Since opening the season with a fantastic April, life has become a horror movie for Justin Verlander. Trouble is always lurking around every corner. It feels as if the walls are closing in as an unseen demon lurks. Worst of all, Verlander can't even trust his oldest friends, which in this case are his pitches.
Monday night, the terror got worse for Verlander, who gave up seven earned runs in only six innings while striking out two in an ugly loss to the Kansas City Royals. Much like his last start in Chicago, Verlander enjoyed a fast first inning only to see everything fall apart. In a stunning turn, Mr. Detroit was even booed off the mound by the home crowd as he exited.
"They have cheered me plenty. I don't blame them, I would have booed me too," a frustrated Verlander said after the game while searching for answers. It was Verlander's third loss in a row since a late May victory in Seattle which made it seem as if the ace was getting set to finally turn the corner.
Instead, like any bad horror movie, the corner turned on him. Verlander lived perilously from the second inning until the fourth. In the fifth, Billy Butler, an old nemesis, finally burned him again with a bases clearing double. Then, Omar Infante, a new nemesis, deposited a high fastball into the seats. Verlander screamed into his glove, a conversation which shall remain private for the better.
After the game, there was plenty of talk about Verlander's future. Is he finished as a dominating pitcher? Tigers' manager Brad Ausmus wasn't so sure. "I don't think he's done, I think Justin Verlander will be just fine," he said. Then what's the problem? Are their quiet injury woes? "Unequivocally no," Verlander said.
Injury or not, the Tigers should consider giving Verlander a chance to catch his breath. His days as an ace might not be over, but if he continues to mess with mechanics and lose confidence, the mind could trick Verlander into thinking he's finished when he's not. Confidence is everything to a pitcher, and clearly, Verlander's confidence is beyond the point of being on the rocks. He has to find a reason to believe again, and sometimes, that can be as simple as a few days off.
"I want to stop tinkering, but when something's not right, I guess you have to," Verlander admitted. "Like I said, whatever it takes to get ready for the next one, or feel like I'm right."
That sounded like a cry for help. Detroit should skip Verlander's next scheduled start and allow him to work with Jeff Jones. Then, between that time and his next start, they should allow him time to reset away from the mound. A competitor like Verlander certainly wouldn't appreciate being away from the grind, but the removal would be for his own good long-term. Perhaps it would allow the perpetual thinker to stop thinking and get back to throwing first.
At this point in time, taking a brief timeout could hurt the team literally no worse than another failed Verlander start could.
Max DeMara is the editor of @tigers_101. Follow the site there on Twitter, or like it on Facebook to connect with him.
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