Justin Verlander reminds Detroit Tigers radio analyst Jim Price of a Hall of Fame pitcher he faced as a catcher for the Tigers.
"When we signed him, Dave Dombrowski asked me who Justin reminded me of," Price said, recalling a conversation with the Detroit general manager after Verlander was the second overall pick in 2004 draft. "I said Nolan Ryan because of his power fastball and power curve."
And there's something else he has in common with Ryan.
"How many guys throw harder as the game goes on?" Price asked. "Not many. The only two I can think of are Nolan Ryan and Bob Veale, when he pitched for Pittsburgh."
Veale led the majors with 250 strikeouts in 1964 for the Pirates, and Verlander currently leads the American League with 85 strikeouts. Only Johan Santana of the New York Mets has more in the majors with 86.
"And it isn't just the velocity," Price continued. "He's putting it where he wants. He is a power arm showing everybody the art of pitching. He's like Zack Greinke of Kansas City that way."
Verlander, who starts at tonight against the Baltimore Orioles, said gaining velocity late in the game is something always has done.
"I can throw as hard in the first inning as the last inning," he said. "It's important to establish a rhythm to maintain the higher velocity later."
Verlander often throws some of his hardest pitches at 98 and 99 mph in his final inning. He was doing that on the final pitches of his 1-0 shutout of the Cleveland Indians on May 8, when his 112th pitch was 98 mph.
Tigers catcher Gerald Laird shook his head and smiled.
"Most guys tend to wear down," Laird said. "But his fastball gets better as the game goes on. It's exploding more out of his hand as the game goes on. That's pretty special."
Verlander is 5-0 with a 0.85 ERA in his past six starts, and is 5-2 with a 3.55 ERA for the season. He couldn't consistently find a groove in early starts, but now he's on a roll that has many grouping him with Toronto's Roy Halladay and Greinke as the best pitchers in the league.
John Kruk, on ESPN's "Baseball Tonight," pointed to video of Verlander dealing and said, "Look at the confidence now. There's just an air about him."