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Detroit Tigers: Justin Verlander Shouldn't Pitch in the World Baseball Classic

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 27:  (L-R) Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers poses with Baseball Hall of Famer and former Detroit Tigers player Al Kaline after throwing out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the Detroit Tigers hosting the San Francisco Giants during Game Three of the Major League Baseball World Series at Comerica Park on October 27, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Brett KaplanCorrespondent IIIJanuary 31, 2013

According to Jon Heyman from CBS Sports, "Though Tigers ace Justin Verlander hasn't made a final decision, there is said to be new optimism that Verlander will join the Team USA for the WBC, baseball sources said."

The article goes on to state:

People familiar with the situation say Verlander would love to be on the team but caution that it still depends on how his early training goes. Tigers people say Verlander's program had him still strong at the end of last season (which is obvious from his October performance save the World Series game), but he ran out of gas late in 2011.

I strongly believe that Verlander pitching in the WBC could jeopardize the Detroit Tigers' chances at competing for a World Series title. I've previously already stated all the reasons why it's a bad idea, but the Tigers need to have a serious talk with Verlander about his priorities. 

Interestingly, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski told Ken Rosenthal from Fox Sports,

"We let our players make their own decisions unless they’re injured," Dombrowski said Monday. "It will be his decision if he chooses to pitch or not to pitch. Justin Verlander, in particular, is very wise as far as his preparation is concerned. He’s a veteran guy.

"He wants to make sure he’s in the routine of getting ready. And if he feels he’s ready, I don’t have a problem at that point. The reality is that he will pitch on March 12 or 15 for Team USA or for Detroit.

"He’s got Joe Torre and (pitching coach) Marcel Lachemann handling him. They’ll be careful with him. They know what needs to be done. And there are pitch limits involved.

Do I think the Tigers would be happy if Verlander pitches in the WBC? Not at all, but I don't think they want to get in trouble with MLB commissioner Bud Selig and risk alienating their star pitcher. 

Dombrowski is smart, but what I found interesting were his comments on Team USA manager Joe Torre. Dombrowski mentioned that Torre and Lachemann know what needs to be done, but then in the next sentence talks about pitching limits.

I'm only mentioning this since Dombrowski spoke of Torre managing the team and it is a non-issue due to the pitch counts, but New York Yankees fans know that Torre didn't have the greatest reputation when it came to his pitchers.

While all Yankees fans love Torre, I have heard fans complain about his handling of his pitchers. Whether that is a fair statement or not, Brian Cashman even spoke with Mark Feinsand of the NY Daily News about Torre's use of his relievers.

Cashman said he tried convincing Torre that his pitchers were not always telling him the truth, but the manager continued to use them the same way, much to the general manager's dismay.

"You have to have the knowledge enough to know that you've got to back off this guy, because he won't be honest with you, he'll lie to you even if he's dragging knuckles," Cashman recalled telling Torre. "So I met with those individual players and said, 'You are hurting your career.' I covered all the bases on my end. There's no hypocrisy here."

And of course, who can forget the "Joba rules" for pitcher Joba ChamberlainI always guessed that the Yankees keep it in place because of Chamberlain's age, but a lot of fans assumed it was to save Torre from overusing him.

This article isn't meant to bash Joe Torre; he is of course a great manager who won four World Series titles. My point is that while there are strict pitch limits in place in the WBC, why would Verlander attempt to risk injury by not going through his normal routine?

Hypothetically, if Verlander is sore or tired, would he let Torre know? Or being the competitor he is, would he want to battle through his soreness for the love of his country? Verlander needs a manager who would look for signs and help protect him, by not having him pitch. 

Does Torre know Verlander's attitude to realize the signs and not having him pitch? Because chances are if Torre asks Verlander if he's OK to pitch, Verlander will tell him yes.

In my opinion, if Clayton Kershaw, David Price or CC Sabathia are smart enough to focus on the season, then so should Verlander. 

Verlander needs to focus on the 2013 season and understand that his main responsibility is to the Tigers.

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