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08/25/09 3:21 AM ET
Verlander shrugs off flareup with Laird
Tigers battery has heated exchange in dugout Monday
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland called Monday a learning experience for his young ace, Justin Verlander. Keeping disagreements out of public view might've been part of the lesson for Verlander and catcher Gerald Laird. What appeared to be a difference of opinion on pitch selection turned into a seemingly heated verbal dispute between pitcher and catcher in the middle of the Tigers dugout between innings on Monday night in a nationally televised game at Angel Stadium. Both Verlander and manager Jim Leyland chalked it up to the heat of the moment and suggested things had been settled after the Tigers held onto the 10-7 win over the Angels. "It's one of those things that's in the heat of the battle," Verlander said. "It wasn't going well. He's fired up. I'm fired up. It's nothing." The problems stemmed from Verlander's sixth-inning demise, when the All-Star right-hander took a 10-0 into the inning and left with two outs and four runs in. Leyland pulled Verlander, who was clearly frustrated as he stepped off the mound and stared at his approaching manager but remained in the Tigers dugout as Bobby Seay struck out Chone Figgins for the final out. Once Laird came back into the dugout, the two exchanged words. Replays showed Laird standing over Verlander in the dugout pointing toward the mound as he said something to Verlander, who quickly sprung up and answered back. Seay alertly got between the two before anything more could develop. "That was just one of those things. We're in the heat of the battle," Verlander said. "I said something he didn't like. He said something I didn't like. It's whatever. It's not a big deal. It's the heat of the game. We need to win every game we can the way things are going. That's going to happen over the course of the season. There's nothing even really to talk about. Me and him are fine. It's nothing." Laird, who has family in the area, left quickly after the clubhouse opened after the game and was not available for comment. Leyland chalked up the matter as part of a sixth inning in which Verlander needed to take control of the game. "It think it was some mixup on what they wanted to throw to somebody. You know how that goes," Leyland said. "I think he just got frustrated. It appeared to me he got a little frustrated and he wasn't quite sure what to do. "It's a good lesson. There's nothing wrong with that. That's one that he's got in his pocket now and he's got in his memory bank for the rest of his career, and I doubt that will ever happen again." When asked about Verlander's look as Leyland made his move to pull him, Leyland brushed it off, but made his point. "I don't care about that. I make the moves," Leyland said. "I'll make the pitching changes when I think it's time to make them. But it was time to make it." If the venue for pitcher and catcher to vent seems familiar for the Tigers, it's the same ballpark where former Tigers catcher Ivan Rodriguez and then-youngster Nate Robertson had a similar disagreement on pitch selection five years ago. That Aug. 14, 2004, dispute actually began on the mound after a Robb Quinlan homer on a 3-0 pitch, then continued into the dugout after the inning. "Unfortunately in this day and age, everything gets seen," then-manager Alan Trammell said the next day. "Things like that have been happening for 100 years, but in this day and age, it's going to be played up.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.