Big step forward for Verlander

I know Verlander said after his outing last week that he was working on his delivery, but still, no pitcher wants to fly past the 50-pitch mark after two innings, even if it’s just a Spring Training game. So after going six innings in less than 70 pitches (I had him at 68), Verlander was understandably pleased, and so were the Tigers.

“It was a big step forward, no doubt,” said Verlander, referring to his mechanical tweaks. “I think it kind of worked itself into my delivery quicker than I expected.”

Verlander’s velocity is up compared to the same point as last spring. More important, he said, is that he’s throwing harder without too much effort.

Manager Jim Leyland said he thought Verlander’s curveball today was probably better than he had all last season. And he was encouraged that Verlander used it first pitch at times for called strikes to get ahead of hitters.

“Today, you saw an outstanding Major League pitcher,” Leyland said, “and what he should be most of the time.”

Other notes …

  • Marcus Thames and his strained abdominal muscle are on track to return to action as soon as this weekend.
  • If you read the Twitter page today, you might have seen that Polanco fell and stayed down on Geoff Blum’s pop-up behind first base, which ended up being a sac fly. Polanco hit his head on the track, but he was fine and stayed in the game for a few more innings.
  • Leyland on Casey Fien: “He likes to play. As a pitcher, he’s a ballplayer. He’s the [Will] Rhymes of the pitching staff.” Also said that he’s in the mix for a bullpen job.
  • That’s nine innings of one-run ball so far for Eddie Bonine.

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