LAKELAND, Fla. -- Justin Verlander's live batting practice sessions often include enough four-letter words to require at least a PG rating. He tends to be tough on himself, even in the early days of Spring Training.
That's what made his second live BP session so unusual Sunday afternoon. It was eerily quiet, at least from him. Except for an apology when he threw up-and-in on Anthony Gose, Verlander had barely a word of frustration. He'd get feedback on pitches, but he didn't blurt out much on his own.
"When he's not cussing himself out," Avila said, "that means he's throwing the [heck] out of the ball."
His second-year manager agreed.
"Quite frankly, every pitcher had their moments during the season last year, but that's the best I've seen Ver, stuffwise, off the mound, since I got this job," Brad Ausmus said later.
It's a positive sign for Verlander as he tries to rebound from a 2014 season that prompted a lot of frustration on his part as he searched for something closer to his old form.
Verlander impressed in his previous bullpen session a few days ago, including a solid fastball and good breaking ball. The difference Ausmus noted Sunday was the exertion level.
"The ball was coming out of his hand just as well the other day," Ausmus said, "but there was less effort involved. And his curveball was much better today than it was the other day."
Verlander will face hitters wearing other uniforms next Saturday, when he meets the Braves at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex. It's a long break in between, but the move puts him on track to pitch every five days and be on turn for Opening Day. Ausmus has not yet announced his choice for the season opener April 6, but has his choice between Verlander and fellow Cy Young award winner David Price. Verlander has started every Tigers season opener since 2008.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.