Ready or Not, Justin Verlander Should Not Be Opening Day Starter For Detroit Tigers

By Dominic Alessi
Detroit Tigers Justin Verlander
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Ready or not, the Detroit Tigers‘ pitchers and catchers have officially reported to Lakeland, FL to kick off Spring Training and the start of a new era. With manager Jim Leyland stepping down this past off season, new manager Brad Ausmus has a lineup that appears to be set for success in 2014. The Tigers welcome the 2014 season with one of the most potent lineups in the league, a starting rotation that was one of the best in the AL last season, and a decently improved bullpen. One glaring question reporters have had for Ausmus so far has been a question that is gaining more steam around internet forums and talk radio throughout Detroit — who will be the Opening Day starter?

In one corner, we have Justin Verlander, a 6-foot-5 power pitcher with a blazing fastball and nasty 12-6 curve ball, capable of making any batter strike out looking. Verlander is a six time All-Star, AL MVP and the 2011 Cy Young award winner. For the past eight seasons, Verlander has been the face of the Tigers’ franchise, as well as the team’s workhorse. He has thrown more than 200 innings every season for the past seven seasons, a stat not many pitchers can claim. He has earned the fans’ respect not only in Detroit, but around the league.

If you haven’t heard by now, JV had surgery six weeks ago to repair a torn core muscle, which may set him back and make him have to sit out Opening Day. This weekend, he threw off the mound for the first time and participated in all team drills in Lakeland, a sign of optimism for many tiger fans, putting more emphasis on whether he is ready to start.

In the other corner, we have Max Scherzer, the 6-foot-3 righty with a nasty slider and the reigning 2013 AL Cy Young winner, coming off his best season of his career. In 2013, Scherzer became the first pitcher to ever start a season 13-0 and finished up the season with a 21-3 record; the first Tiger to have 20+ wins since Bill Gullickson in 1991. In his four seasons with Detroit, Scherzer has a 64-30 record with an ERA of 3.62. While they aren’t Verlander numbers, they are nothing to brush aside either.

Scherzer made news this offseason by signing a one year contract with the club to avoid arbitration, but he will certainly be looking for a big pay day after this season, which could end up being his last as a Tiger. Shouldn’t Scherzer be rewarded for his historic performance that he had last season? Some Tiger fans certainly think so, and I feel the same way.

The Tigers will open up against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park and Scherzer should get the nod to kick off the 2014 season. Last year against the Royals, Verlander was 1-3 with a 3.27 ERA in 41 innings pitched. He gave up 17 runs and 10 walks, a trend that may elevate his pitch count, and no Tiger fans wants to see that in his first game back from surgery. Scherzer went 3-0 against the Royals last season and although he had a higher ERA of 3.33, he only gave up six walks and had a WHIP of just .96.

Now, in the grand scheme of things, does all this really matter? Probably not. I will be at Opening Day with 50,000 other cold and screaming fans, and when I sit down in my seat to watch the first pitch of the 2014 season, I want to see the reigning AL Cy Young winner on the mound to usher in a new era of Tigers baseball.

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