Mar 16, 2014; Melbourne, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) throws against the Washington Nationals in spring training action at Space Coast Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Ausmus announced his very first Opening Day starter as a manager on Monday morning. That choice should not really surprise anyone.
It’s Justin Verlander.
For the seventh straight season, Justin Verlander will take the mound for the Detroit Tigers on Opening Day, March 31, at Comerica Park against the Kansas City Royals. JV’s seven straight starts on Opening Day represents the franchise’s longest streak since Jack Morris started every Opening Day from 1980 to 1990. In between those two long streaks only one Tigers’ pitcher started two straight games on Opening Day (Jeff Weaver in 2001 and 2002).
Early in Spring Training, Ausmus stated he was undecided about who would toe the rubber on Opening Day, saying it could be Verlander, Max Scherzer, or Anibal Sanchez. Some of us (cough, cough) even campaigned for Scherzer. In the end, it was probably all academic and, if healthy, Justin would get the nod.
Pitching on Opening Day had to be a lofty goal for Verlander after undergoing sports hernia surgey in January, but that was his goal all along–to be available on Opening Day, even if it meant he didn’t pitch in Spring Training games.
Verlander’s progressed very nicely and was ahead of schedule on his rehab most of the way. Though one of his slated Spring Training starts was washed out, Verlander proved he is back with two impressive scoreless starts, including yesterday against the Nationals.
It’s worth noting that Scherzer presented a strong case to be the starter. He won the Cy Young a year ago while Verlander struggled through much of the regular season. It is not often that a Cy Young winner from the year before doesn’t get the call on Opening Day.
This was no easy decision for Ausmus–but a luxury to have to make it.
So while there may be some questions on who will start at left field and shortstop coming March 31, there will no longer be a question about the starting pitcher as a healthy Justin Verlander claims his rightful position.