LAKELAND, Fla. — Justin Verlander turns 30 on Wednesday, but it’s just another birthday to the Tigers ace.
“I don’t care about stuff like that,” Verlander said. “It doesn’t really matter to me.”
However, there’s something related to turning 30 that did interest Verlander. He’s won 124 games at that relatively early age and aspires to be enshrined in Cooperstown someday.
So how does Verlander compare to the two Atlanta Braves pitchers expected to be first-ballot Hall of Fame selections in next year’s voting?
Greg Maddux won 151 games before turning 30 and finished with 355 victories. Tom Glavine also won 124 games by the age of 30 and he ended his career with 305. Both pitched until they were 42.
“Dang, Maddux,” said Verlander, letting the numbers roll through his head and then shaking it.
I mentioned that I’d be back in 10 years, asking about the significance of turning 40.
“I will be here, too,” Verlander said. “Hopefully, I’ll be doing the same thing, a little grayer.”
How many victories will he have?
Verlander looked down for an instant, then looked up and said, “Two-hundred and eighty-seven,” as a wide grin crossed his face.
If he can maintain Glavine’s pace and durability, Verlander will get to 300 victories, pitch to 40 and beyond, and attain his dream of the Hall.
“I’ve got a ways to go,” he said. “I do not consider my career half over by any means.”
A strong start, however, doesn’t guarantee the consistent excellence required to reach the Hall of Fame.
Dwight Gooden is perhaps the best example of that. Problems with drugs contributed greatly to the dimming of his once-bright future. Gooden began fading at the age of 27, but still had 157 wins before turning 30. He was finished at 35 with 194 victories.
Going up nearly the same ladder as Verlander is New York Yankees ace CC Sabathia, 33, who has 191 wins. Sabathia had 148 by his 30th birthday.
Verlander was born in Manakin-Sabot, Va., and was raised and still maintains a residence in Virginia.
“When I was little, I wrote an essay on what I’d be doing when I was 30,” Verlander said. “And I’m doing pretty much exactly what I thought I would be.”
BOESCH SITS AGAIN
Outfielder Brennan Boesch missed his second day of practice with an oblique injury.
Although Tigers manager Jim Leyland wouldn’t speculate on a return date — obliques are tricky to gauge — he did say head athletic trainer Kevin Rand felt Boesch was making suitable progress.
Could he play as early as this weekend’s first Grapefruit League games?
“I doubt that,” Leyland said.
STARTING WITH PORCELLO
Rick Porcello will start Friday’s opener at Lake Buena Vista against the Atlanta Braves.
It’s the only Grapefruit League game being played that day, while there are three games on the Cactus League schedule in Arizona.
There should be an overflow of national media members at the game, which also feature the debut of the Braves outfield brother tandem: B.J. and Justin Upton.
Following Porcello to the mound will be Luis Marte, Luke Putkonen, Jose Ortega and Darin Downs.
Jose Alvarez and Kenny Faulk are making the trip as extra pitchers.
Who are the current Tigers most likely to manage when their playing careers are over?
“Donnie Kelly would come to mind,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “He’s got a good feel for what is going on. He’d probably be good at it if he wants to.
“Victor Martinez would come to mind. Torii Hunter would be an absolutely strong coach, an outfield coach. I don’t know if he’d want to manage.”
Leyland also noted that Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera would be “great” hitting coaches, but added that many players who are secure financially opt to spend retirement with their families.
Los Angeles Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire is one of the few superstars coaching in the majors.
AROUND THE HORN
Jose Valverde, who was Detroit’s closer the last three years, will pitch for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. “That’s probably a chance for him to showcase a little,” said Leyland, who remains a big fan of Valverde’s … Recently elected NFL Hall of Famer Warren Sapp attended practice and left with an autographed bat from Prince Fielder. Sapp began wagging the bat as if he was getting ready to hit. I don’t know if he can hit worth a lick, but he would intimidate pitchers just the same.