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Tigers' Justin Verlander looks strong in first spring start

By Dayn Perry | Baseball Writer

High-fives all around for Justin Verlander after his spring debut. (USATSI)
High-fives all around for Justin Verlander after his spring debut. (USATSI)

MORE: Spring Training | FA tracker: position players | FA tracker: pitchers

Tigers ace Justin Verlander has been limited this spring because of the core-muscle surgery he underwent in January, but on Tuesday he made his Grapefruit League debut against the Blue Jays. The results? Quite promising, all things considered: 3 2/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 K, 2 BB. By spring standards, that's good stamina for a pitcher's first start.

Of Verlander's 52 pitches, 38 went for strikes, and he also spotted his first 11 pitches for strikes. Also impressive is that Verlander was throwing just his fastball and curve. ''I'm not throwing sliders yet. I threw three in the bullpen, the first three I threw all year and they were good,'' Verlander said afterward (source: AP). ''I just want to get down to my three main pitches first, and the slider has always been pretty easy for me to throw for strikes. It's pretty similar to throwing my fastball so it doesn't take a big adjustment for me to get that going.''

The Toronto lineup didn't include Jose Bautista, but Verlander did face Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera and Edwin Encarnacion, among others.

Verlander, age 31, is coming off a 2013 season in which he pitched to a 3.46 ERA (121 ERA+) and 2.89 K/BB ratio in 218 1/3 innings of work. He enjoyed much better results after making some mechanical tweaks in August. If Verlander stays healthy, he should be able to notch his 150th career win this season.

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