LAKELAND, Fla. -- Justin Verlander has decided against pitching in the World Baseball Classic, costing the tournament yet another star.
Verlander was not on the initial Team USA roster, but tournament officials left a spot open for him, very much hoping that he would agree to pitch. Verlander agreed to think about it, but after throwing two bullpen sessions last week, he decided that he wasn't advanced enough in his preparation to allow him to participate in the WBC.
"I don't want to feel rushed to catch up," Verlander said. "I want to do it the right way. I spoke with [manager Joe Torre]. I told him, in all honesty, I wanted to pitch."
Verlander said he pushed back his offseason schedule this winter, because he pitched so many innings and pitched so deep into October. Verlander's final start was on Oct. 24, in Game 1 of the World Series, and it left him with 266 2/3 innings, including both the regular season and the postseason.
"If we hadn't gone to the playoffs, it would have been no problem at all [to pitch in the WBC]," Verlander said. "As it was, I knew it was going to be a longshot, but I wanted to give it a shot."
The timing of the WBC has always been an issue for players, especially pitchers. David Price and Clayton Kershaw also opted against pitching, so Verlander's decision means that Team USA will be missing arguably the top three American pitchers.
Gio Gonzalez of the Nationals announced Saturday that he would pitch for Team USA. Gonzalez and R.A. Dickey will be the top starters on the U.S. team.
The WBC has also lost some of its stars from other countries. Felix Hernandez dropped off the Venezuelan team last week, and Yu Darvish announced earlier that he wouldn't pitch for the Japanese team.
Arriving back in Tigers camp after a weekend trip to play in the Pebble Beach Pro Am, Verlander had little to say about his contract status. Verlander isn't eligible for free agency until after the 2014 season, but the Tigers would like to sign him to an extension this year.
Hernandez's pending seven-year, $175 million contract with the Mariners set a bar for starting pitchers that Verlander will certainly expect to top. But Verlander was typically vague about any negotiations, choosing just to repeat that his intent is to remain with the Tigers for his whole career.
"I love Detroit, man," Verlander said. "I grew up in front of these fans and earned my way into their hearts."
Verlander loved the experience of playing at Pebble Beach, and said he hopes to be asked to return next year. Verlander and Robert Garrigus finished tied for 13th in the tournament.
Playing a golf tournament in California brought only one small negative for Verlander, who had to listen to Giants fans remind him about Pablo Sandoval's two Game 1 home runs.
"What a horrible year to go out there," Verlander said with a smile. "If we win the World Series and I go back, I'll have all sorts of stuff to say. I'll have shirts made and everything."