the contract.”

Actual workout note of the day: Again, Justin Verlander takes spring training seriously. How serious? He’ll shake off signs from his catcher, Alex Avila, if he wants to work on a particular pitch. And he did that a few times Sunday morning.

It was very much a game simulation for him, and he didn’t hide his frustration if a pitch didn’t go right. Still, as agitated as he can get, his stuff was evident.

Non-workout note of the day: Just when you thought Verlander’s offseason as a celebrity was over, he scores tickets to the NBA All-Star Game. Verlander managed to get courtside seats for the Sunday night showcase event in Orlando, and he brought Tigers catcher and noted Lakers fan Gerald Laird with him. I’m going to guess Verlander told Laird he couldn’t wear his Kobe Bryant jersey.

Quote of the day: “It’ll break my heart if he’s hurt again.” — Jim Leyland on Joel Zumaya, before learning Zumaya tore his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and will need Tommy John surgery if he wants to try to pitch again.

Verlander called it: Giants win Super Bowl, 21-17

You probably heard by now, but even with Spring Training two weeks away, Justin Verlander is still winning. He was celebrating on Twitter last night over his prognostication that the Giants would post a 21-17 win over the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

His pick was part of the Scripps Howard Celebrity Super Bowl Poll. The news service asks a selection of pro athletes, entertainers, politicians and other celebrities for their predictions. The one who picks the winning team and comes closest to the final score apparently is honored with the Super Sage Award.

Plenty of people picked the Giants, but Verlander was the only one with a 21-17 final. NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson and actor Adam West had 21-17 finals, but with the Patriots winning. Nobody had the Giants with a 23-17 win, so even if New York had pulled off the two-point conversion when they scored the go-ahead touchdown, Verlander would’ve come closest.

Past winners include Penn and Teller, Arnold Palmer, Pat Robertson, Dennis Farina, Joe Mantegna, and the defending champion, the San Diego Chicken.

No idea if that will sit alongside the MVP and Cy Young awards, or even the GIBBY award he won, but he’s pretty proud of it.

Tigers’ reactions to Prince Fielder signing

Justin Verlander told his followers on Twitter he was playing a bad round of golf when he got the call on Prince Fielder. His game didn’t get much better, but his day did.

“The Prince news turned my day around! Still played bad, but who cares,” Verlander tweeted. “Really excited about 2012, especially with the new addition.”

He wasn’t the only Tiger looking at the 2012 season with a little brighter outlook, once the sense of shock over Fielder’s signing tapered off.

“I had just got done working out, hitting, and a few of my friends texted me,” superutilityman Don Kelly said. “I seriously thought they were joking. I got online and checked it out and it was all over MLB.com and whatever.”

Austin Jackson, who’s now set to be leading off for a more formidable Tigers lineup, had the same reaction when his phone started going off while he was sitting at home. Shock gave way to mere amazement, then gave way to the thought of a lineup with two of the most formidable all-around hitters in baseball.

“It’s crazy to think about him and Cabrera hitting next to each other in the lineup,” Jackson said. ‘You do those type of things on MLB2K or something. You never really see two hitters like that get a chance to hit on the same team.

“It’s going to be a very interesting season. I think everybody’s pumped up to get going.”

The news that the Tigers had signed Fielder to a nine-year, $214 million contract sent shock waves around baseball, but it sent excitement around Detroit. Tigers players were no different. Some likely realized it was a possibility, but most didn’t know at all.

“No,” Kelly said. “I mean, everybody was under the impression that it wasn’t a real good fit from what Prince was looking for and what the Tigers were looking to do. But obviously, it ended up [working out].”

Jackson compared it to a holiday gift.

“To be honest with you, I thought it was a long shot,” he said. “I think myself and a lot of other people were probably putting it on a wish list. You think about things like that. You think about what a guy like him could contribute to this team, but you always think those things are long shots. When it actually happened, it was like, ‘All right, I can see this team is really serious about moving in the right direction.”

Miguel Cabrera, the man Fielder is expected to move out from first base, had an idea it was a possibility. He told Venezuelan reporter Marfa Mata that the Tigers had approached him during last week’s winter caravan to let him know it was a possibility and to see how he felt about it, including the possibility of changing positions.

Not only was Cabrera on board, he was excited.

“Some people forget that this is my [old] position, third base,” Mata quotes Cabrera, translated through Google. “I want a better team.”

So do most of the Tigers, even those whose roles might be impacted. Kelly was looking at a potential platoon role at third base going into the season, the kind of set role he hasn’t had in the big leagues. If Cabrera moves to third, there’s a good chance that changes.

That wasn’t among Kelly’s chief concerns Tuesday night.

“Looking at it, when you have a team and you can add a guy like Prince Fielder to that team, your team’s obviously going to be better,” he said.

Even Tigers who haven’t made it to Detroit yet were looking forward to the possibility. Top pitching prospect Jacob Turner was heading into the season looking to compete for the fifth spot in the Tigers rotation. His run support picture now looks much different. He retweeted the news almost as soon as it hit Twitter.

Fellow Tigers pitching prospect Drew Smyly, who’s expected to compete for the same rotation spot, learned about his new teammate soon afterwards.

“That’s one hell of an offense,” he tweeted.

Verlander delivers laughs on Conan

Justin Verlander has talked many times about his pregame routine of listening to music blaring through his headphones as he enters a ballpark on days he starts. He saved the story about his pre-gameday meal for the late-night talk show circuit.

When host Conan O’Brien asked Verlander about his pregame rituals during Wednesday night’s show, Verlander talked about his meals the night before he starts.

“The night before, as you can tell by my amazing physique, I eat Taco Bell,” Verlander said. “Every night.”

“You’re welcome, Taco Bell,” Verlander said as he turned to the camera.

(Link is here, since I can’t seem to embed the video on my blog. Also, according to Front Row Analytics and CNBC’s Darren Rovell on Twitter, that Verlander plug was worth $133,000. You’re welcome, indeed, Taco Bell.)

It was a rare relief appearance for Verlander, the Tigers ace who won American League MVP honors to go with the AL Cy Young award. But it was also a rare venue for him to try his hand at comedy. He retold the story of his hotfoot prank on teammate Don Kelly, which they replayed.

“The cup of water is really not enough if things get out of hand,” O’Brien joked.

While Verlander usually begins his mound outings by throwing his fastball at less than full velocity, he came to the set firing as soon as he sat down. He told O’Brien about seeing the giant orange Conan Blimp advertising his show flying over Yankee Stadium during their American League Division Series last fall.

“Here we are in the postseason in New York,” Verlander begins, “and you’ve got your blimp flying up there. It’s supposed to be a night game, and this thing looks like the sun. It’s huge!

“That’s what I had to stare at the whole game, because I’m a pitcher, so when I’m not pitching, I just sit around in the dugout and look around, because we don’t really do much. So every time I look up, I see this thing, and I can’t help it. I’m envisioning your face on the side of this blimp, and it’s just like haunting me the whole series.”

The show was taped in Los Angeles, where Verlander has been spending the week doing a shoot for the upcoming MLB 2K12 video game. Verlander was on Conan to promote the game, which features him on the cover pitching with special effects all around him.

“Do you like how you’re depicted on the cover? You look kind of like a superhero here,” O’Brien asked as he showed off the cover.

“I mean, it’s me. I look great,” Verlander said with a laugh.

Now, to be fair, Verlander isn’t the first Tiger to plug one of his favorite places to eat. Remember Chipotle’s Master Burrito Ambassador, Will Rhymes, last spring? Is there an equivalent title Taco Bell can give Verlander? Maybe an endorsement deal pairing Verlander with Giants closer Brian Wilson?

Up next on Conan: MLB superstar Justin Verlander

Justin Verlander’s offseason has included award presentations, an MLB Network stint or two and his face on a video game. The late-night talk show circuit was the next logical spot.

As you might have heard over the weekend, Verlander will be a guest on Conan Wednesday night, part of a trip to Los Angeles that includes some promotional stuff for 2K Sports MLB 2K12. The show starts at 11pm ET on TBS, which had a couple hours’ worth of Verlander back in October for Game 3 of the AL Division Series. Not sure when Verlander will be on; Jack McBrayer of 30 Rock is the other guest that night. Should be interesting to see Verlander chat it up in a non-baseball format.

In case you’re wondering, Verlander will NOT be the first Tiger to be a late-night talk show guest. According to this list on epiguides.com, Alan Trammell was a guest on Late Night with David Letterman on Oct. 29, 1984, two weeks after the Tigers won the World Series. I can’t find an episode guide for The Tonight Show back when Johnny Carson hosted, so I don’t have an answer that far back. Jack Morris was also a guest on Letterman after the 1991 World Series, but he was a Twin by then.

Three Tigers win Negro League Legacy Awards

One more set of awards for you, this one from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City: Justin Verlander did not win MVP honors this time, but he earned the AL’s Bullet Rogan Pitcher of the Year award. Former Tiger Curtis Granderson won the AL’s Oscar Charleston Award for MVP. Jose Valverde won the AL’s Hilton Smith Award for top reliever. Miguel Cabrera, meanwhile, was the winner of the Buck Leonard award for top batting average in the league.

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum established the Legacy Awards in 2000 to honor baseball’s best with awards given in name and spirit of Negro Leagues legends such as Charleston, Rogan, Smith, Leonard, Josh Gibson and Buck O’Neil. The awards are scheduled to be presented in Kansas City on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012.

Verlander wins AL MVP

Justin Verlander’s case for winning American League MVP is closed. His trophy case, on the other hand, had better be open, because he’s going to need room.

With a no-hitter, an AL pitching Tripe Crown and a Tigers division title on his resume, Verlander became the first starting pitcher in a quarter-century — and the first Tiger since 1984 — to win AL MVP, beating out former teammate Curtis Granderson and others for the league’s highest individual honor.

Verlander received 13 of 28 first-place votes from members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Verlander received three votes for second place and three votes for third. His point total 0f 280 didn’t give him a runaway win, but a safe margin.

Jacoby Ellsbury, who enjoyed a breakthrough season as an all-around hitter for a Red Sox team that fell just short of the AL Wild Card, finished second with 242 points, followed by Jose Bautista and Granderson.

Verlander’s teammate, Miguel Cabrera, finished fifth with 193 points, including two first-place votes. Last year’s runner-up for MVP won the AL batting title with a scorching home stretch in August and September. Alex Avila and Victor Martinez also received votes.

Verlander’s total shows how much voters accepted the idea that a pitcher is worthy of MVP consideration. It would’ve taken just a few voters in adamant opposition to keep him from the honor, since those voters would’ve left him completely off their ballot. That didn’t happen.

Only one voter left Verlander off their ballot completely. Twenty-six of the other 27 voters selected Verlander for sixth place or better, with one vote for eighth.

In a way, it was probably fitting. Verlander became the Tigers’ fifth league MVP in the last 70 seasons. All of them have been pitchers, joining Verlander with former relief great Guillermo Hernandez, former 30-game winner Denny McLain, and back-to-back winner Hal Newhouser.

Verlander wins Cy Young by unanimous vote

If you were worried about Verlander’s chances, you shouldn’t be. All 28 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America went to Verlander, who won the AL pitching Triple Crown. Here’s the story from the site.

Jered Weaver, whom Verlander outpitched July 31 at Comerica Park, took second place over James Shields and CC Sabathia. In a bit of a surprise, Jose Valverde finished fifth, including one second-place vote and three votes for third.

Verlander named Tiger of the Year

In a vote that surprised no one, members of the Detroit chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America named Justin Verlander as the Tiger of the Year. He received 25 out of 26 votes, with the other going to Miguel Cabrera.

It’s the second Tiger of the Year award in the last three years for Verlander. He and Cabrera have essentially alternated the award the last four years.

Verlander wins MLB Player of the Year at Players Choice

Justin Verlander kept repeating a phrase all year when reporters asked: If you expect greatness, greatness shouldn’t surprise you. The recognition of that greatness, though, might be a surprise for a few people.

As badly as he might want MVP-type recognition, he couldn’t be sure he was going to get it, a question more of precedence than performance. His first chance came from his peers, who decided he was the best player in baseball this year — not just best pitcher, best player.

As a result, Verlander became the second pitcher ever to win MLB Player of the Year honors at the annual Players Choice awards. Whether or not it was a surprise for Verlander, it was clearly meaningful as he talked about it on a conference call with reporters.

“Coming from your peers makes it all the more special,” Verlander said. “I think with all the talk about should a pitcher be able to win MVP or a top player award, I think it shows a lot of support for my fellow players to be able to vote me for that. I think it means a lot. When it comes from your peers, the guys you’re playing with, the guys you’re playing against, it’s special.”

The Player of the Year award covers both leagues, and dates back to 1998. Before then, the MLB Players Association had one award for each league’s best pitcher, and one for each league’s best position player, with no mixing.

The last pitcher to win MVP honors from baseball writers, Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley, did it in 1992, six years before the Players Choice awards added their equivalent. Some pitchers made their case since. Pedro Martinez won it in 1999. Randy Johnson had a case in 2002, as did Johan Santana in 2006. They all won pitching triple crowns and led their teams into the postseason, but they still didn’t have the resume Verlander posted in 2011.

Though Verlander didn’t allow himself to reflect on his season until the Tigers’ run through October ended in the AL Championship Series, his fellow players had to reflect a lot sooner than that.

“Obviously from a personal standpoint, it was an amazing year,” Verlander said. “I worked extremely hard for this, and I told you guys a few times, if you expect greatness it shouldn’t surprise you. I’ve always expected myself to be able to pitch this way. It still doesn’t surprise me that I did.”

Yet it still surprised him to be mentioned with Martinez, Santana, Johnson and others among the greatest single seasons in baseball history.

“Looking back and seeing how the numbers stack up, even to be mentioned in that category, I know it doesn’t measure up to some of them, it’s still pretty special,” Verlander said. “I think it’ll be a season I remember for a long time.”

Verlander easily beat out Angels All-Star Jered Weaver and Rays ace James Shields for AL Outstanding Pitcher. His competitors for MLB Player of the Year were his former Detroit teammate Curtis Granderson, who hit 41 homers with 119 RBIs while leading the league with 136 runs scored, and Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez, who finished second to Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera in batting average at .338 while driving in 117 runs and posting a .410 on-base percentage.

To beat them out was big. Verlander tried to match that with what he did with his winnings. The Player of the Year honor comes with a $50,000 grant from the Players Trust to the winner’s charity of choice. AL Outstanding Pitcher brings another $20,000. Verlander took that $70,000, added $30,000 of his own and split the total between two veterans hospitals in metro Detroit.

The John D. Dingell Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Detroit and the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System in Ann Arbor will receive donations of $50,000 each. Both took part in the Verlander’s Victory for Veterans program this summer, allowing veterans who sustained injuries or illness serving in Iraq or Afghanistan to enjoy a game from Verlander’s luxury suite at Comerica Park on days when Verlander started.

“I added a little bit to make it a nice round number,” Verlander said. “I wanted to donate some of my own money because it’s a personal cause. It’s something I believe in. This is something I feel greatly, so I wanted to give some of my own money.”

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