2004 MLB Draft Interview: Justin Verlander

Justin Verlander entered the season among the top three in contention for the glory associated with being the number one overall pick in the MLB Draft owned by the San Diego Padres. He has done nothing to hurt his stock and remains a solid top 3 selection. Jered Weaver has been unbelievable, but scouts say at best he is a solid number two starter. Verlander, meanwhile, has the upside to be a number one starter in the Majors and that has teams excited.

As with any player that has a fastball that teeters on the edge of 100 miles per hour, faulty mechanics can send pitches into the next hemisphere instead of over the plate. Many of the harder throwers take a little longer to develop.

The battle is to become comfortable with your body and knowing the nuances that come with delivering the ball to the plate. Justin Verlander has battled some of the early inconsistencies that go along with speed that whiffs the opposition. He understands that his delivery is still a work in progress and must become second nature. It is not as easy as it sounds.

"That is very important," Verlander said. "Throwing hard – if everything is not consistent than where I am throwing the ball is not going to be consistent. I constantly need to work on that and make sure everything does stay sound and my delivery stays the same."

The alternative is toning down his velocity in order to get more control. Ben Howard, a now former prospect of the Padres and current Marlin farmhand, did that and it never worked out as he was shipped to Florida to pursue his dreams with a new horizon. Verlander is not ready to freeze out the pitch that has the opposition stiff as they catch nothing but wind.

"I am comfortable with how it is going right now," Verlander said. "I threw last Friday and everything felt good. I didn't slow my velocity down and I was hitting my spots. I don't think I have to slow down my velocity at all."

With his 6-5 frame, keeping all the mechanics in line would seem to be difficult.

"No, I don't think so," the 200 pound Verlander said. "I am pretty athletic so I don't have a problem controlling my body. I have a good feel for my body."

Heading into the season it was a three-legged race between Verlander, Jered Weaver and Jeff Niemann for the number one overall pick. They each offer their own unique criteria that would make any of them solid number one choices. And there is that goal that will go down in the annals of MLB history, being selected first in the June Draft.

"Oh, it was definitely one of my goals," Verlander admitted. "I want to work hard and hopefully I will get that. I just go out and do the best I can and let everything fall where it may. Hopefully I end up there, but if not I gave it my best shot. As long as I know I gave 100 percent."

Another thing Verlander is looking forward to, whatever team he ends up with, is working every fifth day. College pitchers generally pitch every seventh day.

"I don't think it will be that big of a transition," Verlander said of the future. "For some reason I have a very resilient arm. I have been told I am kind of freakish. I throw so hard and it doesn't get that sore. It recuperates very quickly. A couple times I have come back on three or four days rest and it hasn't really been a problem for me."

Verlander still has to improve on some things. His control will always be something that needs monitoring. And his long term vision is setting up on the inside of the plate.

One of his favorite pitchers is Roger Clemens, notorious for a fastball that can reach the upper nineties and someone who is not afraid to throw the ball inside.

"It is not that tough as long as you set it up right," Verlander said of owning the inside of the plate. "If you consistently pitch in and people are looking for it, it will be tough. As long as you set it up right and know when to throw in and when not to, it is fairly easy.

"I say that and then you get those little bloopers over the second baseman's head and I sit there and am like, ‘darn college baseball aluminum bats'. That is the game and you have to live with it. You have to pitch in to keep them off the outside of the plate."

He won't have to worry about the aluminum bats for long. He is headed to the land of wood, a place where he is sure to shatter many a bat on the road to the Major Leagues.


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