When it comes to his performance on the mound, Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander has done just about everything. But the perfect game has still eluded him. He’s come close, twice, but he has other accolades and achievements, including last season’s American League MVP Award and Cy Young Award. 

Verlander is a big gamer, which gives him a unique perspective when it comes to throwing a perfect game, virtually. That achievement won’t get you into Cooperstown, but it could reward you with $1 million in cash.

With the start of the Major League Baseball season, 2K Sports has kicked off its third-annual Major League Baseball 2K12 Perfect Game Challenge. Players can try as many times as they like to work their way up the virtual leaderboards until April 30, 2012 for a chance to be one of eight finalists that will compete in a live tournament to take home the giant check.

Verlander offers some strategies to win the big prize, as well as tips for those who just want to try to take the Tigers to the World Series, in this exclusive interview.

Justin Verlander MLB2K12

What’s the key to pitching a perfect game?

You’ve got to be perfect; that’s why it’s so difficult. That’s why only 20 guys have ever done it. Everything has to be right. The stars have to align. I felt like that in Toronto. I felt like it was pretty doggone close, but it just didn’t happen for me. That’s the reason why it’s so difficult.

What are some of the tips you would give to someone who is going to pick up Major League Baseball 2K12, pitch as you in the video game, and try to win the million bucks?

I guess, just try to pitch. I think that’s the best thing about this game, is it’s pretty life-like. You can’t just go out there, press a button, and throw the ball where you want. You’ve got to actually have feel and control using a joystick. I think they’ve done a really good job, actually, of making it as realistic as they could with the hitters and the way that hitters make adjustments in the game and throughout the season. You can’t just sit there as a pitcher and do the same thing every time, get guys out, and throw a perfect game. You actually have to think and play the game of baseball.

Considering you were a gamer, what impact would this have had if they had contests like this when you were a kid playing baseball video games?

I’ve always been ultra competitive and want to win at everything, so I probably would have won it.

How popular are video games in your clubhouse?

Pretty popular. I would say games like Call of Duty and stuff are pretty popular. Although, I definitely hear some guys talking about playing 2K12. I actually got some of the video games; 2K was nice enough to send me some copies. I handed them out to a bunch of my teammates, and got great reviews. The guys loved it. I think somebody came in the next day saying they hit a bomb off me. 

Do you guys check out player ratings when the new baseball video games come out?

Yeah, we do.

How happy are you with your player ratings?

I’m pretty happy. I guess I’m rated pretty doggone high. I’m on the cover, right?

Is that one of the perks of being on the cover, you get some extra player rating points?

Yeah, I think that’s definitely a perk.

How have you been able to help with the development of this baseball video game?

The one thing I thought was cool is that we had a conference call where we were talking about different ideas. I was able to give them some of my ideas about making in-game adjustments, and how batters and pitchers do that. If a batter hit the pitch, that pitch isn’t ranked as high. You won’t be very successful with that next time through, facing that same guy. The way that they were able to implement that into the game almost immediately was pretty cool.

Based on the realism of this baseball game, what can a rookie coming into the Bigs learn about the way pitchers pitch and hitters hit by playing Major League Baseball 2K12?

I believe they use the Inside Edge. It’s a scouting report, which takes all the data from the last couple of years, or whatever it may, and logs it in. Actually, it’s pretty accurate. I’ve looked at it before just messing around, using that to scout hitters and find where their hot and cold weaknesses are. 

Did you ever use a 2K Sports game to help prepare for a real game?

I didn’t actually use it for that. But if I were playing a game, playing it to have fun, I would actually look at that and try to remember how I could use it to my advantage.