Jim Leyland reiterates that Justin Verlander will not pitch on short rest

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With the Tigers down 2-0 to the Rangers in the ALCS some managers would be tempted to bring back Justin Verlander for Game 4 on short rest, but Jim Leyland reiterated yesterday that he doesn’t consider that an option.

Or in his exact words: “He’s pitching Game 5.That’s a slam dunk. That is the end of the conversation.”

Verlander threw just four innings and 82 pitches Saturday in Game 1 and has a well-earned reputation as an incredibly durable workhorse, but Leyland will stick with Doug Fister in Game 3 and Rick Porcello in Game 4. Porcello actually threw two innings and 22 pitches in relief of Verlander in Game 1.

Here’s more from Leyland:

What people don’t realize is, you’ve got to win four games. Nobody might believe this–the public, the TV people might not want to and everybody else–but let me tell you something: At this point, from what I’ve seen, pitching Justin Verlander on the fifth day is two-fold. It’s the best thing for Justin Verlander, and it’s the best thing for the team. Trust me when I tell you that.

This decision is different than most short-rest debates because in this case moving up Verlander to Game 4 could also potentially make him available for Game 7. So it’s not simply a decision about pitching him on three days’ rest or four days’ rest, it’s a decision about starting the Tigers’ ace two times or three times in the seven-game series.

It’s obviously a moot point, because Leyland isn’t comfortable with Verlander going on short rest. And also because thoughts of a Game 7–or even a Game 5–would require the Tigers to start winning.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with left ankle injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.