Down on pitch counts, Leyland trusts ace's arm

Down on pitch counts, Leyland trusts ace's arm

Down on pitch counts, Leyland trusts ace's arm
DETROIT -- Tigers ace Justin Verlander struck out 14 Yankees in Monday night's 7-2 win and matched a regular-season career high with 132 pitches in the process. That pitch total is unheard of for most pitchers, but Verlander isn't most pitchers. And that's why manager Jim Leyland wasn't at all worried the following day.

"If the truth be known, if there wasn't so much made about it, he could throw 130 pitches every time," Leyland told the media on Tuesday afternoon. "It's a walk in the park for him. ... When you've got his type of arm, that's a piece of cake for him."

In fact, Leyland believes about 120 pitches is a "piece of cake" for any pitcher, and he said it should be -- even younger guys.

"[Rick] Porcello could throw 120 pitches without any problem," Leyland said of the 23-year-old right-hander. "Everybody makes a big deal about it."

Leyland spoke at length about pitch counts in general prior to Tuesday's game against the Yankees. He said that throwing 110 pitches isn't necessarily the same from one pitcher to another -- an argument he commonly makes when discussing Verlander.

Leyland also said the game has changed and that pitch counts are now blown out of proportion.

"Nobody ever thought that the pitch count would become a big thing," Leyland said. "That's a hot topic all of a sudden. It was never a hot topic. All of a sudden, it became a hot topic when agents and big contracts came into play, if you want to know the truth."

Still, Leyland isn't one to overwork a pitcher.

"We're a little nervous about [injuries]," Leyland said. "To be honest, I would never abuse any pitcher. You take a guy like Verlander, that's a pretty big investment for the Tigers -- and the kid's future."

So you won't see Verlander's pitch count ever reach 140 or 150.

"I think Justin Verlander could throw 140 pitches, and I don't think it would bother him one bit -- I truly believe that," Leyland said. "I wouldn't do it."