LAKELAND, Fla. -- Justin Verlander is a three-time All-Star, has logged 200-plus innings for four consecutive seasons, has won 37 decisions over the past two and owns a career 3.81 ERA.
So what to work on in spring training?
"I'm a little more focused on some things I need to come out of the gate strong," Verlander was saying the other day in Lakeland.
Last April, Verlander went 1-2 with a 5.53 ERA over five starts.
Put those aside, and the Pride of Old Dominion University was 17-7 with a 3.07 ERA the rest of the way beginning on May 1.
It's been a disturbing pattern: Over the past three Aprils combined, Verlander is 3-8 with a 6.28 ERA over 16 starts.
That's why Verlander this spring is keeping a list of five bullet-point items in his locker.
"Every day I'll look at that list," he says. "They're just some things I worked on in April when things weren't going right. Things that helped me get to my May and June form."
In a way, Verlander is concentrating on his own Daylight Savings Time program.
"Trying to set the clock forward a month," he says, grinning. "To May."
He was not specific in what those bullet points are.
But he is specific when he's on the field.
"I don't just work on those things when I'm throwing in the bullpen," Verlander says. "I'm working on them at other times, too. Like even when I'm playing catch every day."
As they say, spring forward ... and try to avoid falling back.
Sunblock Day? Only another suitable-for-framing 85-degree day with no humidity.
Likes: Love Josh Beckett wondering if Boston can win 100 games and Philadelphia's Jimmy Rollins is predicting 100 wins for the Phillies. We'll see. ... The gulf at Punta Gorda off of I-75 is a beautiful sight on a sparkling, sunny day. ... Things are going much better on the drives since I picked up an iPod plug-in for the rental car's auxiliary jack instead of relying on the cigarette lighter cable that tunes to a particular radio frequency. Crystal clear music for the drives now, instead of intermittent static.
Dislikes: So at 7 Sunday morning, I'm in Circle K getting coffee (OK, there's the first problem). I head to the men's room. It's locked. The gal behind the Circle K counter sees this and instructs me, "Use the other one." Really? The ladies' room? "Nobody's in it," the gal says. At this point, it sounds like the men's room is out of order. So still in an early-morning haze, I open the ladies' room door and take a step in. And there's a lady sitting there on the toilet, pants at her ankles, and she immediately throws up her hands and lets out a scream. Rightfully so. The Circle K woman apologizes profusely. I get my coffee, pay and get the hell out of there as quickly as I can before the lady emerges from the restroom.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"It was 1990 give or take I don't remember
"When the news of revolution hit the air
"The girls hadn't even started taking down our posters
"When the boys started cutting off they're hair
"The radio stations all decided angst was finally old enough
"It ought to have a proper home
"Dead, fat or rich, nobody’s left to bitch
"About the goings on in self destructive zones"
-- Drive-By Truckers, Self-Destructive Zones