Justin Verlander couldn’t help but take a moment during his spring training debut with the New York Mets to look down at his new uniform.
“I’m not looking down when I’m pitching [but] I did glance down on my way out,” he said on Saturday. “I just looked down and said ‘this is pretty cool.’ It’s only a couple times in my career that I’ve changed uniforms.”
The 40-year-old future Hall-of-Famer is starting what is perceived to be the final chapter of his pitching career with the Mets after signing a two-year, $86.6 million deal in December. This isn’t simply a case of a star coasting down the back nine of his career and fading toward mediocrity, though.
Verlander is the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner and was brought on by the Mets to help fill the void left by Jacob deGrom jumping ship and heading to the Texas Rangers in free agency.
“A lot of fun comes with that,” Verlander said. “It’s a bit nerve-wracking, but new challenges are what help you write fun chapters in your life. Hopefully, this can be one of them.”
The three-time Cy Young Award winner and nine-time All-Star went the first three innings of the Mets’ 15-4 victory over the Miami Marlins on Saturday afternoon, allowing one run on two hits while striking out three.
“It felt great to be out there,” Verlander said. “The pitch clock was something I wanted to get used to. There might be a couple of little adjustments I have to make there. I really just wanted to go out there and feel like I can just do things very normally and see if there’s anything that needed to be adjusted. Just one or two things, nothing major, so that’s good.”
Verlander’s fastball topped out at 96 mph while throwing 35 pitches. He also threw all four of his pitches, including a changeup that he is attempting to reintroduce to his arsenal in 2023 after moving away from it in recent years.
“After that, it’s just ‘how’s my stuff?'” he said. Control felt pretty good but I don’t want to be too nitpicky this time of year… You have to allow your body a chance to get used to moving fast again.”