PHOENIX -- You know what would really throw some gusto into this All-Star Game?
Except, as you may have heard, because of a new rule instituted last year, starting pitchers who work on Sunday are ineligible to play in the All-Star Game.
So Verlander is here, watching the game just like you. Only difference is, Verlander gets to dress in uniform and hang out in the clubhouse.
It is a well-intentioned rule, and the spirit in which it was instituted is right (and no disrespect to the Angels' Jered Weaver, who will start for the AL and is pretty darned good himself). But it needs to be revisited.
In most cases, a pitcher throws in the bullpen two days after a start.
So there is no reason why, say, Verlander, can't contribute one inning in Tuesday's game (in what effect would be akin to a post-start bullpen session).
NL (and Giants) manager Bruce Bochy disagrees.
"I think it's a good rule," Bochy says. "I was caught in this back in '99 where a couple of pitchers pitched on Sunday, and I was actually told that they would be available for an inning. Then once they got there, [I was told] they would prefer them not to pitch, so it puts the manager in a tough spot.
"I think that takes care of that. If he throws on Sunday, he can't pitch. And that way you don't come out short-handed. We need to have all 13 pitchers available."
There you have it, same as designating a closer and refusing to change: It allows a manager to cover his rear end and shut down all critics with an easy answer along the lines of, "That's the way it is, I didn't have a choice."
No question, managers are put in tough positions at the All-Star Game, especially in regard to pitching.
A manager's first responsibility is to return pitchers healthy to their respective teams. You can't blame clubs for getting jumpy about it. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly planned to ask Bochy to only use Clayton Kershaw for one inning Tuesday night because the Dodgers have slotted Kershaw to start their second-half opener Friday in Arizona.
Still. They can't contribute one inning on Tuesday?
AL (and Rangers) manager Ron Washington said "I'm all good with it."
The Sunday rule -- and other All-Star issues -- is being discussed by players and owners as they work toward reaching a new Basic Agreement (the current one expires after this season), according to sources.
It's too early to say whether there will be a change for 2012. But certainly, the trend has been to protect players more, not less.
Verlander, who beat Kansas City on Sunday, is enjoying the scene here and said Monday he understands why the rule was put into place -- and supports it.
"I think it's probably a smart rule," he said.
Yeah, but if his Tigers advance to the World Series this year ... but have to open on the road because the NL won the All-Star Game when Verlander couldn't pitch?
Wouldn't he be angry then?
"I probably would be, in that case," he said, grinning.