Verlander targeting Tuesday start vs. Pirates

Righty throws bullpen session Saturday; club to make decision Sunday based on results

Verlander targeting Tuesday start vs. Pirates

DETROIT -- Barring any setbacks, Justin Verlander will start Tuesday night for the Tigers when they welcome the Pirates to Comerica Park.

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The right-hander, who was scratched from Wednesday's start with back stiffness, will first have to clear a significant hurdle before making his return. Verlander said he has felt notably better on most days since pitching through discomfort against the Yankees on June 19, but he hadn't thrown off a mound until tossing a scheduled bullpen session Saturday, when the Tigers were rained out against the White Sox.

How his body responds will determine if he will start on Tuesday.

"This is uncharted territory for me," Verlander said. "I've never really been through this. I've never had to come back off of an injury -- especially a long injury. I was down for two months. I've never really had to try to come back quickly and expedite the Spring Training process, so this is all an adjustment for me. It's an adjustment for my body."

In two starts this year since returning from a triceps strain that had kept him from throwing regularly since early April, Verlander has allowed 13 hits and eight runs. The majority of those came in New York last Friday, when the pitcher said he began experiencing stiffness between innings.

Verlander's five innings

"I did not anticipate it being an issue," Verlander said, explaining that he has played through similar inconveniences before without issue.

The tightness didn't begin to concern Verlander until two days later, when he realized it might be more than general soreness. The right-hander said he had difficulty even brushing his teeth, but that the pain subsided quickly enough that he could have started Wednesday if necessary.

Instead, he and the club decided to exercise caution. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said one of the organization's goals was to ensure the former Cy Young Award winner wouldn't miss any more significant time.

"It is frustrating," Verlander said. "I'm not one to get down about things. I'm one to look at the bigger picture and look at the finish line and not dwell on missing a start. So I stay positive in that way. I'm positive that my body's going to bounce back well. It just needs to get used to the grind and get used to pitching again."

Ausmus said a decision on Verlander will be made Sunday. Detroit has a day off on Monday, offering the manager flexibility with the rotation. Ace David Price will take the mound on Sunday.

"I'd love to say that going forward, after my next start, everything's going to be perfect," Verlander said. "I hope that's the case. There's a chance, probably, some other things could pop up -- aches and pains. Hopefully nothing that would keep me from pitching. But I expected for everything not to be perfect coming right back."

Alejandro Zúñiga is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ByAZuniga. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.