DETROIT -- Even in the wake of Mariano Rivera's injury, don't tell Jim Leyland pitchers shouldn't be shagging fly balls in the outfield during batting practice.
"I saw [someone said that] on TV and it made me sick, to be honest with you," said Leyland of hearing the news Rivera tore his anterior cruciate ligament tracking down a fly ball Thursday and is likely done for the season.
"Somebody was talking about, 'What was he doing?' That's what we do. That's what every pitcher does. What's he supposed to be doing, sitting and eating chili while everyone's out on the field? What the heck. Come on. Get a life."
Once in Leyland's career has he prevented a pitcher from participating in batting practice -- only because of the high winds -- and said he's never done so with the Tigers, no matter who the pitcher. He used Justin Verlander, the reigning American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner, as an example. Leyland described Verlander as a pitcher who shags fly balls "like a wild man."
"I literally would have our outfield coach hit fungos and just had me running all over the field just as my conditioning," said Verlander, who agreed but admitted to taming the pregame activity in recent years.
Verlander, along with former Tigers pitcher Edwin Jackson, would even compete against each other over who owned the best fielding skills.
"We would give grades to each other," Verlander said. "I had put on my outfield shagging glove as an "A" player. I'd call him a "B" player."
Neither Leyland nor Verlander made light of the situation, however. Both only insisted that tracking fly balls down is a common practice among pitchers and a great way to exercise, which is what Rivera used it for.
It's been speculated that the 42-year-old would retire after this season. For Verlander, it would be a shame to see a Hall of Famer's career end in that fashion.
"To see it happen to a living legend, a guy who changed the game, who changed pitching -- it seems like everybody throws a cutter now and that's because of him -- it's horrible," Verlander said. "I hope it's not the end of it for him. That would be terrible. When you talk about him retiring, they're always going to show that. That's not how he should be remembered. He should be remembered as the best closer of all time."