Verlander on Prince: 'He was a great ambassador for the game'

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Seattle — Justin Verlander is one of six who played on those 2012 and 2013 teams with Prince Fielder.

He had heard some rumblings that his former teammate's career might be over; he was hoping the reports were premature, or false. 

They were not.

“Really? For sure done?” Verlander said. “(Stinks), I like Prince. He’s a great player, great ambassador for the game. I really enjoyed my time with him. You never want to see a player end his career that way, when it’s not his decision.”

It was most certainly not Fielder’s decision. But after two cervical fusion surgeries on his neck, Fielder's baseball career will end for medical reasons. This was a guy who from 2009 through 2013 missed just one game.

“He took a lot of pride in taking the field each and every day and going out there and producing and trying to help the team win,” Verlander said.

Verlander said his fondest memory of Fielder was his reaction to the Tigers’ clinching the playoff spot in 2013. 

“He was just staying there holding his hands up at first base; that’s just kind of him,” Verlander said. “He was a good teammate. He was always fun and joking. Loved to smile and just have a good time.”

Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Bruce Rondon and Nick Castellanos are the only players left from those teams. Prince was traded to Texas for Ian Kinsler just a few days after manager Brad Ausmus was hired to manage the Tigers.

Prince Fielder gets ready for Game 1 of the 2013 American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox.

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But their paths crossed many times.

“I crossed paths with him when I played for the Tigers in '96 and Cecil (Fielder) was here and Prince was running around the clubhouse,” he said. “And then I played against him when he was at Milwaukee and I was at Houston. I played against him quite a bit.”

Ausmus was there on those days at Tiger Stadium when a 13-year-old Prince would hit homers into the stands. 

“It  (upset) me off that he hit the ball farther than me and I was almost 20 years older,” Ausmus joked. “That's what stood out. I think back then he was even hitting them righty and lefty if I remember correctly. 

“He was hitting balls as far as I could hit them when I was 27 years old. I never liked that little brat (laughing).  

Arm angle

There were a couple of times during his seven-inning outing Monday that right-hander Michael Fulmer dropped down and threw his change-up from a three-quarter arm angle.

He struck out Nelson Cruz with it in the sixth inning.

Be assured, though, a three-quarter arm slot is not something he’s adding to his arsenal.

“No,” Fulmer said. “I try to keep it as simple as possible, believe me.”

Actually, a three-quarter arm angle is not what the Tigers want to see from him, either.

“I don’t think he means to do that,” catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “Sometimes in the bullpen he drops down, too. I think he’s trying to locate it, so drops down and pushes it. That is what gets you in trouble.”

It also telegraphs the pitch to the hitter —  inadvisable. 

“It just happens sometimes,” Fulmer said. “I’m trying to work with it and get some feel for it. I’m trying to get where I can take a little more off of it and put it more on top of the plate, as opposed to throwing it for a strike.

“I’m just trying to replicate the delivery, just like with my fastball.” 

Still an issue

The Tigers are still causing themselves some grief on the base paths.

 They’ve had 13 runners thrown out at the plate, which is tied for the fourth most in the American League. Victor Martinez has been thrown out at home three times, J.D. Martinez and Ian Kinsler twice each. 

Last season, the Tigers led the AL with 25 runners thrown out at the plate.

The Tigers have made 40 outs on the bases this season, which is the fifth most in the league. Last year they had the sixth most thrown out on the bases (60).

In terms of the percentage of extra bases taken, the Tigers are exactly the same as last season —  dead last at 34 percent. 

Around the horn

Ausmus was asked what he thought of former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow’s decision to give professional baseball a try. “I know it looks easy on TV,” he said. “All my best to him. It's a long time to go without playing.”

… With an off-day Thursday, Ausmus said he will just bump each of his starting pitchers back a day. “Everybody's getting an extra day,” he said.

Tigers at Mariners

First pitch: 10:10 p.m., Wednesday

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Scouting report

RHP Felix Hernandez (6-4, 3.55), Mariners: This will be his fifth start since returning from the disabled list (calf strain). The Mariners are 3-1 in his last four, but he’s been hit around —15 runs in 25⅔ innings (5.26 ERA), with opponents hitting .245 against him with an .819 OPS. But this is the guy who once won nine consecutive starts against the Tigers and is 4-1 with a 1.98 ERA against them at Safeco.

RHP Justin Verlander (12-6, 3.52), Tigers: He has allowed two runs or less in his last seven starts. He is second in the American League with 164 strikeouts. His 9.63 strikeouts per nine innings is his most since 2009. Opponents are hitting .211 against him, lowest since 2011. His swing-and-miss percentage of 11.8 is the highest since 2012.