Justin Verlander won’t discuss extension during season

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Tigers ace Justin Verlander isn’t interested in letting contract talks distract him during the season, reports Jon Heyman:

Verlander said Saturday that if there’s no deal in place by his next start, his last spring start, there won’t be any more contract talk through the remainder of the season, as he wants to focus on winning. So if there isn’t a new contract done in 3 1/2 days — his last spring start is Wednesday — the Tigers will have only one calendar year to sign him.

Verlander, who has won an AL Rookie of the Year award, an AL MVP award, and an AL Cy Young award, will earn $20.1 million in each of the next two seasons leading up to his free agency. Now 30 years old, an extension with the Tigers would likely take him past his age-35 season, but Verlander might be more tempted to test free agency if the Tigers don’t close the case in the next few days.

The seven-year, $175 million contract awarded to Felix Hernandez by the Seattle Mariners is thought to be a model for a potential Verlander extension, though Verlander is more than three years older.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with 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.