Retire? Astros ace Justin Verlander is just getting started
BOSTON — Justin Verlander has given no thought to retirement.
A day before the 24th postseason start of Verlander’s 14-year major league career, the 35-year-old Astros righthander likened himself in one breath to Dory from the children’s film “Finding Nemo” and, in another, 41-year-old Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
“Just keep swimming,” he said, repeating Dory’s familiar phrase. “That’s me. Just keep pitching. Just head down, prepare myself, and just keep pitching. And at the end of my career, hopefully when I look up and all is said and done, that’s cemented my legacy.”
Asked to confront both his legacy and the possibility of retirement as he grows older — “Do you want to be like Tom Brady?” one Boston reporter asked — Verlander said there’s “no set number” of seasons left in his sterling career.
“I think the goal is to be healthy and to be strong as long as I can,” he said. “I think as long as I pay attention to my body and I take care of things that typically would creep in and start to cause issues as you get older, I think you can address those early on.
“And I think treating that stuff before it becomes an issue is what makes it not become an issue, as easy as that sounds. But there’s no set number for me. I think I just want to pitch as long as I can.”
Verlander is under Astros team control until 2020 when, at 37, he would become an unrestricted free agent. In his first full season with Houston, Verlander has authored one of his finest campaigns, striking out a career-high 290 batters with a career-low and MLB-best 0.902 WHIP.
A seven-time All-Star with an MVP and Cy Young Award, Verlander will surely finish in the top-three of American League Cy Young voting again this season. He has a 1.93 ERA and a 0.77 WHIP in his last 11 playoff outings.
“He’s stood the test of time. He’s stood the test of the evolution of the game. He’s evolved as a pitcher himself with how he uses his pitches, what he believes in,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “I think he’s a future Hall of Famer.”
Verlander opted not to indulge in such reminiscing. He opposes Red Sox ace Chris Sale on Saturday in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, a series in which his legacy could be more enhanced — even if he refuses to acknowledge it.
“I’ve had a great learning experience the last five years or so,” Verlander said. “And I think that’s going to be what prepares me for the second half of my career.
“I said second half, by the way,” Verlander added, smiling toward the Brady questioner.