It’s been a very tumultuous 2014 season for Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander, one that’s statistically his worst in six years. In addition to pitching inconsistently to the tune of a 10-11 record, Verlander missed his last start because of shoulder inflammation in his pitching arm. He hasn’t been the rock that Detroit expects him to be, but he is still very important to the Tigers’ push for the playoffs.
There appears to be no structural damage in the shoulder, and the hope is that Verlander can take his next turn through the rotation and start this weekend. It also means that the former Cy Young and MVP winner will avoid the disabled list, something that the Tigers pray he does.
The Tigers not only need Verlander to avoid the DL, but they need him to finish the season strong and help them earn a playoff spot. Just a few weeks ago it looked like Detroit would coast to their fourth consecutive AL Central title, but an amazing run by the Kansas City Royals has them two games ahead of the Tigers. Detroit’s currently deadlocked with the Seattle Mariners for the second Wild Card spot in the AL, and they’ll need Verlander in order to make the playoffs whether it be as division champs or Wild Card winners.
And if the Tigers can make the playoffs, Verlander will be needed in the postseason, and he must use his remaining starts to help his team and try to get himself into a groove. Verlander hasn’t won back-to-back starts since the beginning of July and has just one win in the last 31 days.
Individually, it hasn’t been a good year for Verlander, but he can still help turn it into an extra special season for the team. As everyone knows, the Tigers have a few elite pitchers in their starting rotation, arguably the best hitter in the league and a strong back-end of the bullpen. Those are components that will create a championship caliber team. The Tigers might be struggling at the moment, but if they can make the playoffs they have as good a shot as anyone because of their pitching.
Verlander may share the spotlight with Max Scherzer and David Price these days, but he’s still a vital part to their success. Step one is that he avoids the DL, which seems to be a distinct possibility. Step two for Verlander is stringing together some quality starts and trying to right the ship for a struggling Tigers club.