Nothing bashful about Justin Verlander.

He has big talent and lofty goals as he enters his sixth season in the majors, which had him pitching the season opener Thursday in New York against the Yankees.

“I was blessed with a great arm,” Verlander said. “I can do things with my arm that others can’t.

“But I want to be the best. I want to go to the Hall of Fame.”

Manager Jim Leyland has been hammering on Verlander to junk the strikeout mentality and go for quick outs. That way he stays in the game longer and gives himself a better chance to win more games, which, if he does often enough, will open that door in Cooperstown.

“I know I’ve had success,” said Verlander, 28, “but I need to become more consistent with my fastball location. And I need to find a quick way to easier outs, eliminating most of those eight- and nine-pitch at-bats. That’s what Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay do. And the big thing is that, this year, I want to start up better.

“But my approach has to change if I want those things.”

His career April ERA is nearly double his ERA for the other months over his career.

He has one 14-win season, his second, but the rest have been between 17 and 19 wins. His career record is 83-52 entering the season.

After a couple of “welcome to the majors” starts in 2005, Verlander led Detroit to the World Series in 2006.

“As great as that season was,” Verlander said, “it was a rude awakening. I was toast at the halfway point. They probably would have shut me down that year, but we were doing something special. You weigh the risks. There’s a slippery slope, and I was on it.”

He’s been voted as having the best fastball and best curve among major league starters, and he maintains his high-90s velocity to the last pitch of his starts. Last year the light began to go on about less being more as far as strikeouts are concerned, although he still can be seen to try to throw fastballs to get himself out of jams.

Verlander entered spring training with the goal of eliminating those bad Aprils. His ERA for the spring was 0.96.

His first start could indicate whether he’s headed in the right direction or not.

Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.


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