Breaking balls point of emphasis for Verlander

Tigers veteran struggled with secondary pitches, specifically slider, in previous outing

Breaking balls point of emphasis for Verlander

PITTSBURGH -- Justin Verlander would follow up a rough outing like Monday's with a grueling bullpen session back in the day. Those days of those long side sessions are over, but the work involved is not.

While players rolled into PNC Park on Wednesday afternoon, Verlander was in the visitors' bullpen with pitching coach Rich Dubee, working out some issues that popped up during the 111-pitch, 4 1/3-inning grind against the Pirates at Comerica Park two days earlier.

"He was working on his breaking balls," said manager Brad Ausmus, noting both the slider and curveball were points of emphasis.

Tigers turn double play

According to Ausmus, it wasn't a matter of tipping pitches, something Verlander has handled quietly in the past. Rather, it's something with the pitches themselves, notably the slider. Pirates batters seemed to lay off Verlander's secondary pitches and sit on his fastball.

Verlander threw 22 sliders to Pirates hitters, who swung at 10 of them and missed only one. Three of the five sliders they put into play went for base hits, according to data from MLB.com's Gameday app and brooksbaseball.net. Verlander threw 18 curveballs, 11 for strikes, and no whiffs out of the five swings taken.

"I thought his slider was flat," said Ausmus, who thought his curveball was a little bit sharper.

Verlander did not have the same struggles on Opening Day at Miami last week, though he didn't necessarily have his top stuff either.

Verlander takes no-no into 6th

Verlander's next turn is Saturday at Houston, where an effective mix of secondary pitches would help him greatly against a historically aggressive Astros lineup in a hitter-friendly ballpark. Verlander tossed seven scoreless innings with seven strikeouts in Houston last August.

Quick hits

• Cameron Maybin's rehab assignment at Triple-A Toledo could near its conclusion at the end of the week. Ausmus said Maybin, who has been working his way back from a fractured left wrist, is scheduled to be re-evaluated on Saturday.

Maybin injured by HBP

• Reliever Alex Wilson, also rehabbing with the Mud Hens, is scheduled to throw back-to-back outings on Wednesday and Thursday, after which he will be re-evaluated.

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.