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10/04/06 12:30 AM ET

Verlander's approach no different

Expectations exceeded all season, righty set for Game 2 start

NEW YORK -- Putting their prized rookie right-hander on the shelf for a few extra days might not have helped the Tigers much during their rough weekend against the Royals.

But it helped Justin Verlander.

Verlander, the Tigers' Game 2 starter in the American League Division Series against the Yankees, said his arm benefited from his being skipped in the rotation on Saturday.

"There was definite fatigue going on," Verlander said. "I was a little bit tired. But I could have pitched. I think we were all under the assumption I could have gone. But it was best that I miss one and get ready for the postseason."

The postseason beckons for the 23-year-old Verlander (17-9, 3.63 ERA), who is wrapping up a sensational first full season in the big leagues. A young man who has endured some tough tests as the year has progressed will draw his stiffest challenge yet. And the Tigers, down a game in this best-of-five set, will be counting on him now, more than ever.

"It's definitely a new test," he said. "You know, the postseason is just another thing that I haven't experienced yet, just like everything else was this year."

This test, of course, includes that much-praised Yankee lineup, which ran all over Nate Robertson in Game 1. Verlander heard about the lineup ad nauseam during a brief session with reporters before Tuesday's game.

"What about that lineup you're facing?" one reporter asked.

"Do you have to pitch differently against that lineup?" asked another.

"Can you talk about the ferocity of this Yankees lineup?" asked a third.

And, finally, "Have you ever seen anything like this Yankees lineup, from Little League on?" was the final question of the day.

OK, he gets it. It's a tough lineup.

Verlander, though, said he doesn't want to treat it any differently than he would any other team's.

"I think that's where you might be able to get in trouble is if you pitch differently or change your approach to these guys," he said. "I'm going to continue to do what I've done all year, be aggressive and just go after them."

Besides, he's seen tougher than what the Yankees have to offer.

"They're pretty tough to get out when the ball is sitting up on a tee," Verlander said, thinking back to his T-ball days. "That was probably the only better lineup I faced than these guys."

Verlander has faced the Yankees only one other time in his career, and that start came back on June 1 at Comerica Park. It certainly wasn't one of Verlander's better outings of the year. He was roughed up for six runs on seven hits, walking four and striking out four in five innings of a no-decision.

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As tough as the lineup Verlander will be facing is, it's the starting pitcher he'll oppose that drew the most praise from Verlander.

Growing up in Virgina, where Baltimore Orioles games were typically on the airwaves in the 1990s, Verlander gained an appreciation for watching Mike Mussina, the Yanks' starter for Game 2.

"I used to watch him all the time," Verlander said. "Without a doubt, he's a great pitcher. He really knows how to set up hitters and use his stuff. It's kind of an honor to throw against him."

Upon hearing that Verlander was a fan of his growing up, Mussina was asked how he felt.

"Young," was his tongue-in-cheek reply, before getting serious. "I've been playing this game a long time. If there's people playing the game now who watched me pitch 13 or 15 years ago and learned something from it or wanted to watch me pitch more often, that's great."

Verlander must have learned something. He wasn't much less effective in his first season than Mussina was in his rookie year of 1992, when "Moose" went 18-5 with a 2.54 ERA.

And now that Verlander is well-rested for his next challenge, he hopes he can outduel one of his former heroes.

"My arm feels great right now," he said. "I feel like it's coming back strong, and the two previous times I did this, I came back and felt good, so there's no reason to think it wouldn't be the same way now."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.