Detroit — The question won’t go away until Justin Verlander starts pitching like the Cy Young award winner and American League MVP he was back in 2011: Has the heavy workload he’s put on his right arm begun to take its toll?
Royals designated hitter Billy Butler, whose three-run double in the fifth began another mid-innings meltdown for Verlander in Monday’s 11-8 loss, thinks there’s some validity to that theory.
“There are a lot of innings on that arm,” Butler said. “I don’t think it’s possible to be what you were in your mid-20s forever.”
Verlander is 31 and he’s thrown 200 or more innings in each of the last seven seasons. He has thrown 1,8692⁄3 innings in his career, plus 931⁄3 innings in the postseason.
“He’s stayed healthy for a long time, but at some point that ends,” Butler said. “You can only stay healthy for so long. How many years has thrown consecutive 200 innings? Seven? That’s a lot of innings. Not many guys do that.”
After the Royals tagged him for seven runs and 12 hits in six innings, Verlander’s ERA in his last seven starts is 7.83.
“I feel like his stuff was the same,” Butler said. “He had all the same sharp stuff on it. Maybe he was hitting the plate more. With the bases loaded I got a ball over the plate and hit it well. Maybe his confidence is down a little bit and it’s hurting with his stuff.”
Catcher Salvador Perez, who had two hits off him, agreed Verlander was missing his spots more than usual.
“Maybe he was a little high (with his pitches) today,” Perez said. “He was throwing the ball up, that was maybe a little different.”
Left fielder Alex Gordon said it was more about the quality of the Royals’ at-bats than the quality of Verlander’s pitches.
“No, he still looks good,” Gordon said. “I think we just put together good at-bats. We’ve been swinging a lot better lately and the thing about our team right now is when we score, we’ve been having big innings. I don’t think it’s anything to do with Verlander, it’s just (we) played well tonight.
“I know what people are saying. He still looks good.”
Butler cautioned those who would suggest Verlander’s days as an ace are done.
“He’s one of the elite pitchers in the game and he will figure it out,” Butler said. “I feel like he’s got a strong stretch coming this season. I am just glad we did what we did tonight.
“I feel when you are Justin Verlander and you a multi-All Star, you are a Cy Young winner and MVP, you are going to figure it out. He’s going to get his wins. He’s going to get his stuff. It’s going to come.”