LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Last week, Major League Baseball punished the Houston Astros for a sign-stealing scandal that, among other things, cost the team's general manager and manager their jobs, and the organization four high draft picks.

The fallout has been far-reaching, ensnaring former Astros Alex Cora and Carlos Beltran, who are no longer managers with the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets, respectively.

The Astros players, with a few exceptions, have not commented publicly on the scandal or the punishment. That includes one with strong ties to Detroit, former Tiger Justin Verlander, who arrived in Houston in 2017 via a blockbuster trade at the deadline, and helped the Astros win the World Series — a title now being viewed as tainted because of the scandal.

And, while Verlander hasn't said anything publicly, speculation is starting to swirl over a Twitter user who has emerged in the past week as an ardent defender of the former Tigers ace, and who it might be. Is it a diehard fan of the right-hander? Is it someone in his camp? Is it his wife, Kate Upton? Is it Verlander, operating a burner account?

The account, @Jonathan12345 (with a handle of @Jonatha19721565), was created this month. It's been credited as of early Tuesday afternoon with 21 tweets in all that remain public — all replies to other tweets, and the vast majority defending Verlander as innocent in the Astros scandal.

"Justin earned that ring by pitching his heart out in the regular and postseason," the account replied to a tweet from Chris McCosky of The Detroit News on Jan. 17. "He obviously hates that the hitters did what they did, but that doesn't take away from everything that Justin put into that title run."

Verlander long has touted a clean game, from railing against sign-stealing to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

"Justin still is still a major advocate for a clean game," Jonathan12345 tweeted on Jan. 19. "He arrived and the system was in place. What was he supposed to do about it then? It’s hard to rat our teammates and coaches."

While the account only follows 27 others — all baseball-related — it has a growing following of 640-plus, likely the result of social-media users whose curiosity was piqued by speculation over the account's ownership and any ties — if any — it might have to Verlander, including a blog from Barstool Sports.

Verlander spent 12-plus seasons in Detroit, winning the American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young awards in 2011. In his second full season in Houston, Verlander went 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA and 300 strikeouts, winning his second Cy Young.

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE