No such worry for the Tigers.
Justin Verlander is coming off one of the most dominant seasons for a pitcher in recent memory. Cy Young and MVP awards now sit atop his mantle.
The Tigers feel good about their chances every fifth day. Every Contender needs a true ace and the Tigers are fortunate to have one of the best. It’s almost incomprehensible to think what Verlander would have commanded on the open market as a free agent this past off season has the Tigers not locked him up to a five- year deal in January of 2010.
Las t season’s numbers were truly eye opening. Verlander won the pitching Triple Crown, leading the league in wins (24), ERA (2.40) and strikeouts (250).
Is there any pressure this year to match last season’s numbers? Pitching coach Jeff Jones doesn’t think so. “I don’t think there is any added pressure, he said. “His bullpens are focused and everything he does is designed to win. He wants to win a World Series more than worrying about topping last year’s stats.”
Heading into today, Verlander was down to two spring start and Jones says this is the point where Verlander will begin to morph into regular season mode. “He’ll pump up the velocity and hone all of his pitches,” he said.
Today we saw evidence of just that. After giving up two runs in the first, he settled in nicely, throwing five shutout innings. Verlander threw a bevy of off speed pitches, including a very good change-up. In the fourth inning, as Jones alluded to, Verlander pumped the fastball up to 95 MPH striking out Laynce Nix to end the inning. Later he used a 96 MPH fastball to get Scott Podsednik to pop up ending a threat in the fifth.
Verlander’s first assignment will be a match-up against Jon Lester at Comerica Park on opening day. All indications are that he’ll be ready.