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Verlander over Scherzer not unprecedented pick

Tigers don't go with reigning Cy Young winner on Opening Day, but that's hardly a first

Verlander over Scherzer not unprecedented pick

Max Scherzer isn't the first reigning Cy Young Award winner not to receive the Opening Day nod the season after being the league's best pitcher.

On Monday, Detroit manager Brad Ausmus announced that Justin Verlander -- not Scherzer, who in 2013 went 21-3 en route to winning the American League Cy Young Award -- would start the regular-season opener for the Tigers on March 31 at Comerica Park.

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Ausmus had a trio of options: Verlander, the 2011 AL Cy Young Award winner and AL Most Valuable Player Award winner; Scherzer, last year's AL Cy Young Award winner; and Anibal Sanchez, who won the 2013 AL ERA title.

In the end, Ausmus went with Verlander over Scherzer. But Ausmus' choice wasn't unprecedented.

Twenty-eight times since the Baseball Writers' Association of America began handing out the Cy Young Award in 1956 -- later given out to each league beginning in 1967 -- a reigning Cy Young Award winner hasn't started the following Opening Day.

Seven winners have been relievers: Eric Gagne (2003), Dennis Eckersley (1992), Steve Bedrosian ('87), Willie Hernandez ('84), Rollie Fingers ('81), Bruce Sutter ('79) and Sparky Lyle ('77).

Two others, Peter Vuckovich (1982) and Jim Lonborg ('67), were injured the following year -- Bedrosian, a reliever, also began the 1988 season injured -- while Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax retired following his 1967 Cy Young Award-winning season.

Oakland's Vida Blue missed the beginning of the 1972 season after holding out for more money after his '71 award, while 1969 co-AL winner Denny McLain began the '70 season suspended for his involvement in a bookmarking operation.

The reasons for the other 15 choices vary.

The most recent came when neither of the 2004 Cy Young Award winners opened the '05 season, as AL winner Johan Santana deferred to longtime Twins pitcher Brad Radke, and the Astros, then in the National League, gave the nod to Roy Oswalt over Roger Clemens.

In 2003, righty Tim Hudson received Opening Day honors for the A's despite left-hander Barry Zito winning the AL Cy Young Award the previous year.

Some decisions have been made to honor longevity with a team.

Oakland's Dave Stewart started the 1991 season over '90 winner Bob Welch, Boston's Bob Stanley over Clemens in 1987 and Kansas City's Bud Black instead of Bret Saberhagen in '86. In 1982, Fernando Valenzuela didn't start until the fourth game after winning the '81 NL Cy Young Award.

Other decisions have been decided simply by other pitchers' stature within the game.

Philadelphia's John Denny won the 1983 award, but the following Opening Day start instead went to Hall of Famer Steve Carlton. In 1980, Hall of Famer Jim Palmer received the nod for Baltimore over '79 winner Mike Flanagan.

And while 2012 NL winner R.A. Dickey started Opening Day '13 for the Blue Jays after switching teams, Catfish Hunter didn't start his first Opening Day with the Yankees in 1975 after winning the '74 award.

Including 2005, there have been four times where neither Cy Young Award winner opened the following season:

• 1982: Valenzuela and the reliever Fingers.
• 1980: Flanagan and the reliever Sutter.
• 1968: Hall of Famer Juan Marichal over Mike McCormick, with Lonborg beginning the season injured.

And then in 1970, '69 co-AL winners Mike Cuellar and McLain didn't open for their teams as Dave McNally started over Cuellar for the Orioles and McLain began the season suspended.

Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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