CHICAGO -- Justin Verlander came out of college with the best fastball in his draft class. He has hit triple-digits in the late innings as a starter on at least one occasion this season. Yet, he can't even boast the best fastball on his team, which is a tribute to how far his team has come.
Seeing the Tigers crowding Baseball America's annual Best Tools survey isn't exactly a regular occurrence. Yet, turn to this year's survey of American League fastballs, released online, and there they are: Joel Zumaya first, and Verlander second.
Not only are both of them Tigers, who hadn't had a dominant fastball pitcher since Matt Anderson's younger days, but both are rookies. Their names have spread quickly enough that they've overtaken veteran fireballers in the league, at least in the eyes of AL skippers.
"We've been noticed," Dmitri Young said. "That's what it means. They do have great fastballs. When you do, people take notice.
White Sox closer Bobby Jenks, a second-year pitcher, was third.
Zumaya's fastball has already gained a reputation, from his repetition of triple-digit radar readings to his 103-mph heater last week. Verlander had his share of 100-mph readings earlier in the year, but has leveled off. Nowadays, his fastball usually hits around 96 mph, topping out at 98-99 on occasions when he needs a couple extra ticks of velocity.
In that sense, Verlander is learning to pitch like a starter. That doesn't prevent him from getting abuse for it.
"I think it's pretty funny, because Justin's kind of sensitive about it," closer Todd Jones said. "We give him a hard time. He's not only not the hardest thrower in the league, he's not the hardest thrower on the team. He always saying it's apples and oranges. 'I'm in the rotation. He's in the bullpen.'"
Detroit's twin fireballers had company among teammates on the tools list. Kenny Rogers was selected for best pickoff move. Verlander did not finish in the top three in that category, even though he entered Friday tied for the AL lead with five successful pickoffs. Ivan Rodriguez, as expected, took his place atop the voting tally for best defensive catcher.
Second baseman Placido Polanco was voted second to Cleveland slugger Travis Hafner for best strike-zone judgment and third for best hit-and-run artist behind Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. Jeremy Bonderman took the second spot for best slider behind Twins rookie Francisco Liriano. Brandon Inge, somewhat surprisingly, was voted third among best defensive third basemen, a sign that his penchant for highlight plays is starting to earn some recognition around the league.
Last, but not least, was the best manager list. Leyland, in his first year back managing, won that vote from his peers, beating out Yankees skipper Joe Torre and Twins counterpart Ron Gardenhire.
Leyland didn't bite with a reaction when asked about it Friday. As he put it, he just fills out the lineup cards and hopes his team does well.
"That's the same publication that voted me the worst hire in baseball," Leyland said, though that publication was actually The Sporting News. "Don't ask me about me. That's silly stuff."
Bondo will rest: Ever since Leyland decided to skip Verlander from the last turn through the rotation, he has said he could do the same thing with a couple of his other pitchers. On Friday, he mentioned Bonderman as one guy he may sit at some point for a stretch of time.
"It doesn't necessarily mean Bonderman will be bumped back nine days," Leyland cautioned. "It could be three extra days, whatever. Could be two extra days. So I'm not going to put a number on it. But at some point, if I think we need to do it, I'll try to freshen everybody up."
Bonderman has pitched three full seasons in the big leagues, and he hasn't necessarily shown signs of fatigue. However, like Verlander, he's 23 years old, and Leyland wants to make sure he doesn't wear down his arm.
Dmitri to sit, Pudge to play: Leyland said he hadn't yet decided on his lineup for Saturday, but he expected to sit Young against Mark Buehrle. Young entered Friday's game 3-for-9 against the White Sox this season, but that dated back to their series in April. He's 3-for-31 with eight strikeouts lifetime off Buehrle.
Ivan Rodriguez, however, might well end up playing all three games.
Travel light: The Tigers did not have to deal with the new travel restrictions on their flight to Chicago on Thursday night, since it was on the team plane. But some who flew on their own did.
Inge and catcher Vance Wilson flew commercial to Chicago on Friday morning, so they could spend the off day with their families. They arrived for their flight only to find out about the new security restrictions on arriving early. To their surprise, the line through the security checkpoint breezed along Friday, a day after reports of a foiled terrorist plot in London forced changes in security, bringing airport traffic to a crawl.
"I think we got there at the right time," Inge said. "Everybody had already gotten there three hours ahead of time and already went through it."
Coming up: The Tigers will face Buehrle (9-10, 4.89) and the White Sox in an afternoon regional broadcast on FOX. Kenny Rogers (11-5, 4.59) will start for Detroit in the 1:20 p.m. ET contest.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.