Justin Verlander was initially expected to be behind the other pitchers in camp, following January surgery to repair an injury he suffered doing squats during his offseason conditioning. Verlander now appears right on schedule to start for the Detroit Tigers on Opening Day, as Chris Iott of MLive.com reports that Verlander threw 20 pitches off a mound at the team’s Spring Training facilities, telling reporters afterwards that it “went very well”.
Detroit’s pitching coach, Jeff Jones, has reportedly mapped out a plan that will have Verlander make five starts during Grapefruit League play, which will line him up to take the hill on March 31st against the Kansas City Royals.
MLB.com’s Jason Beck notes that Verlander’s surgery was more extensive than expected, resulting in repairs to the lat muscles on both his left (the initial injury) and right (from years of wear and tear) sides.
The soon-to-be 31 year old right-hander is coming off a 2013 season in which he went 13-12 with a 3.46 ERA and 1.315 WHIP, tossing more than 200 innings for the seventh consecutive year. Just two years removed from a Cy Young and MVP Award winning season he’s still the ace of a talented Tigers pitching staff (despite Max Scherzer’s 2013 campaign) on a team expected to be a playoff contender. Verlander was never expected to miss significant time, but having him ready to go right from Game 1 will be an added boost to this Tiger team.