Justin Verlander to A.J. Hinch: No place like Detroit when Tigers are winning
When Verlander found out former Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch had been hired to manage the Tigers, he offered a piece of knowledge in a Friday morning text message, about what to expect when the team escapes the rebuild and starts winning again.
"There's no place like it," Verlander said, according to Hinch. "It's an incredible place of a loyal fan base that wants baseball played the right way, wants baseball played a winning way. And they have a deep-rooted history, love affair with the Tigers and English 'D'."
Hinch was Verlander's manager in Houston from the time he was traded from Detroit in August 2017 through the end of the 2019 season. They developed a "great relationship" together with the Astros, Hinch said.
Verlander pitched the Tigers to a pair of World Series appearances. They fell short in the 2006 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, the same season Verlander was named Rookie of the Year with a 3.63 ERA in 186 innings, and then in the 2012 World Series against the San Francisco Giants.
The city rallied for the organization in 2006, after it returned to the postseason for the first time since 1987, under first-year manager Jim Leyland.
"He said nothing but incredible things about his experience here," Hinch said.
Detroit reached the ALCS three years in a row from 2011-13 before falling in the 2014 ALDS with first-year manager Brad Ausmus.
In Houston, Verlander won his first World Series and second AL Cy Young Award (his first came with the Tigers in 2011). He is 43-15 with a 2.45 ERA in 477 innings across 74 starts in his career with the Astros.
"He's an all-timer, Hall of Famer," Hinch said about Verlander. "Incredible competitor. We had some incredible experiences together."
Verlander missed all but one start of the 2020 season because of Tommy John surgery and is likely to miss all of 2021, after which he will be a free agent. The Tigers traded him in exchange for three prospects: right-hander Franklin Perez, outfielder Daz Cameron and catcher Jake Rogers.
Rogers and Cameron made their MLB debuts in 2019 and 2020, respectively, and aim to make the big-league roster out of spring training.