Encouraging signs for Verlander despite loss

Tigers righty says he's 'not far off' after second start of season

Encouraging signs for Verlander despite loss

NEW YORK -- In the clubhouse after the Tigers' 7-2 loss to the Yankees on Friday night, a reporter floated a stat to Justin Verlander.

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"I read somewhere that A-Rod's home run probably wouldn't have been a home run in any of the other big league parks," he said.

Verlander chuckled to himself and shook his head. "Great," he said. "That doesn't help me."

The right-hander wasn't sure if Alex Rodriguez's first-inning home run would reach the stands. Then he remembered he was in Yankee Stadium, home to the short right-field porch, and watched it fly into the seats for Rodriguez's 3,000th career hit.

So went Verlander's night. His final line -- six runs on 10 hits with just two strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings -- overshadowed what had been an encouraging performance.

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In just his second start of the season after a triceps injury put him on the disabled list for more than two months, Verlander flashed the kind of pitches he's used to making and touched 95 mph with his fastball multiple times.

But he also made mistakes, like the fastball to Rodriguez, or the fastball that leaked over the plate to Didi Gregorius and ended up in the seats or the hanging curveball Brett Gardner hit out to nearly the same spot.

"I think my stuff was pretty good," Verlander said. "It's just that at this level, it doesn't matter how good your stuff is, especially as a starting pitcher. You need to consistently locate, and if you don't, these guys are really good."

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Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said Verlander's "stuff" was vastly improved from his first start last week. He had originally planned to let Verlander throw around 105 pitches -- he ended up letting him throw 117 before moving to the bullpen.

"I liked that he maintained his velocity the entire game," Ausmus said. "I thought his curveball was very good. The second half of his outing, his changeup was excellent."

Both pitcher and manager said Verlander's slider didn't bite as much as it usually does. Verlander said he tinkered with the pitch in the seventh inning and was able to coax more break out of it, but it was too late.

In four starts this season -- two rehab outings at Triple-A Toledo, two with the Tigers -- Verlander has thrown just 376 competitive pitches. He's still rusty, he said, but it's coming along.

"I wasn't far off," he said. "Obviously the line doesn't look good, but when you really look back at it, it wasn't that far off."

Alden Woods is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.