Leyland regrets not pulling Verlander earlier

Leyland regrets not pulling Verlander earlier

MINNEAPOLIS -- Justin Verlander has made four starts since picking up his velocity in the opening inning. When pitching coach Jeff Jones suggested it, manager Jim Leyland knew he could have some tough calls to make when Verlander's pitch count rose, because Verlander would be throwing more pitches at more intensity.

Saturday was one of those days for him.

Leyland was second-guessing himself Sunday morning for his decision to pull Verlander one batter into what became a four-run eighth inning, but it wasn't the second-guessing you would expect. It was the opposite.

"I think I messed up yesterday, to be honest with you," Leyland said. "I probably should've taken Verlander out after the seventh, just started fresh with somebody."

Leyland wasn't going to let Verlander top 120 pitches, but he had Verlander at 111 going into the seventh. The problem with Verlander, Leyland said, is that hitters foul off a lot of pitches against him.

"That's the way I do it, for better or for worse," he said. "I'm going to try to always protect him, if I can."

Another factor Leyland cited was the potential for a division tiebreaker game Thursday, which Verlander would start if needed. With that game still in play, there's no guarantee yet that Verlander will start on extra rest. If the Tigers win American League Central outright, Verlander will get a couple extra days of rest before Saturday's Division Series opener against the Yankees or Rangers.

Even with a 6-0 lead at that point, Leyland was going to go to Joaquin Benoit at that stage as his main eighth-inning reliever, though he usually prefers to let Benoit begin an inning. Leyland admitted Sunday that the out-of-town scoreboard played a role in that decision.

"He's our best guy in the eighth inning on our team, without question," Leyland said. "I put him in because, when you see that scoreboard and you know Chicago's gonna lose, I can't lose that game. I can't mess around and take a chance. You might've brought [Luis] Marte in and he might have gotten three straight outs, but I can't lose that game."

They seem like opposing factors, going to Benoit in an all-out effort to win but not letting Verlander go past 120 pitches with the same goal.

"I learned a long time ago: There's no perfect players, and there's no perfect managers," Leyland said. "You make decisions based on what you think. I was hoping he could cruise through that eighth inning and pitch somebody else in the ninth, but he got in a little trouble there."