Q & A Session with Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander<
By ODU Athletics
July 6, 2005
Written by: Kevin Shields
In his time at Old Dominion, Justin Verlander was a dominant force on the mound over-powering hitters and tearing up the record books. His 427 career strikeouts ranks at the top of the ODU career list and also atop of the CAA and state of Virginia's list. He was a two-time All-CAA selection, member of the silver medal winning Team USA squad at the Pan Am games, and was selected 2nd overall in the 2004 MLB Draft by the Detroit Tigers. He started the season with the Lakeland Tigers in Single A where he went 9-2 with an ERA of 1.67 and was the league-leader with 104 strikeouts. After being selected to take part in the 43rd Florida State League All-Star Game he was promoted to Double-A Erie. In his debut performance with the Seawolves against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats he allowed only one hit in seven innings while striking out the first 7 batters he faced on way to an 11 strikeout night that helped him earn Eastern League Pitcher of the Week honors.
What has it been like having all this early success in your rookie season and being able to move up through the ranks in Detroit's system?
"It's been a great time. I've gotten to meet a lot of interesting people this year and it has really helped my confidence being able to move up and pitch at each level I have so far. Having success at both levels has really helped me build up that confidence and I'm looking forward to what the rest of the year has in store and what my future can be with this organization I'm in."
What was your goal coming into your first season?
"I really didn't come in with a goal as far as what I wanted to do. That was more of a secondary goal for me. My real goal was basically working on my control and trying to pitch well and whatever that led to was what it led to. I just came in wanting to get my control better and let my pitching kind of do the talking for me."
Has there been any time table set as to your progression through the system?
"Not that I know of... I really haven't heard anything except continue to pitch well and good things will happen for you."
What has been the single biggest thing you've had to overcome in moving up to the minors from the college level?
"It's basically been my control. Coming in I knew I had to work on that and I think it's getting better, but I still continue to work on getting better control of my pitches."
How has your approach to batters changed now that you face wooden bats instead of the aluminum bats?
"I can definitely be a little more aggressive with my fastball now. Guys have to make better swings now where as with aluminum bats the window of error in the box is much smaller. You don't have to put a lot on the ball to hit it out, but with the wooden bats you have to make good swings to drive the ball out. So you can definitely be a little more aggressive with what pitches you throw."
Do you have any superstitions when it comes to your pitching?
"Not really...I basically go through the same routine everyday. There is nothing really different in my routine from that of a normal pitching routine."
If and when you get to Detroit, what are you looking forward to the most?
"The atmosphere and getting to play in front of thousands of fans. That is something I've been dreaming about my whole life since I was about five years old. It would be just a great experience."
Do you wish the Tigers would still play a few games in old Tiger Stadium since it just sits there empty?
"Yeah...there's a lot of history there and over the years there have been many great games played there. But I'm also impressed with the new ballpark they have there now and feel it can be just as great as Tiger Stadium was for them."
With Detroit having such a young pitching staff, do you feel that this could be one of the dominant staffs in the future?
"Yeah definitely. I mean who knows...five to ten years from now if guys stay healthy and continue to progress we could be one of the best in the American League. There's a lot of promising young arms in this organization and the potential is there to have a great staff in the future when you see guys like Jeremy Bonderman, Mike Maroth and Nate Robertson having some early success in there careers."
When you're growing up in an organization is it easier to grow with guys your age being the top guys in the rotation or would you have been happier if you had some more veteran pitchers helping you out?
"There really isn't much difference I mean I get along with pretty much everyone here. It really doesn't matter to me if I have older guys showing me the ropes or these younger guys I'm with now. Its not like I'm trying to pick the older guys' brains as much as I'm really just trying to talk to them and have normal conversation. I get along with everybody and I'm having fun going through my progression with these guys I'm with."
How did Old Dominion help you in your career?
"It was great getting to play at Old Dominion. Having me be able to step right into professional baseball says a lot about what the program did for me and what it is capable of. It was great getting to play for Coach Guzzo and I owe the program a lot...the overall experience I had there was great."
What stands out about Old Dominion when you look back on your time there?
"Just getting to play at Metheny Stadium and going through battles like the VCU games where the place was packed out there. Then just all the friendships and experiences I had there in those four years I went to school there."
Can you really throw a baseball from one side of a football field to the other?
"Yeah...me and my dad use to throw when I was in high school and he'd stand at one end and I'd stand at the other and I was able to throw it across."
This past Monday on the 4th of July, Justin made his major league debut for the Tigers in the night game of a day-night double-header in Cleveland. He gave up three runs in the first before settling down to retire 12 of the next 13 batters before finally being taken out in the sixth after giving up his fourth run. He ended the game with four strikeouts and walked only three in 5.1 innings. He will take the mound next in the Baseball Futures game on Sunday, July 10th at Comerica Park as part of baseball's All-Star weekend.