Verlander to make 2015 debut Saturday

Verlander to make 2015 debut Saturday

DETROIT -- Justin Verlander is back in the Tigers' rotation, and he'll make his season debut on Saturday against the Indians at Comerica Park.

Verlander, out for more than two months with a strained right triceps, an injury sustained near the end of Spring Training, was given the go-ahead after throwing 5 2/3 strong innings with nine strikeouts on Saturday night in his second rehab start with Triple-A Toledo. At that point it was more a matter of when he'd face Cleveland, rather than if.

Once he completed a full bullpen session on Tuesday afternoon at Comerica Park, he got the clearance.

"We talked about it before, so it wasn't out of the blue," manager Brad Ausmus said. "I talked to him real quick today to confirm that he's a go Saturday."

Ultimately, Ausmus decided to slot Verlander for Saturday after David Price starts Friday's series opener.

"Somebody had to be [pitching] on seven days," Ausmus said.

The extra rest also will give Verlander a little more room on pitch count. He threw 93 pitches in Toledo on Saturday, and Ausmus said they could go a little beyond that. Verlander will not have a limit, though he won't immediately jump back to his usual numbers.

"We certainly couldn't go 115 pitches with him," Ausmus said.

Verlander will have plenty of pitches to show whether the adjustments he made in Spring Training yield stingier pitching and more consistency, even if it doesn't result in him returning to old form. He topped out at 94 mph on the Fifth Third Field radar gun last weekend after hitting 96 against Indianapolis six days earlier.

Verlander went 15-12 with a 4.54 ERA last season in his roughest year since 2008. His strikeouts per nine innings fell from the 9.0 range to 6.9, and he allowed more hits than innings pitched for the first time since his rookie season, 2006.

His best stuff this spring, ironically, came in the same game in which he was injured. He neared the same velocity in his first rehab start, but had far better command -- and, correspondingly, better results -- on Saturday.

The Indians should provide a good measure. Cleveland hitters batted .301 against him in five meetings last season, resulting in a 1-2 record and 4.75 ERA. He did, however, rack up 30 strikeouts over 30 1/3 innings against Cleveland.

The Tigers will wait until Saturday to make a roster move to activate Verlander from the 15-day disabled list. Until then, lefty starter Kyle Ryan -- who has been filling in for Kyle Lobstein, who filled in for Verlander -- will pitch out of the bullpen.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.