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Justin Verlander is Back to His Old Self, but was the Detroit Tigers' Ace Gone in the First Place?

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Detroit Tigers Need to Send Justin Verlander to Bullpen
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Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander doesn't want to be subjected to a pitch count. He says he gets stronger …

COMMENTARY | When you're a superstar pitcher, expectations are always high for every start. Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander is no different.

It's no secret that Verlander's velocity has been down this season. That, along with struggling through three May starts, ushered in talks of regression, which made people everywhere wonder if this was the new Verlander.

Any remaining talks of regression were put to rest after Verlander dazzled the Pittsburgh Pirates through seven innings on Memorial Day, allowing only three runs while racking up 13 strikeouts.

It's apparent Verlander is now back to his old self, but was he really gone in the first place?

Before his mini-slump, Verlander, like many of his peers, experienced a drop in fastball velocity. He averaged 93.2 MPH on his fastball in April, which was blamed on Detroit's cold temperatures at the beginning of the season. Even with the loss of zip, Verlander had an impressive month of April, going 3-2 with a 1.83 ERA and 41 strikeouts.

Verlander struggled against the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers once the calendar turned to May, which heightened the velocity issue.

On May 11, Verlander's struggles began after walking five Indians in the loss. On May 16, he was simply beat by an explosive Rangers' offense on four days rest, something that should've been expected in a hitter's paradise like Arlington. And on May 22, Verlander ran into bad luck after a lengthy rain delay and allowed five earned runs.

Verlander's struggles through three May starts were just something that happens through the course of a season. Even then he was still the same pitcher that he's always been.

Three bad games do not spoil a great start to 2013-- 6-4 with a 3.68 ERA, 82 strikeouts, and seven quality starts-- by any means. The drop in velocity shouldn't be an issue at this point, as the fastball zip should return once the consistently hot temperatures arrive.

The old Verlander has returned, but he was never gone to begin with.

Ricky Lindsay has followed the Detroit Tigers and Major League Baseball with a close eye from Metro Detroit for several years. He's a sportswriter for his college newspaper, The Michigan Journal, and broadcasts games for the Michigan Lightning, a semi-professional football team.

You can find him on Twitter @RLindz35.

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