Justin Verlander made his debut with the New York Mets after closing his $86.7 million two-year deal last year.
He pitched both as a National Leaguer and with a pitch clock for the first time in his career on Saturday, throwing a pitch of 96 mph as he geared up for the new season.
Verlander’s first experience with the timer went pretty well, as did his pitching in general, as the 40-year old newcomer made his spring debut.
Coming off his third Cy Young Award and a World Series championship with the Houston Astros, he threw just seven balls out of 35 pitches while allowing one run in three innings, striking out three batters in a 15-4 victory over the Miami Marlins.
“The pitch clock was something I wanted to get used to,” he said. “There may be a few minor adjustments I need to make there. There might be one or two things, but not major, so that’s okay.
Justin Verlander made his New York Mets debut after netting $86.7 million on a two-year contract last year
He pitched both as a National Leaguer and with a pitchclock for the first time in his career
“The first part of the inning is something I want to speed up. Specifically, I kind of walk around the back of the hill. I almost walk between the pitcher’s mound and second base. If I just stay closer to the hill and just clear the time it takes to walk — the two or three seconds — by the time I get to the hill and get the sign, I’ll be totally comfortable with how much time I’ve left,” he said.
“I really never want to throw a pitch without conviction behind it. I don’t want to just throw something because we ran out of time.’
Aside from a Mets outfield misspelling in the first inning, Verlander would have had a scoreless outing. He walked none and gave up two hits.
“My control felt pretty good,” he said. ‘I don’t want to be too picky this time of year. The first time you are in competition, you need to get your body used to moving quickly again. For starters, it ticked all the boxes I’d like.
“The eye test was pretty good. The second thing is to look at some of its stats. To be able to walk away and say, “Okay, one, I came out healthy and, two, my stuff was pretty good, the location was pretty good, and the off-speed was pretty good.” I think those were all big positives,” he said.
Verlander, major league player since 2006, is experimenting with a change for the first time.
“The first one felt great,” he said. “I loved to swing and miss. The second (the batter) hit right back, so I didn’t like that. But he didn’t hit that hard.’
Verlander, major league player since 2006, is experimenting with a change for the first time
Verlander is 244-133 in his career with Detroit and Houston and has nearly $87 million more in his pocket after signing a two-year contract with the Mets. His $35 million team option will become a player option for 2025 if he works at least 140 turns next year when he turns 41.
The right-hander said former Tigers teammate Max Scherzer was the only Mets player he really knew when he signed, and that made things a little unnerving. But new experiences, new challenges help you to write nice new chapters in your life book.’
Verlander said he wished he could have gone to the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
“I declined for many obvious reasons,” he said, “one of those Tommy John surgeries and last year was the first year back. And the (2022) World Series. I had no free time.’
“Unfortunately, it just didn’t make much sense,” he said.
Mets Lorenzo Cedrola (center) is met by Jaylin Davis after scoring on a two-run home run
Verlander paused after one of his three innings to say hello to Ron Kulpa, the plate umpire. Kulpa called Verlander’s first of three no-hitters in Detroit on June 12, 2007. It was the first of Kulpa’s two no-hitters.
‘The story about it hangs in my office. I’ve been looking up to it recently,” said Kulpa, who now lives in nearby Boca Raton, Florida. “I can’t believe that was (Verlander).”
The difference with Verlander now, Kulpa said, is that he is a smarter pitcher.
“He’s not much of a power pitcher,” Kulpa said. “He could throw then, but he just doesn’t throw 99 or 100. Now it’s 96, 95.”
Referring to the few changes, Mets manager Buck Showalter said, “Guys like (Verlander) are always looking for a different look — just something different — that guys have to prepare in advance to defend.”