Verlander adds cutter? Not really, he says

Chris McCosky, The Detroit News
Jose Iglesias makes a catch on a popup hit by Carlos Beltran during the fifth inning Friday night.

New York – Justin Verlander isn’t giving in on this.

“I don’t care what BrooksBaseball.net calls it,” he said.

BrooksBaseball.net, the pitch-tracking web site, is charting one of the pitches in Verlander’s repertoire as a cutter.

Verlander is steadfast on this — he’s not throwing a cutter. It’s a slider.

After his rough start against Cleveland on May 3, Verlander began tweaking the grip and delivery of his slider and found a different way to manipulate it. When he throws it with a little more velocity and elevates it, it acts more like a cut fastball. When he throws it lower and slower, it acts like a typical slider, with either sweeping or downward action.

Brooks Baseball began charting the pitch as a cutter in that Cleveland series, but Verlander will tell you those were just poorly executed sliders in that game.

“There’s lots of guys in this game where you look at the scouting report and it says he throws a slider; then you go out and face him and the pitch does different things,” catcher James McCann said. “Or with a fastball —it says a guy throws it 92 to 97 mph. Well, 92 is a two-seamer and 97 is a four-seamer. Really it’s two different pitches.”

Tigers closer Francisco Rodriguez is another example — his out pitch is a change-up, but he can throw it three different ways.

“Would I say Ver is throwing a cutter? Probably not,” McCann said. “Is it acting like one? Maybe, at times. You have to ask the hitters what they think.”

The hitters, to this point, have been baffled by it.

Since fully incorporating the pitch — let’s call it a cut-slider — Verlander has been lights-out. In his last six starts, he’s posted a 2.01 ERA with opponents hitting .161 with a .465 OPS.

His ability to command and get swings and misses on his fastball has been his biggest asset. The fastball, which he’s throwing between 92 and 96 mph, sets up his other pitches. But in this six-game stretch, his secondary pitches have been lethal — opponents are hitting .156 against the cut-slider, .167 against his curve and .227 off his traditional slider.

Short porch

Verlander, who gets the start against the Yankees Saturday, will need all his pitches to be working against a heavily left-handed hitting lineup with the ultra-short right-field dimensions at Yankee Stadium.

He’s never won a regular season game in New York, at the old stadium or the new. His last start here last June was a nightmare – six runs, 10 hits in 6 2/3 innings.

Before Friday’s game manager Brad Ausmus was asked if right-handed pitchers had to alter their game plan because of the Yankees’ power-hitting lefties and the reachable seats in right field. Would they have to pitch away from the lefties more often?

“I don’t subscribe to that,” he said. “I played in Houston where it was really short in left. I always thought you had to pitch more inside early and then pitch away more late. Like I’ve said many times, if hitters don’t get extended on a ball, it’s hard to drive it.

“If you can pitch in and make them aware of it early, that works better for the bullpen to work away later.”

The Yankees have hit 42 home runs at Yankee Stadium this season, fourth most home-park homers in Major League Baseball.

“I wouldn’t throw up the white flag and say, ‘Well, we’re going to give up some home runs,’ ” Ausmus said. “We will attack them the way we think we can get them out and avoid the home runs. I don’t think that changes.”

Maybin’s ready

Turns out, the cortisone shot that center fielder Cameron Maybin got this week was planned. It was not a result of gradually increasing pain or discomfort.

“Nah, it’s a long season and I just would rather get it taken care of now than later,” Maybin said. “Especially as good as I feel. (The wrist) doesn’t really bother me, except on certain swings.”

Swings and misses and foul balls have caused the wrist to flare up. Typically, it takes a day or two for the effects of a cortisone shot to subside. That’s why the Tigers scheduled it prior to the off day Thursday.

“Originally, he was going to get it Wednesday after the game,” Ausmus said. “But I was planning on giving him a day off Tuesday. We just said, let’s do it Monday and give him three-and-a-half, four days to rest.

“Maybe we can knock it out and never have to deal with it again.”

Maybin was back in the lineup and hitting second Friday.

Good for now

A couple of weeks ago, after center fielder Anthony Gose was sent to Triple-A Toledo, Ausmus was concerned that Maybin was the only true center fielder on the 25-man roster.

These days, not so much.

“Andrew Romine is a little more comfortable playing out there, and initially I was sure how he’d take to that position,” Ausmus said. “He’s been out there a few times now and he’s more confident — and we’re more confident about him being out there as a result.”

Ausmus said he now believes Romine and Justin Upton can handle center field on a short-term, fill-in basis. The Tigers continue to carry one extra pitcher and one fewer position player.

“I’m content with it for now,” he said. “That doesn’t mean we won’t have to adjust at some point. But for now, we’re all right.”

Around the horn

Ausmus had high praise for Yankees outfielder, and his former teammate in Houston, Carlos Beltran.

“One of the best talents I’ve ever played with,” he said. “He could do everything — hit, hit for power, throw. He was as fast as anyone in the league. He could go from first to third or first to home as fast as anyone. He used to slide so hard, you thought he was going to break the stem off the base. He was phenomenal.”

… Miguel Cabrera is one hit shy of 2,400 for his career. When he gets No. 2,400 (He was hitless Friday), he would be the fifth youngest player in history to reach that milestone, at 33 years, 54 days. Only Ty Cobb (31 years, 177 days), Rogers Hornsby (32 years, 68 days), Hank Aaron (32 years, 198 days) and Robin Yount (33 years, 8 days) were younger. 

… Tigers reliever Warwick Saupold, on the DL with a Grade 2 groin strain, is still not doing any baseball activity. He tried to activate the groin this week and felt soreness.

“I’d rather wait a few more days than test it again and set myself back,” he said. “I don’t think I am far away. Hopefully by the time we get back off this trip I will be ready.”

Twitter: @cmccosky