July 14, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Justin Verlander will bounce back, Tigers great Jack Morris says

Jack Morris waves to the crowd before throwing out the first pitch of Game 5 of the ALCS between the Tigers and Red Sox last October at Comerica Park. (Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News)

Minneapolis — Justin Verlander’s struggles this season have led some to be pessimistic about his future, but Tigers legend Jack Morris expects him to overcome his inconsistent first half.

“He’s got to remember who he is,” Morris said Sunday night after the All-Star Legends and Celebrity softball game. “He’s the best in the game, and he’s got to go out there and start showing that.”

Verlander is 8-8 with a 4.88 ERA in 2014, and his strikeout rate is down to 6.7 per nine innings after being 8.8 or better each of the past five seasons.

At 31, the former American League MVP and Cy Young winner could be entering his career decline, but Morris thinks Verlander can return to form. Morris pitched until he was 39, though his strikeout rate started to decline after his age 31 season.

“He can do it,” Morris said. “He’s human. We’ve got to understand that you play this game long enough, it’ll show you that you’re human, and I think Justin will come back out on top.”

Morris captained one of the softball teams in Sunday’s event and received a hearty ovation from the fans at Target Field. A St. Paul native, Morris pitched 14 years in Detroit before joining his hometown Twins in 1991.

Few professional athletes can claim the fan support in two rival cities that Morris can, and he credits his World Series titles in 1984 with the Tigers and 1991 with the Twins.

“I’m a lucky guy. I really am,” he said. “And it’s partly because I was lucky enough to be on world championship teams in both cities. Ironically, as crazy as it might sound, both teams that I played on, were the last teams to win the world championship. I’m waiting to pass the baton to either team.”