Notes: Waiting game for Verlander

Tigers notes: Waiting game for Verlander

OAKLAND -- With an eye toward the future, the Detroit Tigers are planning on being exceedingly careful with Justin Verlander's innings count. But they wouldn't mind seeing him get a little more work than originally planned.

Verlander is one of five candidates who can be elected to the final American League roster spot through online and phone text voting that ends on Thursday at 6 p.m ET.

Verlander, tied with All-Star Kenny Rogers as the winningest pitcher on baseball's winningest team, has built an impressive election platform with his stats: 10-4, 3.13 ERA, 65 strikeouts against 30 walks in 103 2/3 innings heading into Tuesday's start in Oakland.

But he faces some tough competition from the other four candidates: Minnesota's Francisco Liriano (9-1, 1.99 ERA); Cleveland's Travis Hafner (.312, 22 HR, 66 RBIs); Baltimore's Ramon Hernandez (.274, 15 HR, 59 RBIs); and Chicago's A.J. Pierzynski (.326, 5 HR, 27 RBIs).

"I haven't voted for myself yet, and I don¹t intend on it, unless I hear through the grapevine I'm just one vote away," said Verlander. "I think that's for the fans and that's their decision, not mine."

It's not manager Jim Leyland's decision, either, but his 23-year-old righty would be on the team if Leyland had a choice.

"I hope he gets it," said Leyland. "Even if he and the rest of the Detroit organization are trying to keep the rookie's inning count as low as possible. He's not going to pitch much in the All-Star Game if he makes it anyways."

With the Tigers idle on Thursday between finishing the series in Oakland and heading to Seattle for three more before the All-Star break, Verlander could stay on schedule and pitch Sunday, but Leyland said that Tuesday will be Verlander's last appearance until after the break.

There are no plans to get him work out of the bullpen in Seattle, and that's fine with Verlander, who plans to go home and rest, if the fans don't send him to the midseason party in Pittsburgh.

"I've been doing so much, it'll just be nice to not do anything," Verlander said. "I think [the break] could be beneficial, but I don't think it's necessary at all. I feel strong at this point in the season."

Verlander is aware that the organization is trying to protect him for seasons down the road. Last year, in his first professional work since the Tigers made him a first-round pick out of Old Dominion University in the 2004 draft, Verlander worked 130 innings combined in Lakeland, Erie and Detroit.

He should pass that total by mid-August, and says he's ready for the increased workload.

"Last year I had the wrong approach going into the season and that is I kinda came in trying to be ready from Day 1 of Spring Training, so I threw way before that," he said. "I was getting prepared and almost trying to make the team out of Spring Training, which was kind of farfetched.

"This year I took a different approach and backed it off a little bit and didn't do too much before, and then used Spring Training to get myself ready.

"I think that's going to have a big effect because every year you only get so many bullets, and I saved 'em."

Bullpen notes: Leyland said before Monday's game that the only reliever unavailable for the series opener against the A's would be Joel Zumaya, who worked three innings in two games at Pittsburgh.

That means Fernando Rodney could get a chance to redeem himself after suffering his worst outing of the year on Sunday against the Pirates.

Rodney entered the game with a 9-2 lead in the seventh and gave up five runs in one-third of an inning.

"It was one of those things where we got him ready and got a 9-2 lead, and I had him up and ready, so I wasn't going to sit him down and get somebody else ready," Leyland said. "I was going to pitch him for an inning and then get him out of there, but his concentration level was terrible yesterday.

"That happens once in a while when you're an adrenaline guy. You usually come in in a nip-and-tuck situation.

"There's nothing wrong with his stuff, nothing wrong with his arm. He just probably thought he was going to have a cakewalk and he just got ambushed."

Support our troops: Monday's game was broadcast live to military bases in Baghdad, Iraq, where it was already July 4.

"What those guys do make our stuff seem unimportant," Leyland said of the troops in Iraq. "Putting their lives on the line is a little more important than worrying about getting out of the ninth inning, so we're awful grateful for that."

Looking ahead: Verlander (10-4, 3.13 ERA) will be getting his second look at the A's, who beat him, 4-3, in Oakland on April 18. He'll be matched up against Dan Haren (6-6, 3.53 ERA), who lost, 4-1, in Detroit on Aug. 23, in his only career start against the Tigers.

Tony Kuttner is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.