Justin Verlander: I ‘didn’t earn’ opening day start

Justin Verlander has been the Tigers Opening Day pitcher every year since 2008 but didn't get the nod for the 2015 honor.
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By Gordon Dixon

Justin Verlander made his debut with the Tigers in 2005 and quickly established himself as one of baseball’s best pitchers. He’s been named to six All-Star teams and won both an American League MVP Award and Cy Young Award since then. Verlander has also taken the ball as Detroit’s opening day starter, an honor generally synonymous with the game’s elite, each year since 2008.

However, this year David Price will take the mound April 6 when the Tigers get their season underway against the Twins, understandably so. Price put together one of his best seasons in 2014, leading the AL in strikeouts (271) and innings pitched (248.1) while making his fourth All-Star team. Verlander, on the other hand, struggled to duplicate recent success and posted his worst ERA (4.54) since 2008. With that in mind, Verlander is in agreement why he didn’t get the nod this year.

“I want to earn opening day,” Verlander said. “I don’t want to be handed opening day. … I know I didn’t earn it.”

“I’m extremely happy for David,” Verlander said. “And I’m happy for myself right now. I’m working extremely hard to get back to the pitcher I want to be.”

With the Tigers losing Max Scherzer in free agency, Justin Verlander returning to form would go a long way in helping the Tigers capture their fifth straight division title. Also, Price will be highly sought after as a free agent following the season. Should he leave, a vintage season from Verlander would help soften the blow among Tigers fans (and the organization) when it comes to the starting rotation moving forward.

 

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