Kansas City, Mo. — The arms were impressive. They even impressed another arm.
Justin Verlander threw several pitches of triple-digit velocity as the Tigers starter in Monday’s opener. But when he saw a 102 come out of Joel Zumaya’s hand, even Verlander had to do a double take.
And after the Tigers had beaten the Royals, 8-4, he made sure to give credit where it was due.
When asked what kind of message having a deep bullpen sends to an opposing team, Verlander said, “That we’re never out of a game. If the bullpen holds the other team when we’re down, it’ll give us a chance to win a lot of games.”
And about the 102?
“Joel’s stuff opens eyeballs,” Verlander said. “If you are a fan of baseball, it’s something you don’t really get to see except maybe once in a generation.
“Let’s be honest here. How many guys have thrown 102 in the history of baseball?”
But does it look to Verlander as if Zumaya throws harder than even he does?
“Hard to say,” Verlander said, “unless I have the view from his eyes.” Encouraged
Despite allowing four runs in five innings, it was his rhythm that Verlander looked for in his first start, and it was his rhythm that he found when he retired 10 batters in a row at one point.
“I feel like I can really gain momentum off what I did there in the third and fourth,” he said. “I threw my fastball where I wanted it and had the rhythm I had a lot of times last year — just kind of that feeling of control.
“When I’m out there throwing like that, after the game it’s like, ‘OK, remember what you were doing and what that felt like.’ When you can extend that feeling, like from pitch one, that’s when things really start rolling.
“I didn’t have that feeling this spring,” said Verlander, “but I definitely felt it in this game.”
Around the horn
At least the Royals acknowledged the mistake they made when Jason Kendall was sent home from second in the seventh inning on a single that would have loaded the bases for Billy Butler , their best hitter, if Kendall had stopped at third.
“Too aggressive, there’s no doubt,” manager Trey Hillman said. “We’ve got the chance to get Billy up there with the bases loaded. You’d like to have an opportunity to see that play out.”
… The pitching matchups have been announced for the opening series at Comerica Park against Cleveland: Rick Porcello vs. LHP David Huff on Friday; Jeremy Bonderman vs. RHP Mitch Talbot on Saturday; and Verlander vs. RHP Jake Westbrook on Sunday.