The Tigers’ new right fielder showed up in camp on Thursday. Perhaps you’ve heard of him: Some guy named Torii Hunter.
He had a few thoughts. Asked where his lineup would rank among the best in baseball, Hunter deadpanned: “If I had to make a pick, I’m not going to tell you who I’d pick -- but it would be us.”
Asked to assess how much the Royals and Indians had improved compared to the Tigers in the AL Central, Hunter heaped praise on both clubs but said: “But I can’t tell you they’re going to beat us. That don’t make sense. I work for the Detroit Tigers.”
And asked what he’d miss most about facing Justin Verlander, Hunter laughed and said: “That yack-ey.”
That yackey? OK, loosely translated, that’s Torii-ese for a “yacker,” which is baseball slang for a man-eating curveball, which Verlander has been known to unfurl a few thousand times. Especially when Hunter is up there.
“I don’t like that yack-ey,” Hunter ranted. “I’m going, ‘You throw 101. Why you throwing me yack? Don’t throw me the yack.’ I’ll ask him that during the at-bat. He’ll throw the yack, and I’ll look at him, and he’ll go . . . [Imitates Verlander grinning and shrugging.] He’d just make that face.”
Hunter shook his head. Then, a few minutes later, he headed for the clubhouse to ask Verlander in person, now that they’re teammates, how come he kept feeding him those yackeys.
“Payback,” Verlander told him, chuckling heartily. “My rookie year, I threw you a fastball and you hit a broken-bat double off me. So for like the next four years, I had to show you I remembered.
“If you noticed,” he went on, “I’d start the game throwing 93-94. Then you’d come up and whooomp, I’d have to throw 100. I don’t know if you noticed.”
“Noticed?” Hunter gulped. “I’d be watching in the dugout and I’d be saying, ‘Verlander don’t have it today. He’s only throwing 93.’ Then I’d get up there, and I’d get 98. And I’d say, ‘What was THAT?’”
Well, there’s beautiful news for him: We can guarantee that Justin Verlander won’t throw him a single yackey all season -- he’s a Tiger now. So those yackeys? They’re now somebody else’s problem.