In his latest column, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan chronicles Justin Verlander’s return to prominence as one of the game’s most dominant pitchers. Passan spoke to a very candid Verlander, who explained that during the 2014 season — the worst of his career — he felt pain in his shoulder through virtually every pitch he delivered. However, as Passan notes, Verlander was keenly aware of the expectations that came along with signing a $180MM contract and was resolved to pitch so long as he was physically capable. Verlander admitted to Passan that for awhile, baseball was no longer fun for him. The Detroit ace walked Passan through his recovery, beginning with recovery from surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle (which was, perhaps the root of all of his problems, as his mechanics were drastically altered to compensate). As Passan points out, Verlander’s velocity is sitting around 93 mph, and he’s now throwing his slider harder than in the past as a means of differentiating it from his curve. The result is one of the finest stretches of Verlander’s career: a 2.09 ERA and a 102-to-19 K/BB ratio over his past 90 1/3 innings that has firmly inserted Verlander into the mix for the AL Cy Young Award.
More from the AL Central…
- Manager Paul Molitor has given the Twins every indication that he intends to return in 2017, tweets Charley Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. While that in and of itself may not be overly newsworthy — owner Jim Pohlad has gone on record as stating that he wants Molitor to remain the team’s skipper even after hiring a new president of baseball ops — Walters does report that Molitor is slated to earn $2.5MM in the final season of the three-year deal he signed with Minnesota prior to the 2015 campaign.
- Earlier today, the Twins activated righty Trevor May and lefty Tommy Milone from the DL, per a club announcement. The 26-year-old May has had an interesting season, racking up 12.5 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9 but compiling only a 4.89 ERA in his 42 1/3 innings. Milone, meanwhile, seems headed for a non-tender barring a stirring performance over the last several weeks of the year. He has posted a rough 5.68 earned run average in his 65 frames thus far.
- The Indians pulled Danny Salazar from tonight’s contest due to forearm tightness, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian was among those to tweet. The club emphasized that it was a precautionary move, but this isn’t the first time this year that forearm/elbow issues have sidelined the prized righty. He declined to speak to reporters after the game, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer tweets, with manager Terry Francona saying that the team hopes to “know more tomorrow when he comes to the park.” Salazar lasted only four frames in his latest outing, and hasn’t reached six innings in a start since mid-July. The 26-year-old did manage to rack up 11 strikeouts in his prior appearance, but it has been quite an uneven second half for a pitcher who could be a key part of the club’s hopeful postseason run. Entering his first year of arbitration eligibility — he’ll qualify as a Super Two — Salazar has thrown 137 1/3 innings of 3.87 ERA ball, with 161 strikeouts but also 63 walks on his ledger.
- Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain was back in the lineup this evening after sitting out several contests due to a sprained hand, as Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star reports (Twitter links). It “doesn’t feel good” to swing, said Cain, who nevertheless managed to reach three times on a hit and two walks. Per skipper Ned Yost, the club will keep running Cain out so long as he can tolerate playing, with hopes that his glove, legs, and savvy at the plate will make up for any limitations with the bat. Asked by MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan (Twitter link) whether he had caused any further damage by playing with the injury, Cain offered a somewhat resigned response: “It’s already torn. So I don’t know if it made it worse, unless I get another MRI.”