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Verlander struggles in spring finale

Verlander struggles in spring finale

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LAKELAND, Fla. -- Justin Verlander might be the most competitive member of the Tigers' rotation, enough so that even a rough outing in his last start of Spring Training clearly burns him up.

On the other hand, even he isn't stuck in tunnel vision.

"The good thing is, it's Spring Training," he summarized after allowing five earned runs on eight hits over three innings on Tuesday night against Houston in his final tuneup before his Opening Day start next Monday.

Verlander fell behind most of the 20 batters he faced, walking two batters while challenging others. None of the hits, however, went for more than a double.

Ironically, it might well have been Verlander's competitiveness that got the better of him. A leadoff walk to Michael Bourn started a string of two walks and two singles to the first four batters, leading to a two-run first inning.

Manager Jim Leyland wondered whether Verlander tried to overthrow a fastball to Bourn and got out of sync with his mechanics.

"He had a 2-2 pitch," Leyland said. "[Bourn] pulled a fastball hard and far down the right-field line, and all of a sudden he was going to throw one harder. He got of sync."

The mechanics were out of sync, however it happened, and Verlander struggled to get them back.

"Obviously, the results weren't good," Verlander said, "but I've got a good idea what I was doing. I was kind of leaving the ball up in the zone a little bit. When you're up in the zone a little bit, things like what happened today, happen. There weren't too many hard-hit balls, but they seemed to find holes a bit more often. Things like that build on top of each other."

Physically, however, Verlander felt fine. He threw to about his pitch limit, getting them stretched out for Monday's opener against Kansas City. The mechanical issues will be smoothed out during a bullpen session later this week with pitching coach Chuck Hernandez.

Verlander finished the spring with a 1-2 record and 5.85 ERA in six outings. He didn't allow a run in his first three outings, covering eight innings, before allowing 13 earned runs over 12 innings in his final three performances. However, that'll most likely be the last mention of his Spring Training stats.

"It's a new beginning come Opening Day," Verlander said.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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