Not a good day for anyone named JV
A couple of players in the Tigers’ Grapefruit League game against the Mets Monday know that feeling ... um, intimately.
Justin Verlander was not sharp in Monday’s outing, giving up two home runs — one to the first batter of the game — walking two and plunking two more.
How far off he was, though, wasn’t evident until his day was done, five innings later.
The last batter he faced was Jordany Valdespin, who’d led off the game with a homer. When Valdespin squared to bunt in the fifth inning, a 94 mph fastball caught him in a ... very sensitive area. He lay on the ground (BELOW) for a minute or two before coming out of the game. Verlander came out at the same time.
“Have you ever ...” Verlander was asked after his stint was done.
“Hit somebody in the nuts? No,” he answered, dead-pan.
“I mean, he took a hack at the first pitch. He already hit one bomb, and then the next one, he just totally squared at me, and I was like ‘Oh, God, this isn’t going to be good.’ Right out of the hand, it’s like ‘Oh, (crap).’ That is right at his balls.”
What is that feeling like, knowing you can’t pull a pitch back?
“Usually, it’s not bad, because the guy turns on it, and it hits him in the back or butt, or something. When a guy’s facing right ... I mean, you never throw a pitch with a guy looking right at you,” Verlander said. “It’s like, ‘Oh, God.’ ”
For his part, Valdespin was no worse for wear. Having already been down on the field once after Prince Fielder slid into him early in the game, Valdespin was pulled from the game after writhing around in pain after being plunked.
A short while later, though, he was seated on the picnic tables outside the Joker Marchant Stadium clubhouse, all smiles as he talked to the Tigers’ Ramon Santiago.
“It’s all fine,” he said, when asked if he’d been hit there before. “No. First time.”
Verlander knew it wasn’t quite his day long before that, though, feeling a bit fatigued in the bullpen before the game.
“Ahh, off. Um. Just my rhythm was off, and that kind of led to everything. Fastball control was not good. Change-up was bad. Slider was bad. Breaking ball was all right, which is odd. ... It just wasn’t a good day. Usually there’s one of those in the spring, one or two, and you’d rather get them out of the way in the spring,” said Verlander, who routinely will have one clunker per spring, usually right about now.
“It usually later (in the spring), right about now. My agent calls me the Farmer’s Almanac. Everything’s usually dead on cue.”
It was something he’d done to himself, pushing himself harder than normal in his last bullpen session.
“The last bullpen session was the first one where I really got after it, and I felt like that kind of ran over into this start. Just didn’t feel fresh,” he said.
“That’s an adjustment, too. Because in-season, there’s going to be times where I want to go into the bullpen to work on stuff, and kind of tax myself — I need to be able to respond. So I think it was kind of a good thing to be able to do that this time, and get my body kind of accustomed to it, so next time I do it, I feel great.”
In all, Verlander gave up five runs on four hits, striking out just three batters.