Q&A With Justin Verlander (ODU'04)

June 19, 2006
By ODU Athletics
ODU Sports

June 19, 2006

Q&A with Justin Verlander 04/26/2006 11:30 AM ET By Jeff Moeller / MLBPLAYERS.com

The Detroit Tigers aren't just counting on Justin Verlander for the future. They believe the 6-foot-5 right-hander, whom they selected with the second overall draft pick in 2004, is ready to contribute in the Majors this season. Verlander, who struck out 136 batters while walking just 26 in 119 Minor League innings before a late-season callup in 2005, evened his record at 2-2 when he defeated the Mariners on Sunday. Verlander, whose fastball regularly reaches 100 mph, recently answered some questions from MLBPLAYERS.com. MLBPLAYERS.com: By most accounts, you've been given the label of "young phenom." What does that mean to you?

Justin Verlander: Well, I think it just means that I'm young and I haven't proven anything yet. I still have a long way to go in my career and a lot to prove.

MLBPLAYERS.com: How did you like being matched up against another young flame-thrower in Seattle's Felix Hernandez on Sunday?

Verlander: It was fun to go out there and throw against him. I've said the whole time that it doesn't matter to me who's on the opposing mound. It's not going to change the way I approach anything. As far as outside looking in goes, I can say it was pretty fun to see two young guys throwing and going at it. Overall, it was a good performance and I felt I had good control, especially my fastball. I thought I kept them off balance and had them taking defensive swings off me.

MLBPLAYERS.com: How much of your game revolves around how hard you throw the ball?

Verlander: I'm a power pitcher. I like to challenge hitters with a "Here it is, hit it" mentality. It's definitely a big part of my game, especially when I get in situations where I need it. I usually save a little bit, so it's there for me. I use high velocity to keep hitters off balance.

MLBPLAYERS.com: How old were you when you first topped 100 mph on the mound?

Verlander: It was during my junior year at Old Dominion. I found out after one of my games. Their radar gun only went up to 99 mph and they were sitting next to some scouts who told them. I was pretty excited about it.

MLBPLAYERS.com: How do you look to blend pitch location and velocity as your career progresses?

Verlander: I'm always going to be working on location, even if I have a 20-year career. Talk to me again in 15 years and I'll still be working on location. It's something that can always be better. Right now, it's not nearly where it could be, so it gives me something to work on every day.

MLBPLAYERS.com: With increased velocity, is there an increased tendency to give up home runs?

Verlander: I don't know if there is a direct correlation between the two. I figure the harder the ball is thrown, the less energy it takes for the hitter to put one out of the park. Then again, it's also harder to hit the ball when it coming in at 100 mph. I haven't been a guy who typically gives up a lot of home runs, so I would have to say no for me.

MLBPLAYERS.com: How much have you learned so far in the big leagues?

Verlander: I'm hoping to learn something new every day. It sounds corny, but I really do come in here every day, listening and talking with the veteran guys and seeing what I can absorb. I can't make any predictions on how my career is going to progress, but as long as I keep and open mind and keep learning, I think it will be good.

MLBPLAYERS.com: Is teammate Jeremy Bonderman someone you can watch and learn from?

Verlander: Even though he's my age, he's got a couple of years more experience in the Majors than I have. He's someone I consistently watch and pick up things from. Even Kenny Rogers, who is a totally different pitcher than me, is someone that I talk to and pick up pointers from. I tend to watch everyone out there. If someone is doing something that I think will benefit me, I will try to use it.

MLBPLAYERS.com: If someone had told you before the season began that you would have a 2-2 record in four games, would you have taken it?

Verlander: No, not at all. I am always striving to get better. I'm not pleased with 2-2. I think I can do better than that and I know I'm better than that.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.