Detroit – Justin Verlander doesn’t typically heed much advice from outside the Tigers organization, not when it comes to pitching. Different story, though, when it comes from a guy with 354 big-league wins and 4,672 strikeouts.
During the first round of the Diamond Resorts Celebrity Golf Invitational in Windermere, Florida, last week, Verlander was paired with Roger Clemens. And during the round, Clemens encouraged Verlander to develop a split-fingered fastball.
Verlander did not dismiss the idea.
“It’s not something I am opposed to,” he said prior to hopping on one of the winter caravan buses Thursday. “I am never opposed to bringing in a new pitch or a new weapon to use.”
Verlander said he tinkered with the split-fingered pitch last year, though he never used it in a game.
“It seems like it’s something I could implement,” he said.
He may not need it, at least not just yet. In his last 11 starts of 2015, with his usual repertoire of fastball, curve, slider and changeup, he posted a 2.12 ERA with an opponent batting average of .194. He was able to throw his fastball at 96, 97 mph, even late in games.
“Once I got into the rhythm of pitching and felt normal again, the results were pretty good,” he said.
His resurgence was critical for the Tigers, though Verlander doesn’t understand the fuss.
“Yeah, it was less important for me than maybe it was for everybody else,” he said. “I think it opened some people’s eyes who had written me off as being an ace. But to me, I never had any doubt about that.
“But pitching well for a losing team wasn’t the best-case scenario. I want to pitch well and help us get to the playoffs and ultimately win a championship.”
And if he needs to add a splitter to make that happen, so be it.