Restless Verlander done in by long ball in Texas

August 16th, 2017

ARLINGTON -- admits the trade speculation is on his mind.

He can focus on the task at hand when he's on the mound, and he has done an impressive job of keeping focused through a trade saga now going well past a month. But eventually, it creeps in -- even when he's asleep.

"I'd be lying if I said it wasn't on my mind," Verlander said after Tuesday's 10-4 loss to the Rangers. "My dreams tell me otherwise. I think I do a pretty good job when I come here to the ballpark of putting everything in the back of my mind and going about my business, trying to prepare to pitch every fifth game. But there's been some nights when I wake up and remember dreams of whatever, who knows what team I'm going to. It's on my mind, that's for sure. But it's not going to limit or prohibit me from doing my job here."

It wasn't a factor in his loss Tuesday. He chalked up a hanging slider to after working up a sweat covering first base on a ground ball two pitches earlier, then wearing down in the heat over the course of a 31-pitch fourth inning that included a fastball to Joey Gallo and an elevated slider to Mike Napoli. Verlander threw 60 pitches over the third and fourth innings, with a quick Tigers fourth in between, and it wore him down.

"Here, long innings are what get you," Verlander said. "It just kind of saps your energy. You kind of start sweating all over the place, and you're feeling for the end. You have to focus a bit more, honestly."

Even if he had pitched well and the Tigers won, though, it wouldn't have stopped the predicament he currently faces as a very good veteran pitcher on a team that's out of it this year and facing uncertainty.

"It's not a ton of fun," he said, "But you control what you can control. You come here and try to win baseball games. When it's my turn to pitch, I try to pitch as well as I can, try to help the young guys. I've been working with a bunch of guys on some of their pitches and execution stuff and just kind of seeing the game. Business as usual, I guess. It's just a little different.

"I told [Justin Upton] the other day after he hit that walk-off homer [Saturday against the Twins], it kind of [stinks]. That was a huge moment, a really cool moment, and we all celebrated, and then you come in and say [it was a] great game, but for what? We win a game on a walk-off homer, which is great, but most of the time I've been here, when those moments happen, it means something more than just the moment. And the moments right now are just kind of fleeting, good moments or bad.

"Yeah, it [stinks], but that's part of the game. We've been pretty fortunate here to be in the hunt for 10 out of my 12 years at this point of the season. I've been very fortunate, and hopefully that can continue. But for right now, I think you have to go out there and do your job. We're all professionals. We get paid a lot of money to play this game, and I still take extreme pride in going out there and doing everything that I can to help us win a game."

Verlander has been facing that for several weeks, and expected this. What he might not have expected was the trade speculation to continue past the non-waiver Trade Deadline. He posted a picture of himself in the Tigers' clubhouse on July 31 and noted he's still around. Since then, he has cleared waivers, allowing him to be dealt anywhere.

He hears the on-again, off-again rumors of the Astros. But he hasn't been told anything by general manager Al Avila. With full no-trade rights, he must approve any deal.

"I have the ultimate say-so, so I guess that makes it a little bit easier," he said. "There is no questioning every day if I'm going to be coming in and going somewhere else because they have to approach me first."

On the flip side, he hasn't heard the Tigers' long-term plans, either. He doesn't know if they're heading into a full rebuild or something softer that might allow them to contend again sooner rather than later.

"I think it would be tough to be part of a full rebuild," he said. "I don't know what the plan is. That's a question for Al. I think from what he's said in the past, it's more along the lines of slowly transitioning. It's not just shipping everybody off, it's moving pieces when and if you can, if you want."

For now, though, the veteran right-hander is not trying to look too far ahead. Come Wednesday, he'll start preparing for his next start Sunday against the Dodgers at Comerica Park, in the latest version of what could be his last start as a Tiger. If something changes, he'll adjust. If it doesn't, he's still trying to win.

"As long as I'm part of this organization, my plan is to win," he said. "I'm not a negative person, and I would hope that everyone in this locker room is not that person. We've got to find a way to win, whether it's going into this offseason, winter moves we've got to make, whether it's winning next year, as long as I'm wearing the Old English D, we're going to win, in my mind."