The star of the event was clearly Justin Verlander, who between his impressive publicity as of late as well as his cameo start for the Tigers, has already made a name for himself. Couple that with the fact that he's had possibly the most impressive minor league campaign to date, and it was an easy choice for him to be named the US team's starter for the game.
Verlander did no harm to himself in the outing, though he did give up a two out double to Kendry Morales. Verlander still needed just ten pitches to get through his inning of work, displaying solid command as his fastball sat in the mid to upper 90's.
Verlander showed good command, something that he still battles from time to time. But having been named time and again as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball (Peter Gammons called him the top pitching prospect, Rob Neyer labeled him second best to Felix Hernandez), it's obvious that the Tigers have a potential stud in Verlander.
As for his timetable, it's still somewhat up in the air. His location and control is still shaky, especially on his off-speed pitches. But considering his talent, he certainly appears able to compete at the big league level right now (much in the fashion that Jeremy Bonderman did during his rookie campaign).
Ideally though, Verlander will remain in Erie for the remainder of the 2005 campaign before getting a long hard look come Spring Training. If the Tigers have open rotation spots available (which seems likely, barring a free agent addition like A.J. Burnett), there's a very good chance he claims one.
Moving on to Joel Zumaya, ‘Zoom' impressed as well, striking out a batter in his 1-2-3 outing. Zumaya has been praised this season, largely for his adjustments he's made in "learning how to pitch" so to speak, using his off-speed pitches more and working on mixing up his repertoire to go after the opposition.
Of course, you wouldn't have been able to tell that from the game, as every pitcher he threw was either a two-seam or four-seam fastball. Zumaya's fastball was obviously working though, as he dialed it all the way up to 99mph, making him the hardest thrower in the game.
Zumaya is likely still a bit further away than Verlander is, but not by much. Zumaya's age is obviously working in his favor (he's still only 20 years old, putting him two years ahead of the curve), as is his incredible fastball. The key for Zumaya will be to continue developing his off speed selection and keeping a consistent motion so that he'll hopefully fully control all four of his pitches.
The big righty already has pure stuff to become a dominant big league pitcher – now he'll just need the time to refine himself. 2006 is a good bet to see Zumaya debut as a Tiger.