CHICAGO -- Jim Leyland found early success managing in Pittsburgh behind a pitching staff fronted by Doug Drabek. He won his World Series title in Florida with help from the gifted right arm of hyper-competitive Kevin Brown and the precise left arm of Al Leiter. But not surprisingly, Justin Verlander has quickly climbed the list of Leyland's pitching greats, turning potential into performance.
"He's got the best stuff of anybody I ever managed," Leyland said without hesitation.
Until recently, Brown was at the top of that list. That doesn't make either one of them the best pitcher, period, at least not yet for Verlander. But it puts him in position for it.
"Drabek was probably the best pitcher," Leyland said, "but Verlander's got the best stuff, without question."
Saturday's game, Leyland argued, was a perfect example of the learning process Verlander has been undertaking. When he took a step back following ball three to Carlos Quentin with runners at the corners and one out in the eighth, composed himself and fired back with a fastball on the other corner for the strikeout, he managed to control his energy.