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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Like it or not, Verlander won't start against Indians on Sunday

A week ago, Jim Leyland jiggered with his rotation a bit, skipping Brad Penny for a start to get Justin Verlander on the mound during the three-game series in Cleveland.

[Here's an impressive breakdown by one Tigers fan (@spacemnkymafia on Twitter) of the potential pitching matchups the rest of the way.]

Thanks to the off day tomorrow (Thursday), he could do the same thing this time through the rotation: sit someone else, so Verlander — who'll have his normal rest in by Sunday — could throw in the series finale vs. the Indians.

But he won't. Even though Verlander offered.

"We felt like we could probably pick a couple spots to do that (give extra day), with the amount of innings he has. I don’t really know the answer. There’s all kinds of theories on that. Normally, if it works out all right, you can say it’s the rest, if it doesn’t work so well, maybe you can say the six days got him out of his rhythm. But I don’t believe in any of that. I think what you do is just (use) common sense. He’s pitched a lot, and I think you need to pick your spots, try to help him a little bit," Leyland said before Verlander's start Tuesday night.
"He’ll get six (days) this time, and I think he’ll get six one more time before the season’s over. ... At the start of this, when we figured all this out, we figured out so he could get Cleveland three out of four times, depending on what happens at the end."

Call it stubborn, or call it practical, he's not going to do it, for a couple reasons:

1) Verlander's innings are mounting. After Tuesday's 7.2 IP, he's got an MLB-high 202.2 innings thrown, currently 12 more than anyone else — almost two full starts' worth, despite only one more start in the books. "If you're good, you're going to throw a lot of innings," Leyland said a while back, "and if you're not as good, you don't throw as many. That's just the way it works."

Right now, Verlander is on pace for more than 260 innings, the most in the AL since 2003, and 20 more than his career high of 240 in 2009, which led the majors. The average single-season workload for an MLB starter is currently just slightly less than 205.

2) Don't rob Peter to pay Paul. Don't get me wrong: Like I wrote before, the Tigers have to play their best against their in-division rivals. But the Indians aren't the only AL Central team the Tigers need to be afraid of. The White Sox were a half-game behind the Indians after winning Tuesday night's 14-inning affair.

"I think the other thing you gotta realize is that you’ve gotta win games, you’ve got to beat a lot of teams. It’s not just Cleveland. It’s not just Chicago. It’s Minnesota. It’s Oakland. It’s Tampa. It’s Baltimore. We’ve gotta win games. That’s what it boils down to," Leyland said. "Kansas City, they’re real dangerous right now. They’re playing a bunch of young guys with a whole bunch of talent that are loosey-goosey and having a good (time). We’ve gotta win games, no matter who you play, and who you pitch."

As it is, Verlander is scheduled to throw in both September series vs. the Indians, including the one at Comerica Park that concludes the regular season — unless, of course, the Tigers have it wrapped up before then. According to my (admittedly flawed) calculations, he'll pitch twice more against the Indians and Twins, and once each against the Rays, A's and Orioles.

Don't get me wrong, though. Verlander would like THREE more starts against the Indians, something he lobbied for after Tuesday's win.

"You know, a couple starts in a row, I haven't felt fantastic, but it's coming down to the last few starts here, so I just wanted to go in there and let him know that if he wanted me to go on five days, I'm more than willing, and I think I'm over that little hump that I went through, and I feel really good right now," Verlander said. "So I just gave him that option. He declined."

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