Dusty Baker praises Justin Verlander, Brandon Nimmo still on Eppler’s radar – The Denver Post


SAN DIEGO — When Justin Verlander finally earned his first World Series win, his Houston Astros teammates celebrated by putting the veteran ace in a laundry cart and pushing him into the shower of the visitor’s clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park. The 39-year-old right-hander had finally shed a narrative that had plagued him throughout his illustrious 17-year MLB career.

Verlander was an easy player to celebrate during his tenure in Houston. He was a well-liked leader, which was one of many reasons the Mets were interested in signing the three-time AL Cy Young Award winner.

“He’s the man,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said Monday at Winter Meetings. “I love it when I can go full bullpen the day before he pitches, full bullpen the day after he pitches. And then he would stop all losing streaks and prolong winning streaks.”

The Mets targeted Verlander as a replacement for Jacob deGrom because of his winning pedigree and his veteran experience. His short-term, high-AAV contract will reduce some long-term risk for the club as it tries to become a sustainable winner, much like the Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Verlander has long been known for his charismatic presence on the mound, but it extends to the clubhouse as well. One source described Verlander as a “great teammate” and told the Daily News that the pitcher is constantly seeking out ways to improve and is always happy to answer questions from younger players.

“He’s a pleasure to manage because I knew what I was getting every day,” Baker said. “He’s probably gotten a little more humility since he got hurt and was out, and you appreciate what you have now.”

However, there is no getting around one major storyline: Max Scherzer and Verlander, two former Detroit Tigers teammates, don’t seem to care for one another.

The extent of their disdain is somewhat unclear. One source told the News they straight up do not like each other. But another former Tigers teammate said he never sensed a major rift between the two, though it was certainly clear they competed with one another. Either way, they never let it affect the clubhouse and were always professional in Detroit.

Neither one has ever publicly commented on the fissure but they were both asked about one another when the Astros faced the Washington Nationals in the 2019 World Series and they were respectful.

“That was a time in my career when I really kind of developed and settled into kind of the pitcher who I am,” Scherzer said at World Series media day. “In Detroit, I learned so much from everybody, and especially from Ver, of just how to go about it, attack the lineup, how you take a ball every fifth day. Just all the little things that go into being a major league pitcher. He was at the forefront of that, and we all developed together, and it was a fun time.”

Winning often means putting aside personal feelings for the betterment of the team. People familiar with Scherzer said he would never put the team in a compromising position. Whether it’s pitching while injured or sitting in the same locker room as someone he can’t stand, he always puts the team first.

It’s an interesting subplot to watch throughout the season. Verlander might be well-liked, but apparently not by everyone. However, no matter how much they like or dislike each other, there is a mutual respect and mutual goal: Winning a World Series.


Scott Boras gave his annual state of the union address to a gaggle of reporters and onlookers Tuesday afternoon in the Grant Hyatt lobby. He had his usual pithy one-liners and some odd metaphors, at one point comparing this year’s market to various pools. The Yankees, for instance, are swimming in an “infinity pool” going after a number of top players and there is no “shallow Hal,” he said, referring to Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner (and the 2001 Farrelly brothers movie of the same name, which, oddly enough, featured former Mets great Ron Darling with a bit part).

Boras did not, however, elaborate on the meetings he has been having with various teams about outfielder Brandon Nimmo. The Mets have not been especially aggressive in trying to re-sign their homegrown center fielder and are not expected to meet with him this week in San Diego, but the agent did seem to confirm the Mets still have interest in bringing back Nimmo.

“I think the Mets are on a championship Met-a-morhphis,” Boras said. “There’s nothing that I see about them that has changed their direction or attitude towards getting their best players in the market place.”



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