The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

Verlander, Scherzer excited to be reunited

- By Abbey Mastracco

In an alternate universe, maybe the lunch that Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer sat down to have together earlier this week in Florida doesn’t happen. The last time the two played on the same team was in 2014 when Scherzer was 29 and Verlander 31 and if you believe what you’ve heard in the past, the duo were not the best of friends during their time together on the Detroit Tigers.

But in this universe, the one where they’re reunited on the 2023 Mets to anchor a rotation with championsh­ip aspiration­s, they’re veteran leaders and maybe even friends.

“I’m really looking forward to being here with him again,” Verlander said Wednesday at Clover Park. “We’re obviously in different situations in our lives. I think we can both look back at our time in Detroit together. We had such an incredible team but didn’t reach our ultimate goal. Hopefully, reunited here, we can achieve that.”

It almost makes sense that they would be reunited once again. Though their stories are much different, their career trajectori­es and achievemen­ts have always been similar.

They’ve both won three Cy Young Awards. They’ll both likely be first-ballot Hall of Famers. Verlander has a career ERA of 3.24 with 3,198 strikeouts and Scherzer has a career ERA of 3.11 with 3,193 strikeouts.

They’re both righthande­d power pitchers and each have a tremendous presence on the mound. They’re each being paid $43.3 million this year.

And they love to compete. Back when they were in Detroit, they competed with each other. In 2019, they competed against each other in the World Series.

Even if their personalit­ies and lives outside of baseball differ, they seem

to have a mutual respect for one another and their respective places in the game.

“I’ve gotten to learn from Ver in the past and it’s really going to be interestin­g to see him again,” Scherzer said. “I know we played together for five years, but we’ve been apart for eight now. He’s had experience­s there in Houston so it’s going to be real fun to start comparing notes and see how the game has evolved.”

Yet again, we see more

similariti­es in this respect. People like to describe sports as children’s games and while it’s said in jest, the men and women who play at high levels always know that youth and age are important. One day you’re on top and the next day the game is passing you by. Just look at how Tom Brady’s illustriou­s NFL career ended with a whimper this year. In the back of their minds, they all know success can end in an instant.

Verlander will be 40 years old in just five days. Scherzer will be 39 this summer. This era of baseball isn’t the same as when a 40-year-old

Randy Johnson finished second in Cy Young voting, right behind 41-yearold Roger Clemens. It’s not often we see two elite pitchers still putting up elite numbers in their late 30s and 40s anymore.

Scherzer grimaces a little when the subject of his age is brought up. Verlander talks about his continuing evolution and his openness to new training regimens, nutrition, analytics and, well, luck. He says his body has always recovered well from the stress put on it by baseball and fitness and he rarely gets sore.

“I think I’m constantly adapting,” Verlander

said. “I’m always seeking out new informatio­n with the end goal of that informatio­n being, I can carry my career as long as I possibly can and stay at my peak for as long as I possibly can.”

The success they’ve enjoyed individual­ly throughout the years hasn’t been easy and it’s certainly not getting easier as they age. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t enjoying it any less.

“That’s the fun part. That’s the challenge — you’ve got to figure yourself out in order to be durable,” Scherzer said. “You’re never done learning in this game. Now, especially as you age, I get new challenges put in front of me, and so this is a challenge, I gotta jump over it.”

Whether or not their relationsh­ip turns icy, it seems to be in a good place as the Mets open camp. The two are a little reluctant to say that a World Series would effectivel­y finish what they started in Detroit, and it’s easy to see why: A finish line signals the end.

Verlander and Scherzer aren’t done yet.

“Instead of kind of worrying about the end, I just like putting the blinders up and just enjoying the ride,” Scherzer said.

 ?? Seth Wenig/Associated Press ?? New York Mets’ pitcher Justin Verlander talks with reporters at a news conference at Citi Field on Dec. 20 in New York.
Seth Wenig/Associated Press New York Mets’ pitcher Justin Verlander talks with reporters at a news conference at Citi Field on Dec. 20 in New York.

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