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Justin Verlander wins AL Cy Young Award in unanimous fashion

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In a surprise to no one, Justin Verlander was named the Cy Young Award winner for the American League for 2011 by the Baseball Writers Association of America. He earned all 28 first-place votes.

Jered Weaver finished second, followed by James Shields, CC Sabathia and Jose Valverde.

The Tigers closer had one second-place vote, three third-place votes, four fourth-place votes and three fifth place votes.

In their announcement, the baseball writers said:

It marked the ninth time an AL pitcher was a unanimous choice for the award. Three pitchers were unanimous selections twice - Johan Santana with the Minnesota Twins in 2004 and 2006, Pedro Martinez with the Boston Red Sox in 1999 and 2000 and Roger Clemens with the Red Sox in 1986 and the Toronto Blue Jays in 1998. The other unanimous winners were the Tigers' Denny McLain in 1968 and the Yankees' Ron Guidry in 1978. There have been 13 unanimous Cy Young Award winners in the National League.

This was the fourth time a Detroit pitcher had been honored. Verlander joins McLain, who won in 1968 and tied with the Baltimore Orioles' Mike Cuellar in 1969, and Guillermo (Willie) Hernandez in 1984.

Fun fact: The BBWAA reports Verlander is the first pitcher to win AL Cy Young after winning AL rookie of the year earlier in his career. It has happened five times in the NL.

A few highlights from the teleconference with Verlander follow the jump.

On winning the Cy Young Award:

I worked extremely hard for this. You know how competitive I am. Looking at the big picture of things, it would be nice to win some more. For right now, I have got to be excited with where I’m at. A lot of hard work, a lot of preparation. I couldn’t be more excited. I don’t want to look to the future right now, just want to take this in, be happy, and enjoy this with my family and friends.

On the vote being unanimous:

It means a lot. Obviously there haven’t been too many people who have got a unanimous decision. For me it means a lot.

(Here Verlander brings up Johan Santana being the AL's last unanimous winner, in 2006)

I saw him pitch in 2006. I remember being a rookie and seeing him pitch and saying, Oh my gosh. That is a big league pitcher. That is a stud.

On the MVP Award, and whether pitchers should win it:

Do I think it’s possible? Yes. Would I like to win it? Of course. If you had told me at the beginning of the year that I was going to be a shoo-in for the Cy Young Award, I would be ecstatic and amazed. I would never have thought about the MVP, until it came into the picture.

...

But you know what, I’ve go the Cy Young now and it’s an amazing experience. I feel great now that it’s been announced. It’s paid off for a lot of my hard work. I’m not going to let the MVP influence my decisions or think any less of this accomplishment. It’s something I’ve always dreamed of.

...

We are players. There’s a couple different arguments I brought up 1. The tremendous affect we have on the day of our game.

(Verlander points out that if a pitcher has a bad game, he's team is probably going to lose. A good game and the team will probably win.)

Now, position players. Flip that around and they have a great day and hit 3 homers, we can lose 3-5. I’m trying to point out how important we are to do that game. Save the bullpen day after, day before, day of.

In the the past I felt like Cy Young was kind of the (MVP) for pitchers. But now it’s not the most valuable pitcher, it’s the best statistical pitcher, which is a totally different thing. So that should bolster your case for (a pitcher being) most valuable player.

(Verlander was asked what he thought of the hitters, and he said he'd be happy if Curtis Granderson won it, as he's a good friend.)

On what made his season even better this year:

My spring training approach, I changed that a bit this year. Looking at my stats in the past, I realized Aprils were not very good for me. I tried to fast track my entire season by a month. I was very results-oriented in spring training. My April still wasn’t great, but it was a lot better. The other thing I look at is the no hitter. I had a different feeling in that game. I remember in the 5th or 6th inning walking out of the clubhouse on the stairs, it was a calm and relaxed feeling. I remember thinking, lets carry this over for the rest of the season.

As soon as I did that I went on to have the best month in my career.

(Verlander also spoke about the positive affect of pitching to contact)

On Alex Avila:

We had a good relationship. We are actually going on vacation together in the middle of December. So that speaks for our relationship.

As far as the working relationship goes, you can’t ask for anything more from a catcher. He comes in last year without much experience from behind the plate and worked extremely hard. The way you earn guys respect is hard work, and I haven’t seen anyone work harder than him. It’s almost like he got better every game. I rememeber this year after my first or second start I said something to him about blocking balls in the dirt. I’m not a catching coach by any means, but I tell him he needs to do improvement.

He takes it as constructive criticism and he goes and works on it. Literally he was 10x better the next game and throughout the rest of the year.

On offseason workouts:

Verlander is working out three times a week now, on high repetitions with free weights and on heavy lifting. He also does a lot of running work and interval training. He'll start throwing again in January to prepare for the season. He said he was at the Jets game with Rick Porcello and some guys were throwing around a football, but he decided not to.

I don’t want to do that motion at all right now, I want to give it as much time to recuperate.

Every year has been a learning experience to me as to what helps me and what doesn’t quite work. I found out a lot of things in 2008 that didn’t work for me. I had a bad year, bad spring, basically nixed all that, restart my program. I found a lot of things that do work for me. I’m going to work even harder and maybe try to have a better april. Every yearwill probably be a little different from here on out.

Finally, on the Cy Young Showdown with Jered Weaver and the Angels on July 31. Verlander and the Tigers won, 3-2:

I feel like that was a statement game. After that time we really started playing up to our capabilities. That’s when we started to really push away and separate ourselves. Just a confidence booster.