Verlander looks sharp in abbreviated Tigers win
KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP)—Justin Verlander is ready to do it all over again— with one big difference. He wants that elusive World Series title.
The ace right-hander tuned up for opening day with a crisp outing in his final spring start and the Detroit Tigers beat the Atlanta Braves 2-1 on Saturday in a game called after six innings due to rain.
Verlander went 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA last season. He won the AL Cy Young Award and was voted MVP, making for a whirlwind winter. But he’s ready to move on.
“I appreciated it a lot,” he said. “It is something I can look back on, but I won’t change my work ethic or anything because of it. It doesn’t change my desire to be the best.”
Verlander allowed four hits in six innings against Atlanta, finishing the spring with a 2.02 ERA. He struck out five and walked none.
“I didn’t have anything to work on today,” said Verlander, who will face the Boston Red Sox on Thursday. “There’s nothing more I can do. I’m just trying to pitch and treat it like it’s the regular season.”
Verlander’s first pitch against the Braves registered 96 mph on the radar gun. That might be nice in July, but it showed he was a little amped up for a meaningless exhibition game.
“That was an accident,” he laughed. “It came out a little hot.”
Still, Verlander said he isn’t satisfied. He said his curveball has been good but not great, and he did some more throwing in the bullpen after the game was called following a seven-minute rain delay.
“Curveball wasn’t great,” he said. “Everything else was all right. Fastball control got a little bit better. Changeup was pretty good. Slider got a little better.”
Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel came in for the seventh but that’s when the game was called after a seven-minute delay.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez had already seen enough by the time the game was called.
“Tommy Hanson was great,” Gonzalez said. “He got his work in and he threw strikes. He’s lined up to start the opener and he’s looking great.”
NOTES: Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he might not bring five starters north for opening day. Detroit doesn’t a fifth starter for the first homestand and that would allow the potential fifth starter to open at Triple-A Toledo. It also might need an extra position player early on because C Gerald Laird (knee) and 2B Brandon Inge (groin) are day to day. … Tigers RHP Doug Fister is scheduled to make his final spring start on Sunday against Houston in Lakeland. Leyland said he might have to mix up the other pitchers who were scheduled due to Saturday’s rain-shortened game. … Gonzalez said he saw some positive swings from 2B Josh Wilson and OF Eric Hinske off Verlander. … Gonzalez already announced that Hanson will start the season opener, but added that RHP Jair Jurrjens will start the home opener on April 13 against the Milwaukee Brewers.