Leyland was sweating decision to allow JV to return after rain delay
DETROIT — It was chilly and rainy out in Cleveland Wednesday night, but Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland was sweating bullets.
Ace Justin Verlander was begging to go back out to finish the fifth inning, to get the series finale to the status of a complete game, and qualify for a win.
But the longer the rain delay stretched on, the less likely Leyland was going to let him go back out and resume pitching, risking injury, especially since he was already at 100 pitches.
Usually, one hour is the line the skipper draws for his pitcher.
“It was right on the fence, you know, an hour. Ended up being an hour and two minutes, I think,” Leyland said Thursday afternoon.
“But you know what? Like I said, in reality I think everybody missed the point — probably including him. It wasn’t that I was concerned about who was going to get the win. You’re concerned about the health of the pitcher.”
The official delay was 62 minutes, plenty of time for a pitcher to stiffen up.
With relievers Drew Smyly and Luke Putkonen both warming up in the bullpen, though, Leyland allowed Verlander to take the mound again, and get Mark Reynolds to ground out and Ryan Raburn to strike out. Verlander, who threw 10 pitches after the resumption, would end up getting the win, his fifth.
It worked out, but it still had Leyland sweating.
“I sweat those things, believe me. I’m sensitive to that stuff. I’m going to be long gone, but this guy’s got seven more years here — with a lot of money invested in him,” said Leyland, cognizant of the fact that the Tigers don’t want anything to happen to any of their pitchers, let alone the one in whom they have a $180 million investment.
“I mean, we can all talk the way you want to, but there’s a lot at stake here.
“People just (say), ‘He did the right thing.’ Yeah, well, if he’d have got hurt, there’d be people saying I did the wrong thing.
“I took a little chance, about a two-minute chance. And fortunately it worked out.”
Some small part of the decision to grant the extension was admittedly a loyalty factor, given how long the two — pitcher and manager — have worked together.
“I will say this: There are some things, when a guy’s been with you since 2006, and has been a horse — it’s not favoritism or anything, but he does get the benefit of the doubt on a situation, in my opinion. That’s just the way it is. People can disagree with that, or not. I think, when a guy’s gone out there like he has, and taken the ball — and not like I wouldn’t have done the same thing for Rick Porcello, or anybody else ...” Leyland said.
“My only concern was injury. My concern wasn’t whether they were going to come back and beat us, or maybe he doesn’t have it tonight, or he’s struggling a little bit, maybe somebody else would be better — that had nothing to do with it.
“I was sweating out — I mean, when I saw him come in today, I felt better. Especially when he was smiling and kinda laughing. I felt a whole lot better, trust me.
“A lot of people say ‘Oh, well that’s not a big deal.’ Well, like I said, like you guys’ job, it’s no different than mine: If you’re sitting in that chair, it’s a little different than when you’re not sitting in that chair. ...
“But we got through it.”