Richard Justice

Verlander's move to Astros all about winning

Verlander's move to Astros all about winning

What do I do? Trust your instincts. No, seriously, what do I do? Trust your instincts. Wait, what are your instincts telling you?

That's the conversation Justin Verlander kept having with himself last Thursday night, after he was given around 45 minutes to decide whether or not to accept a trade from the Tigers to the Astros.

As we all know now, he accepted.

"Ultimately, it came down to winning," said Verlander.

In the end, it was probably just that simple -- and he'll make his debut for his new team on Tuesday in Seattle.

"That's when the bell rings, and it's go time," said Verlander. "Everything up until then is just kind of talking in the locker room and getting to know the guys a little bit. And then you go to war with them. That's what it's about."

His arrival was greeted with excitement in the Astros' clubhouse, by a team that has the American League's best record (82-53 heading into Sunday) and has been alone atop its division since April 14.

Into this mix comes a 34-year-old right-hander who is one of the best pitchers of his generation.

"We don't need him to be anything more than himself, but himself is pretty good," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Looking forward to getting him on the field. When that day happens, our team is going to feel like we can win.

"And when you can look at someone and say, 'Hey, we feel like we can win because of you,' that's as much respect as you can give a guy in this game."

Verlander's resume says as much.

He was on five postseason teams during 13 seasons with the Tigers. He's a former AL Cy Young Award winner and Most Valuable Player, both in 2011. He's also a six-time All-Star who has finished in the Top 5 in Cy Young voting four other times.

Keuchel discusses Verlander

"We couldn't have gotten anyone more perfect," Hinch said.

Verlander is walking through the door at a time when the Astros are finally getting whole again. They got one All-Star -- shortstop Carlos Correa -- back on Sunday and will see another, right-hander Lance McCullers Jr., return on Wednesday.

After two tough months -- the Astros were 20-22 during Correa's recovery from a torn left thumb ligament -- they finally are close to being at full strength and are as well positioned for a long October run as they could be.

"You could tell [by] the vibe and energy we had [during Saturday's doubleheader sweep of the Mets]," pitcher Dallas Keuchel said. "You could just tell it was back to what it was whenever we were running off some quality wins in a row. That's what we wanted to get back to.

"When you finally make a move, it's amazing what it does for the clubhouse, what it does for the city, what it does for a community. I think we all saw it [on Saturday]."

As for Verlander, he could have passed for the happiest man on earth by the time he showed up in the Astros' dugout on Saturday. He smiled broadly, chatted up his new teammates and, as he said, "felt like the new kid in school."

Now, about Thursday night.

"If you're to put it in perspective, whatever you've become accustomed to -- living here or living there," said Verlander. "[When] somebody says, 'Hey've you got 35 or 40 minutes to decide if you want to move somewhere else. You don't know anybody. You don't know anything about it. Go.'

"That's a tough decision to make. All those emotions and all those feelings that come with it are what was running through my mind.

"The next morning, I woke up and I'm like, 'All right, I'm going to a playoff atmosphere.' This is it. This is what we play this game for. You play this game to win. It is what it is. So I'm excited to be part of a ball club that has a chance to win."

Richard Justice has been a reporter for since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.