DETROIT - Prior to Wednesday's game against the Indians, Tigers pitcher threw his regularly scheduled bullpen session between starts - with an unlikely catcher.
Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard, fresh off a rookie season that's sending him to Las Vegas later this month as a finalist for the Calder Trophy, donned baseball's tools of ignorance and squatted behind the bullpen plate, eager to see if he could handle the heat from the staff ace.
In many ways, he was more nervous than he was the first time he took the ice with the Red Wings.
"I was more nervous having him bring it," said Howard. "You watch him on TV and he's throwing it 98 miles an hour some nights. I was back there at first a little shaky, but he has great control and everything like that so he put it right in the glove."
Verlander, 5-4 this season and looking to rebound from two consecutive losses, playfully jabbed at Tigers catcher Gerald Laird throughout the session, saying Howard had what it took.
"On a scale of one to ten, against Gerald, I'd have rank him a ten," said Verlander through a grin. "He's a much better receiver."
Clearly, Verlander was kidding, but he was impressed with Howard's abilities behind the dish.
"He did a really good job," said Verlander. "I was really impressed, especially with breaking balls. I thought he'd be really good with fastballs because there's not much movement, similar to a puck, but with the breaking balls he did a much better job than I anticipated. He caught all of them."
As for the prospect of Verlander lacing up skates to take a few shots at Howard at Joe Louis Arena? Unlikely.
"I told him you won't see me on skates on the ice," said Verlander. "That's not gonna happen, unless I'm holding onto the rail or something. Last time I was on something that moved under my feet I broke my right wrist when I fell back. I was about nine, so that's not gonna happen."
For now, #35 will walk away impressed with #35.
"I didn't even think about that," said Howard when asked about sharing the same number. "I'll have to bring that up when I see him again in the clubhouse."