WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Justin Verlander doesn't care for your opinion. He also doesn't care who the Yankees picked up -- 2017 National League Most Valuable Player Giancarlo Stanton, by the way -- or that the Indians will be a deep and dangerous club."I think the American League goes
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Justin Verlander doesn't care for your opinion. He also doesn't care who the Yankees picked up -- 2017 National League Most Valuable Player Giancarlo Stanton, by the way -- or that the Indians will be a deep and dangerous club.
"I think the American League goes through us," Verlander said Wednesday after working out with Astros pitchers and catchers for the first time at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.
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Verlander's bravado certainly comes as no surprise, especially considering he took up for his team on Twitter a day earlier. During a segment on MLB Network's "High Heat" Tuesday, host Christopher Russo said: "There's no way you can't think that the Yankees are the team to beat in the American League."
Verlander's tweeted response: "I can think of a reason."
The ace pitcher's confidence in the Astros comes on the heels of the team's first World Series championship last year -- a title they probably would not have won had they not traded for Verlander on Aug. 31. Led by Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers and newcomer Gerrit Cole, the Astros have perhaps the deepest rotation in baseball, as well as the game's most potent lineup.
"Obviously, the old saying, 'To be the best, you've got to beat the best,' and I think we proved we were last year," Verlander said. "This is a new year. Bottom line. Everybody's entitled to their opinion. Everybody in this locker room thinks we have a championship-caliber team here. We're not resting on any laurels. Everybody is excited to get back to work and excited for a good 2018."
If the return of the team's core players, including 2017 American League MVP Jose Altuve, World Series MVP George Springer, All-Star Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman, weren't enough for Verlander to stick out his chest, the additions of Cole and relievers Joe Smith and Hector Rondon did the trick.
"We won the World Series last year and we got better this year," he said. "That's a pretty good recipe for success."
Verlander, who turns 35 in a week, doesn't show signs of slowing down. He put together a terrific second half last year, first for the Tigers and then the Astros, with whom he went 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA in five regular-season starts. He credits a change with the way his elbow tracks for helping him find his groove in the middle of last season.
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"The first couple of months of the season I was trying to find it and I couldn't really get there, but I kept pressing forward and kept looking forward, and when I did find it, I didn't look back," he said.
The storybook end of the season, with the Astros beating the Dodgers in Game 7 of the World Series, came only days before he married supermodel Kate Upton in Italy. He admits he didn't relish in the championship as much as he would have liked, but adding another ring in 2018 would solve that.
"I think everybody in this locker room is still hungry, just as hungry as we were at this time last year," he said. "I'm looking forward to this spring and getting going."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.