05/13/2004 9:00 AM ET
Justin time, Part I
Verlander and Orenduff share name, college experience
Old Dominion's Justin Verlander and
Virginia Commonwealth's Justin Orenduff
have a lot more in common than just their first
name. They are conference rivals, Team
USA teammates, close friends and
possible first-round draft choices in
the upcoming First-Year Player Draft.
|Justin Verlander (right) and Justin Orenduff are friends, rivals and possible first-round picks. (courtesy Old Dominion)
On April 9, the two college aces faced
each other in a highly anticpated
matchup of two of the amateur ranks' top
right-handed pitchers. Unlike so many of
these over-hyped battles, this one lived
up to advanced billing. In front of a
capacity crowd at ODU and in front of
more than 40 scouts, Verlander pitched a
complete-game shutout, striking out 16.
Orenduff was the tough-luck loser, but
he struck out 11 in his eight innings of
For the season, Verlander has gone 4-5
with a 3.67 ERA, striking out 108 and
walking 36 in 76 innings pitched.
Opposing batters are hitting just .225
against him. Orenduff is 3-4 with a 2.71
ERA, striking out 96 and walking 21 over
76.1 IP. He's held hitters to a .230
The day after the marquee matchup on
April 9, both Justins sat down with MLB
.com's Jonathan Mayo in a lengthy
conversation that will appear in two
parts about their friendship, their
rivalry and their future as
to Justin Orenduff and Justin Verlander on
MLB.com: This was the second time
you guys pitched against each other. Did
you know each other at all when you
faced each other last year?
Justin Orenduff: We didn't know
each other really.
Justin Verlander: It was more
like we knew of each other.
MLB.com: Did you guys make any
kind of eye contact or anything during
the April 9 game?
Orenduff: During the game, no. We
had a brief chat before the game, but
that was it.
Verlander: Before the game, we
said hello. But then it was game time.
MLB.com: A lot of people were
looking forward to the April 9 game. Do
you think it lived up to the hype?
Orenduff: It was everything I
expected it to be. I played here in high
school. The crowd was good, the
atmosphere was electric. I think we gave
the crowd everything they wanted.
Verlander: I think we both
pitched very well. Duff got a few bloop
hits, that's it. We gave the fans what
Orenduff: The strikeouts (27
combined) added something to the crowd.
Verlander just got in a groove and his
stuff was unhittable. It was pretty
MLB.com: Were you able to
appreciate the game as it happened?
Verlander: That came more after.
During the game, you're focused on what
you can do more than what's happening.
Orenduff: On the field, you
forget about the friendship. Afterwards,
you can appreciate the game. You want
your team to come out on top, and in the
back of your mind you want your friend
to pitch well.
In the seventh inning of the game,
Verlander got two outs with two pitches.
The next batter, VCU catcher Jeff
Parrish, was called out of the batter's
box by the third base coach, perhaps to
disrupt Verlander's timing. Verlander
appeared to glare at the pair and the
first pitch to Parrish was clocked at 99
mph and went about 10 feet over his
head. Verlander then proceeded to strike
out Parrish on three pitches, one of
which was also clocked at 99.
MLB.com: What did you think of
the incident in the seventh inning?
Orenduff: It happens to all of
us. Whether it slipped or he just wanted
to establish the inside of the plate,
that's our domain. It's a part of
baseball. I don't take it personally. He
gets pumped up. Maybe he was making a
MLB.com: There were more than 40
scouts at that game. How do you deal
with all of that attention?
Verlander: At this point,
especially after playing for Team USA,
when there were a lot of scouts around,
it gets to the point you don't even
notice them out there. With the fans (on
April 9), I had to calm myself down a
few times, take a few breaths.
Orenduff: I'm the kind of guy who
doesn't let much get to me. I don't
think I have to be a different pitcher
out there (with all the scouts watching
MLB.com: Did you guys raise your
level of performance because you were
pitching against each other?
Orenduff: Definitely. April 9 was
built up even before the season began.
We couldn't wait until the game came
around. It was fun, exciting and very
MLB.com: It seemed like every time
one of you did something like struck out
the side, the other one had to answer
Verlander: After a quick inning,
you have to get your team back hitting
again. There were certain innings which
were pivotal to have a quick inning.
MLB.com: What's Justin Orenduff
like as a person? Anything surprising?
Verlander: He's a really nice
guy, one of the nicest I've ever met.
He's really down to earth. Our
relationship was built over the summer.
I remember when we first met, we said
the same exact thing.
MLB.com: What did you say?
Orenduff: It was something like,
'How's it going? Pretty good.'
Verlander: We said it at the
exact same time. It was pretty funny.
MLB.com: And what's Verlander
Orenduff: Coming into the trials,
we were both CAA pitchers, so they
paired us together. He's...
Verlander: I'm more of a goofball
than you are.
Orenduff: I'd heard that about
him. But he's a pretty normal guy.
MLB.com: What things did you
Orenduff: Like when he went on
road trips, he'd jump up and down on the
beds (in hotels).
Verlander: Come on now.
MLB.com: And none of that
happened with Team USA?
Orenduff: We wrestled a few
times. I had to take him down.
Verlander: Tell the truth now.
MLB.com: That seems to fit your
perceived personalities on the mound.
Duff, you're seen as calmer, more
composed. Verlander, you're, I don't
want to say 'hothead,' but you're a guy
who shows his emotions more on the
Verlander: I've had to work on
that. I've gotten much better at it,
especially this year.
MLB.com: After rooming together
for Team USA, any deep secrets you can
reveal about each other that others don't know about?
Verlander: This kid loves the
show "Dawson's Creek." That's all I got
Orenduff: He does this weird
thing with his throat.
Verlander: (Makes the sound). My
throat gets scratchy sometimes.
Orenduff: He does it when he's
MLB.com: How valuable was the
whole Team USA experience?
Orenduff: Pitching for Team USA,
with the quality of the players behind
you, it made it easy. We had great
fielders behind us, so you knew if you
made your pitches and the ball was put
into play, they would make the plays.
That's a great feeling. They weren't
just great players, they were great
guys. Really down to earth. Having the
experience of playing at that high of a
level, I felt fortunate to be there.
Verlander: Playing with guys like
that, you naturally want to step up your
ability. It was a privilege to pitch on
that team. There was just an aura of
winning the whole summer. I'm hopeful I
can bring some of that back here (ODU is
MLB.com: How often do you guys
talk or see each other?
Verlander: I'd say every couple
of weeks or so. We got together a couple
of times, too.
Orenduff: We hung out on New
Year's. We threw a little before the
MLB.com: What kinds of things do
you guys have in common, other than
baseball? What do you do when you get
Orenduff: We talk about every-day
stuff. We both have had girlfriends for
a while, so sometimes we talk about our
Verlander: You're stretching now
... We just like having down time
together. Sometimes it's good just to
hang out with a friend. You know
leisurely, like playing golf. We should
Orenduff: I'm getting there. I'm
getting a set of clubs.
MLB.com: Do you guys share
pitching tips, or give each other advice
on how to deal with the pressure you're
Verlander: I do reacall phone
calls where we talk about stuff like
that. If we have ideas, we help each
Orenduff: It goes back to over
the summer. The four starters on Team
USA each brought something different to
the table. It was like a learning
factory, learning about grips, long-toss
programs, bullpen sessions, that kind of
Verlander: You're going to teach
me to throw a good slider, though.
COMING IN PART II: Verlander and Orenduff
give each other a scouting report and
talk about preparing for draft day.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.