Justin Verlander threw his first bullpen session down in Port St. Lucie as a member of the New York Mets on Tuesday, officially kicking off a new era for the franchise that sees the creation of a veteran dynamic duo between him and Max Scherzer — life without Jacob deGrom.
The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, who turns 40 next week, becomes one of the primary aces alongside Scherzer after signing a two-year, $86.7 million pact over the winter.
“We’ve already had a couple things that I know makes him more comfortable that I make sure we bring,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said as he continues to get to know his new ace. “He understands what’s going on, the expectations, the mantle of what he carries.”
Justin Verlander throws his first bullpen of the spring 💪 pic.twitter.com/0eoDHznLfb
— SNY (@SNYtv) February 14, 2023
It came just days after the Mets saw their generational homegrown ace in deGrom flee to Texas to join the Rangers with Showalter recently telling NJ.com that he would “someday… like to sit down… and explain what really happened.”
Showalter set the record straight.
“Somebody was saying Jake has some deep thing about why he didn’t [re-sign]. That got blown out of [proportion],” Showalter said. “Jake said ‘hey, we’ll talk sometime to get some closure,’ next thing I know there was some secret story… somebody ran with that thing. That’s not the case at all. Everyone can stop talking about that.
“Plus I helped him with the neighborhood he’s living in Dallas. I’m happy for him and his family.”
With deGrom firmly in the rearview mirror, Showalter sets his sights on building his relationship with Verlander.
“We’ve talked some since he’s signed and he has a solid reputation, but everybody’s different,” Showalter said. “Thank goodness they are. It’d be pretty boring if they were the same… You’re trying to serve their needs and create an atmosphere where they can [be the best they can be].
“Me and [pitching coach Jeremy Hefner] to some extent have gotten our arms around that.”
As Verlander begins to assimilate to life as a Met, there’s no early word on who is going to be the Opening Day starter between him and Scherzer.
“We’re going to check that out down here. That’s what we’re here for,” Showalter said. “It’s not a problem, it’s a good challenge to have. We might surprise you.”
He even went as far as to hint that the two could be split up in the rotation to start the season rather than going first and second in the order. That would allow one to get Opening Day on March 30 in Miami against the Marlins and the other to pitch the home opener at Citi Field on April 6.