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.
Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).
Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.
Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.
Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.
Orioles’ center fielder Michael Bourn is expected to be sidelined for four weeks while he rehabs a broken ring finger on his right hand, according to reports from the Baltimore Sun’s Peter Schmuck. Bourn broke the finger while playing catch with a football after a spring training workout.
The veteran outfielder re-signed with the club earlier this week on a minor league deal and was prepared to compete for a bench role this season. He’s in line to receive a $2 million salary if he makes the major league roster and can make an additional $3.5 million in incentives based on a set number of plate appearances. Now, however, his chances of cracking the roster out of spring training look considerably diminished, as his current timetable gives him an approximate return date of March 25 if all goes well.
Bourn had an impressive, if short-lived run with the Orioles following his trade to Baltimore last August, batting .283/.358/.435 with two home runs and a .793 OPS in 55 PA. While still somewhat removed from the totals that brought him an All-Star nod with the Braves in 2012, his defensive chops should give the Orioles some depth in center once he’s healthy again.