DETROIT Max Scherzer is stern and focused on the mound. Hes all business with a ball in his right hand and a batter sizing him up 60 feet, 6 inches away.
And business has been great for Scherzer, whose vastly improved curveball has made him a likely All-Star and possible 20-game winner.
In the clubhouse, Scherzer is different. He can usually be found joking with somebody or running a pool on the latest major sporting event.
I try to stay positive, no matter what, Scherzer said. Im living my dream by playing baseball for a living. I enjoy every day I can play this game.
There are so many different characters on this team. We have all kinds of people from all kinds of different countries. (Justin) Verlander is a character all the time. Theres Latin music playing, and Im running all the pools. The one now is on the NBA Finals. We even have a video guy (Jeremy Kelch) who talks trash.
We sat in the dugout at Comerica Park before batting practice on the last home stand, discussing his life inside the game and off the field.
But there was one topic he wouldnt discuss his younger brother, Alex, who took his life on June 21, 2012, after battling depression for many years.
Im just not talking about it now, said Scherzer, who stared straight ahead and waited for the next question.
Id spoken with Scherzer three years ago about how Alex, an assistant financial analyst, got him involved in using advanced metrics to analyze baseball statistics. Alex once told Max that, because of the rise in his fly-ball outs, he was bound to give up some homers.
Max indeed gave up two homers in the next game and has used metrics in that regard since.
There are very few things about baseball and life that dont remind Max of his brother. They were extremely close.
Sometimes, though, the door should remain closed to the public on such private thoughts, and life in many other ways has been good to Scherzer.
He finds joy in his hobbies scuba diving, golf, travel and mostly in the love of his life, Erica May.
Weve been together ever since we met in college at Missouri, said Scherzer, who was drafted in the first-round by the Arizona Diamondbacks after his junior season in 2006. She was a softball player, and we were working out at the training facility. I came to find out, she was a pitcher, and she really caught my eye.
So it was her pitching that did it?
It was the total package, Scherzer, 28, said with a grin. She has the looks and smarts, too. We plan to be married this offseason.
May, 27, was a history major at Missouri. Scherzer said she finished up her degree at Colorado State and is working on-line for an MBA degree.
Scherzer, who scored 35 out of a possible 36 on the American College Test, studied business finance at Missouri.
Seems like a perfect match. Theyre both smart, appealing ... and can pitch.
Theyve also teamed up with Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski and his wife, Karie Ross, in supporting a tiger preservation program that began with Ross Pennies for Paws donations, then branched to the Fish and Wildlife Commission's Endangered Species Fund.
Congressional legislation created a tiger stamp that sends a portion of its cost to Wildlife Without Borders.
Scherzer lives in Birmingham, Mich., during the baseball season, but he and May spend winters in Scottsdale, Ariz., where Camelback Mountain with vistas of Phoenix, Tempe and Scottsdale is a weekly climb he makes.
I run Camelback, and its an overall fitness test, Scherzer said. It takes me a half hour to get to the top up a park path, and theres some hand-over-fist climbing as you move up the mountain. I hate running a mile and long distances; its boring.
But this climb is adventurous, and there is a good sense of accomplishment at the top of the mountain. Its fun to see the whole valley and the geography of Phoenix. Its cool to watch a whole city from one point.
Adventure lights up Scherzers eyes.
Scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and in Maui was just great, he said. Youre down there swimming with sea turtles and whitetip reef sharks. Its an adrenaline rush, but its safe.
Life with the Tigers is another kind of adventure what with the clubhouse pools, salsa music and Verlander.
I asked Scherzer to describe his friendship with Verlander. Scherzer shook his head and chuckled before saying, Hes hard to describe. Hes probably the best pitcher in the game and can dominate. And hes fun to have on the team, even if it cost 140 million to keep him around.
It was another zinger for his buddy, who signed an extension through at least 2019 that is guaranteed to pay him 180 million.
I mentioned that the two of them seem to enjoy one-upping each other.
People infer that onto us, Scherzer said, but I would not describe it that way at all. Both of us are on the same team, and were trying to win as many games as possible. The more talent on a team, the better off you will be.
Scherzer is 8-0 with a 3.24 ERA headed into Tuesday nights start at Kansas City. Hes tied for second in the American League in wins behind Bostons Clay Buchholz (9-0).
Scherzer's 100 strikeouts (third), .185 opponent batting average (second) and 0.89 WHIP (second) were among the leagues best through Sundays games.
Hes on pace to win 22 games, and I asked about the significance that plateau would have for him.
Twenty wins would mean Im pitching well with a good team behind me, said Scherzer, who was 16-7 last year. The ultimate goal of winning the World Series is all that matters here.
"The sole purpose of everybody here -- from the manager to the general manager and through everybody in the whole system -- is about winning the Series.
One things for sure, theyll enjoy the quest.