Detroit Tigers: 5 Starting Pitching Questions

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Feb 23, 2015; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander (35) pitches during Monday mornings workout at Joker Merchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

#3 Can Justin Verlander Adapt?

We always have to be careful about gauging Spring Training results when looking toward the regular season. A few weeks ago I mentioned the infamous six-run Joe Nathan Grapefruit League inning and was shouted down because it was only an Exhibition game.

I get that, but you can couple the body of work of the last regular season with the current Spring Training results and at least hazard a guess.

Hazarding a guess how Justin Verlander will do this coming season might not be pretty for some.

He pitched decent his first couple starts but has allowed nine earned runs over two recent starts. In his last outing, he pitched pretty well, but allowed a homer and left with a leg cramp with two outs in the fourth inning. Verlander is still not getting the swings and misses he would like and admitted a little over a week ago that he was “not there yet.” With time winding down in Spring Training, he had better find “there” and get “there” in a hurry.

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Even when J.V. was firing on all cylinders earlier in his career, he was never great in Spring Training. True competitors understand that practice games are more for working on stuff than getting positive results, but this Grapefruit League was supposed to be different for Verlander and he was supposed to reestablish his dominance.

Before the season Verlander pledged to change things up if he needed to but was hoping that the negative results of 2014 were more because of offseason surgery than advancing age. I think it is clear that he must finally accept that his overpowering fastball is gone (something not unheard of for a 32-year old), set aside his ego and adapt to other ways of recording outs.

Pitchers have done this quite successfully over the years–former Tiger Frank Tanana comes to mind–a pitcher who could blow batters away in his youth but became crafty in later years.

Verlander is smart enough and talented enough to do this as well.