Detroit Tigers Top 5 Spring Training Story Lines
By Matt Pelc
Oct 3, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcherJustin Verlander
(35) throws a pitch against the Baltimore Orioles during the first inning of game two of the 2014 ALDS playoff baseball game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
#3 The return of Must-See J.V.?
Fans were disappointed in Justin Verlander’s 2014 performance, the Tigers were disappointed in Justin Verlander’s performance, Kate Upton was disappointed in–okay well maybe not her. But you get the picture. Everyone was disappointed in Justin Verlander’s performance in 2014. Most of all? Justin Verlander.
Some fans bemoan the big contracts that the Tigers shell out to star players (though many of the same are pissed when star players leave, cough, cough Max Scherzer) but the claim some make that once the players receive their “payday” they stop caring/trying.
This can’t be further from the truth for Verlander. If you have watched him closely since his rookie year of 2006, there are not many who are as competitive and driven on the mound as J.V. Sometimes that can be to his determent if he gets angry on the mound and grooves a pitch (as he may have done against Nelson Cruz in the 2011 ALCS).
But Verlander is not going to go into easy street mode for the rest of his career because he’s set for life. I mean honestly if that was the case no athlete would perform beyond their original rookie contracts!
With all that said, this is a make or break year for Verlander and we’ll get an idea of which way his career is going in Spring Training. Will he be average or be one of the game’s top pitchers again?
The last two regular seasons have been average but the 2013 postseason was lights out.
Of course Verlander could easily be done as a superstar. His age is creeping up, he has pitched a lot of innings since 2006 and his fastball is losing its speed and elusiveness. However there are a lot of factors that support a rebirth.
He has experienced the most rest after a season in four years. He did not pitch deep into the postseason last year as he did from 2011-2013. Last year’s surgery kept him from his rigorous offseason routine, but he has been able to get into that again this year.
He has also been working on a new pitch, which is something a starter in his 30’s always has to do to remain solid.
Don’t expect to see that new pitch much during Spring Training games as Verlander will likely want to save it for the Minnesota Twins on Opening Day. Also even in J.V.’s glory years of 2009-2012 he never had stellar Spring Training seasons, however there will be some signs, either positive or negative, that will give an accurate gauge of his 2015 season to come.