Justin Verlander is pictured with Kate Upton in New York on Jan. 31, 2014. (Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images)
Cleveland – He’s long been a public figure because of his success as a major-league pitcher.
But lately, Justin Verlander has become a public figure for photographed reasons – namely, the images making rounds online of him and his girlfriend, Kate Upton, au naturel.
On Tuesday at Progressive Field, Verlander made it clear he will not be commenting about the photos – nor anything that concerns his private life.
It wasn’t a press conference, but it was a session in which the lines were clearly drawn.
“I don’t talk about my personal life, I never have,” Verlander said. “I keep my personal life personal.
“The focus for me is on the Detroit Tigers. I don’t want to take any focus away from the team and what we are trying to accomplish.”
The photos of Verlander and Upton – and other celebrities including Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence – surfaced on the Internet on Sunday.
With 25 games remaining in the regular season before Tuesday night’s game against the Cleveland Indians, the second-place Tigers trailed the Kansas City Royals by a half-game in the American League Central, but led Seattle by 1.5 games for the second wild-card spot of the playoffs.
“We’re in the middle of a pennant race,” said Verlander. “We’re trying to win a pennant. My focus is on whatever I can do to help our team.”
Verlander, who will start Wednesday night’s game against the Indians, was then asked how he’s been able to block out the various distractions of his career – such as the current attention the photos are receiving.
"I’ve always been able to do that,” he said. “Baseball is my life.”
He was also asked how difficult, or how easy, it will be to block out this particular distraction.
“The same comment applies,” he said. “I don’t comment on my personal life.”
And with that, he began taking baseball questions only.
Upton’s lawyer, Lawrence Shire, told Us magazine that he would pursue legal action regarding the photos: “This is obviously an outrageous violation of our client Kate Upton’s privacy. We intend to pursue anyone disseminating or duplicating these illegally obtained images to the fullest extent possible.”
Apple acknowledged Tuesday that computer hackers broke into the accounts of several celebrities to steal personal photos that have been posted online, a security breakdown that the iPhone maker blamed on the intruders’ ability to figure out passwords and bypass other safeguards.
Lawrence, a three-time Oscar nominee who won for her role in “Silver Linings Playbook,” contacted authorities after the images began appearing Sunday. Apple opened its inquiry over the Labor Day weekend after the online distribution of the photographs. Some of the stars say the photos are fakes, but Lawrence has acknowledged the revealing pictures of her are real in a statement branding their theft as a “flagrant violation of privacy.”
Associated Press contributed.