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Verlander vs. Detroit, a special place in his heart

Former AL Cy Young and MVP starts Sunday against Tigers
Special to MLB.com

HOUSTON -- A lot has happened to former Tigers ace Justin Verlander in less than a year. Most notably, he's added two rings: one from his new marriage and the other from the World Series he won with the Astros last season.

Verlander, who is scheduled to pitch against Detroit in the finale of a three-game set at Minute Maid Park on Sunday, said on Friday that he doesn't regret waiving a no-trade clause to Houston. He also expressed his fondness for the Tigers organization and their fans, as well as the city of Detroit, where he played 13 seasons.

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HOUSTON -- A lot has happened to former Tigers ace Justin Verlander in less than a year. Most notably, he's added two rings: one from his new marriage and the other from the World Series he won with the Astros last season.

Verlander, who is scheduled to pitch against Detroit in the finale of a three-game set at Minute Maid Park on Sunday, said on Friday that he doesn't regret waiving a no-trade clause to Houston. He also expressed his fondness for the Tigers organization and their fans, as well as the city of Detroit, where he played 13 seasons.

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"Detroit will always have a special place in my heart," Verlander said. "I'm rooting for them, just not against us. I miss the Detroit summers. It's hot down here."

The Aug. 31, 2017, trade from the Tigers has paid off for Verlander, who was named the 2017 American League Championship Series Most Valuable Player against the Yankees. This season, he is 9-4 with a 2.05 ERA through 20 starts.

But it wasn't an easy call for Verlander to leave Detroit for Houston.

"I was concerned with how the [Tigers] fans would react," Verlander said. "As far as a pure baseball decision, it was a pretty clear-cut, yes. But when you're thinking about what I started in Detroit and the relationship I created with the fans there, all that stuff matters to me. I wanted to leave on a good note and not leave a sour taste in their mouth.

"I think everybody understood how tough a decision it was and why I made the decision. The organization was going in a different direction and I definitely wanted to win a World Series, and the opportunity wasn't going to be in Detroit at that juncture and I didn't have time for a rebuild. I hope those fans understand how much they meant to me over my career."

Based on public opinion, Verlander, 35, did leave Detroit in good graces. A large number of Tigers faithful pulled for the Astros in the World Series, where they defeated the Dodgers in an exciting seven-game series.

Video: ALCS Gm6: Verlander's nasty pitches stymies Yankees

"Even though he's gone, he's still very revered in Detroit," Tigers catcher James McCann said. "You can tell on social media during the World Series last year, you could see all the Detroit people were rooting for the Astros because of Verlander.

"He did a lot for Detroit, on-the-field stuff and off-the-field endeavors. He's a guy that will always be special to the city of Detroit, just for what he did in his time there."

As a Tiger, Verlander was a six-time All-Star, winning the American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award in 2011. He also threw two no-hitters for the Tigers, as well as leading the AL in strikeouts four times.

Video: Verlander throws sixth no-hitter in Tigers history

"The way the sport is, there's a business side, as well," McCann said. "For him, it was good move. He got himself a World Series ring and the success he's had [in Houston]. He did what was best for him. I'm sure it wasn't an easy decision for him and we're happy for the success he's had."

Verlander began his Astros career by going 9-0 in his first nine games (including four postseason starts), which featured wins in Games 1 and 4 of the AL Division Series against Boston and Games 2 and 6 of the ALCS against New York.

The Tigers acquired outfielder Daz Cameron, right-hander Franklin Perez, catcher Jake Rogers, and a player to be named (outfielder Juan Ramirez) for Verlander, who was 183-114 in his career with the Tigers.

Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com based in Houston.

Detroit Tigers, Justin Verlander