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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.

Monday, March 11, 2013

So there's a hitter in the Verlander family

LAKELAND, Fla. — So, apparently, there’s a hitter in the Verlander family.

While elder brother Justin Verlander, the ace of the Detroit Tigers, is still searching for his first big-league hit, his younger sibling, Ben, had a heck of a day for their alma mater Saturday afternoon.

Ben Verlander went 4-for-4 in Old Dominion University’s 10-8 win over Northeastern, tying the school record with three home runs. He was named a Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week for the feat.

“Yeah, how about that, huh?” Justin Verlander said after Monday’s rocky loss to the Mets. “I’m so excited for him. That is so awesome. I called him the other night. He was kind of short about it — that’s just the way he is. He didn’t talk about it too much. Yeah, he’s been raking. Really excited for him.”

Drafted by the Tigers in the 46th round out of high school, Ben Verlander spent his first season at ODU as just a pitcher, then became a two-way player last year, playing left and right field and DH’ing, along with continuing to pitch.

This year, he’s just concentrating on hitting, his proud older brother said.

“This is his first year as not a two-way (player). He just committed himself to hitting,” Justin Verlander said. “He came up last year, and worked with our hitting coach, Mac (Lloyd McClendon). He said he feels great, and I couldn’t be happier for him. That’s really exciting.”

Even better was getting the play-by-play from their father, Richard, over the phone.

“I was getting updates from my dad. His first at-bat he hit a granny — or one at-bat he hit a grand slam. He goes, ‘Oh, he just hit a grand slam!’ I get a text like an hour later, ‘He just hit an other one!’ I get another text, ‘He hit another!’ ” Justin Verlander recalled. “So I call, and I’m like ‘What the (heck)? This has to be a different experience for you, rooting for home runs.’ He was like, ‘Yeah, no kidding. This is totally different.’ ”

After hitting .250 a year ago (and posting an 8.83 ERA and an 0-1 record on the mound), Ben Verlander is leading the Monarchs with a .500 batting average 12 games into the season.

So has Justin Verlander — who is 0-for-24 with 14 strikeouts in his eight MLB seasons — gotten grief from his younger brother yet, about who is the better hitter?

“Not yet,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll get it.”


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