Verlander Named CO-AL Player of The Week

May 31, 2006
By ODU Athletics
ODU Sports

May 31, 2006

Notes: Verlander honored By Jason Beck /

DETROIT -- So much for wondering how Justin Verlander would handle success. The first of what could be quite a few awards in his Major League career came in Tuesday, and he didn't know about it. Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski was the one who gave Verlander the news on Tuesday afternoon that he had won a split of the AL Player of the Week award. Verlander didn't know how to react because he didn't know he had won in the first place.

"He was walking around here saying congratulations," Verlander said of Dombrowski. "And I shook his hand and said, 'Thanks! ... For what?' He said it's a pretty big deal, and he said congratulations."

It's not the kind of award a rookie pitcher comes to expect. No Tigers rookie pitcher had ever won the award, and Verlander is just the second Tigers pitcher of any kind to win it since Walt Terrell in 1991. Jason Johnson won it two years ago. It generally requires a pitcher to have two starting assignments in the same week and pitch dramatically well both times.

If Verlander keeps pitching like he has lately, he'll have plenty of awards where that came from, many of them involving more than a watch. With a 4-1 May record and 1.77 ERA, he has an outside chance of challenging Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, who actually has given up a run this month compared to his scoreless April, for AL Rookie of the Month later this week.

"With the equipment that he's got, he should have a nice future," Leyland said. "He's one of those guys, a young guy has to learn how to handle some failure and has to learn how to handle success at the same time. It's still going to be a process. It's not going to be perfect."

With most rookie pitchers, though, learning how to handle failure usually comes before the success. He hasn't lost a game since May 4 at the Angels, and he's given up one run in 24 innings over his last three starts.

The key, Leyland said, is always keeping in mind that those fortunes will turn at some point.

"I want him to understand that it's important to be able to take compliments, that it's important to also keep everything in perspective, because this is a very humbling game," Leyland said. "It's a process for a young guy as well as a veteran guy, to learn how to handle both. I think he's doing very well. I'm not talking about Justin, but usually if you see a little trend of a player comes up here and all of a sudden tears it up a little bit, they'll all get humbled. It's not easy to do, but I think he'll do just fine."