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Mets’ Justin Verlander ‘looking forward’ to starting home opener, watching Max Scherzer on Opening Day

Mar 26, 2023; Port St. Lucie, Florida, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) throws a pitch against the Miami Marlins during the first inning at Clover Park. / Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

Mets ace Justin Verlander started the team’s final game of spring training on Sunday, tossing 95 pitches over five innings as the right-hander is gearing up for his regular season debut.

Verlander is scheduled to start the third game of the season against the Miami Marlins on Saturday, April 1, thus allowing him to pitch the team’s home opener on April 6. The 40-year-old spoke about the honor to start the Mets first home game and how excited he is to see Max Scherzer start on Opening Day.

“I mean it’s such an honor,” Verlander said. “I think Buck [Showalter] and I sat down and we talked about it. I told him, like these decisions, I don’t ever like to force anyone’s hand. I’ve been fortunate enough to throw a bunch of Opening Days in my career. Some of my most enjoyable Opening Days are ones I didn’t pitch, sit back relax, not really relax, but you know enjoy it.

“I’m really looking forward to watching Max take the ball, quite honestly. A Hall of Fame pitcher on Opening Day and I can sit in the dugout and watch him pitch and enjoy the festivities, which is something I try to cherish if I ‘m not pitching in the game. So to have the home opener on the back side of that is an honor as well and something I’m very much looking forward to. And try to introduce myself to the Mets fans, and if anything I think I can promise the fans that I always give everything I got every single time I’m out there. I know these fans are passionate and so am I.”

Verlander said that it was never a goal of his to pitch in New York, but many players find their way to the Big Apple if they play a long enough career.

He went on to discuss his two recent spring starts and his mechanics not being where he’d like them to be at this point. Verlander gave up three runs on eight hits on Sunday and allowed two runs on two hits in his previous spring start on March 20.

“I think you’re always kind of tinkering and hardly ever are things perfect,” Verlander said. “I would’ve liked them to be a little better than my last couple of starts, but they weren’t. Just keep working, just keep working at it and studying and relying on old feel and things that you’ve fixed in the past. It also is spring training so you don’t take too much into it, but obviously you have to realize when you’re not right where you want to be. I know I’m not there.”

The veteran got hit by two comebackers during Sunday’s game, but stayed in to pitch after being checked by trainers. Showalter said that Verlander will likely be sore on Monday and the team will “take a look at it tomorrow,” but they aren’t too concerned.

“He’ll be sore tomorrow, we’ll see how he manages,” Showalter said. “One of those things you’re not really sure where it all lands until the next day or so, so we’ll take a look at it tomorrow.”

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