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Tigers think Justin Verlander might have been tipping pitches

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers reacts as Lonnie Chisenhall of the Cleveland Indians rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run during the third inning.

Cleveland – Upon further review, the Detroit Tigers think it was more likely Justin Verlander was tipping his pitches Saturday, as opposed to the Indians stealing signs.

“We used multiple signs with nobody on base and we changed the signs often,” catcher James McCann said. “It’s got to be something other than that. We’ve exhausted that side of it. Cleveland’s not the only team we do that with. There’s numerous teams that we take extra precautions with our signs.

“I wouldn’t say it was anything to do with that.”

The Indians scored nine runs off Verlander Saturday – the most he’s allowed in 355 career starts – in their 13-6 win. They banged out 11 hits and three home runs. All of that on a day when Verlander had, by all accounts, his usual elite stuff.

“For a day when I thought he had his best stuff all season, they seemed to be on quite a few pitches,” McCann said. “What that is, I don’t know. But we’re studying film. Maybe we have to tip our caps, who knows?”

Jose Ramirez pulled a 97-mph fastball into the right-field seats. Yandy Diaz took a 93-mph fastball right down the middle, then sat on and drilled a 77-mph curve on the next pitch. Carlos Santana jumped all over a first-pitch curve ball and drove it into the seats in right field.

That the Indians were getting out in front of and barreling up 96 and 97 mph fastballs up in the zone was alarming. That they were so locked onto his curveball, as well, that triggered the investigation.

Verlander threw eight curve balls. Normally, that pitch is taken 90 percent of the time. The Indians hacked at three of them, went 3-for-3 with an average exit velocity of 93.3 mph.

They were taking batting practice cuts at all-star stuff.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” McCann said.

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McCann and Verlander scoured the video for nearly an hour after the game Saturday. McCann, Verlander and manager Brad Ausmus continued to study it Sunday morning.

“I would just say it’s covering ourselves to make sure,” McCann said. “It puts a guy at ease. You throw a good pitch and the hitter spits on it, you wonder – did he know it was coming or did he just see it real good? Whatever, we just have to cover our bases.”

McCann made it clear he wasn’t criticizing what the Indians were doing. Verlander said the same thing Saturday night. The onus is on the Tigers to make the necessary adjustments.

“It’s on us,” McCann said. “There are all sorts of nuances of the game. There’s unwritten rules of baseball and all sorts of stuff like that. Whether a pitcher is tipping his pitches, or he’s showing a runner at second base out of his hand and he’s relaying it to the hitter – it’s nobody’s fault but the person who’s giving it away.”

The Tigers will continue to use multiple signs throughout the game Sunday, with Matthew Boyd on the mound, which can be problematic. The multiple signs slow the pace of the game and can mess with a young pitcher’s rhythm.

“It can throw your rhythm off just because you are throwing multiple signs all the time,” Ausmus said. “It can slow things down. But it’s a necessary evil. But this isn’t just in Cleveland. We’ve done it against other teams, as well.

“It’s not like we’re singling out the Cleveland Indians.”

Well, Verlander might be. No team in baseball has hit him harder.

Twitter @cmccosky