Verlander: Triceps soreness feels same as yesterday

Justin Verlander said Saturday morning he feels similar tightness in his right triceps to what forced him out of his Grapefruit League start Friday, though he said his level of concern remains low.

“Pretty low,” Verlander said, “especially with the time we have [before next start], extra day and can even manipulate things forward if need be.”

Verlander is tentatively scheduled to start on Thursday against the Yankees at Joker Marchant Stadium, marking his Spring Training finale. He has another extra day of rest scheduled before his season debut, slated for April 8 against the Twins in the Tigers’ second game of the season.

Verlander was an early arrival at Joker Marchant Stadium on Saturday morning and met with head athletic trainer Kevin Rand. He did not have an MRI exam or any other tests. His treatment so far has been limited to ice, and he was in the outfield during batting practice.

Verlander’s injury remains listed as a right triceps cramp, though Verlander said the next couple days will indicate whether it’s a cramp or a strain.

“We kind of all assumed I’d be sore today,” he said. “It’s really [a question of] how it bounces back in the next couple days. That’ll tell us a lot more about the injury, I guess, whether it’s a mild strain or whether it was just a cramp. Either way, even if it was just a very mild strain, it’s still like I said, very mild. It’s nothing that would hold me out for an extended period of time.”

Saturday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Cardinals

Take a good look at the batting order today, because there’s a decent chance it’ll be the same thing you’ll see through your starry eyes on Opening Day April 6. Anthony Gose continues to look like a good pick to lead off, moving Ian Kinsler to the much-debated two spot and Alex Avila to seventh. Brad Ausmus hasn’t committed to a spot in the order for J.D. Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes, but Martinez has batted in front of Cespedes every time they’ve started together this week.

On the Cardinals side, Jhonny Peralta returns to Lakeland, as does former Tigers first-round pick Scott Moore (8th overall pick in 2002).

TIGERS

  1. Anthony Gose, CF
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. Victor Martinez, DH
  5. J.D. Martinez, RF
  6. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
  7. Alex Avila, C
  8. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS

P: Shane Greene, Al Alburquerque, Ian Krol, Kyle Ryan, Angel Nesbitt

CARDINALS

  1. Jon Jay, CF
  2. Kolten Wong, 2B
  3. Randal Grichuk, RF
  4. Matt Adams, 1B
  5. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  6. Mark Reynolds, 3B
  7. Scott Moore, DH
  8. Tony Cruz, C
  9. Peter Bourjos, LF

P: Lance Lynn

Verlander Saturday morning update: No update

Justin Verlander was an early arrival at the Tigers clubhouse Saturday morning, settled into his locker and checked in with head athletic trainer Kevin Rand. As of mid-morning, however, there was nothing official on his status.

“As of right now, I have no reason not to expect him to pitch in his next start,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “Of course, I also told you I don’t have any new information, so take that for what it’s worth.”

That can play both ways. The fact that there’s no new information suggests no new tests have been ordered. Indeed, Ausmus said there has been no MRI ordered as far as he knows. The flip side, of course, is that there’s no indication Verlander is feeling any better today than he did when he left the game Friday with tightness in his biceps triceps.

The Tigers are still classifying it as a cramp.

On Verlander’s encouraging day and its abrupt end

If Justin Verlander has a serious arm injury, he had an odd day to get one.

For two innings, the pitches Verlander delivered to Blue Jays batters were impressive enough to wonder whether the radar gun readings — 95-96 mph for Verlander in his opening inning, 94-95 in the second — were legit at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Blue Jays writers attested that the radar, while maybe a tick off, wasn’t as generous as other spots.

“I felt great,” Verlander said. “I felt really good early. … Really, I couldn’t tell you I was putting much effort in early either. After the first inning I was like, ‘All right, let’s back down and just kind of cruise,’ and it was still coming out 93-94. That’s a big positive. That’s kind of the way I used to feel, my nice-and-easy range. Way-back-off was 91-92. Nice and easy was 94-95. And then when I wanted to really go get it, that’s when it was 99-100. So all that’s really positive.

“Curveball was excellent. The one I threw to [Russell] Martin was probably the best one I threw in two years.”

Once Bruce Rondon registered 95-97 mph in the fifth inning, Verlander’s readings loomed larger.

“Best I’ve seen him,” manager Brad Ausmus said.

“Period?”

“No, you can put an exclamation point if you want.”

The velocity dropped in the third inning, when Verlander said the cramp began to flare up. His fastball dropped to the low 90s, and he mixed in more offspeed stuff, as much of a mix as a half-dozen pitches in an inning will allow.

“I don’t really know what to tell you, besides I just felt crampy,” he said. “My whole body just kind of feels tight. I think it was a combination of things. I think with the mechanical adjustments I made, I might be using my muscles just slightly different. And also, I don’t think I hydrated myself as well as I should have today.”

It still wasn’t easy for him to admit.

“What was really hard for me,” Verlander said, “was to call them out. If it was regular season, I don’t know if I would’ve. I kind of battled myself mentally out there with that aspect of it. I threw a few pitches to see if it was better, and it stayed about the same. And then I’m out there thinking, ‘Well, this is Spring Training. There’s no reason to battle through it and risk an injury if it it’s not injured.'”

That’s when he signaled for pitching coach Jeff Jones, who brought manager Brad Ausmus and trainer Matt Rankin with him. And that’s when Verlander’s encouraging day came to an abrupt end. If it’s nothing more than a cramp, then he’ll be back out there next Thursday. Whether the stuff is the same might be the bigger mystery until then.

“That’s where I want to be,” he said. “Those first two innings are a great sign. I felt like myself, funny to say.

“I do leave today feeling like that’s where I want to be. But obviously there’s a little bit lingering in the back of your head hoping that doesn’t reoccur. And obviously now I’m going to take precautions.”

Verlander leaves start with right triceps cramp

Justin Verlander left his start against the Blue Jays on Friday with a cramp in his right triceps after running to cover first base on a third-inning ground ball.

Verlander will be evaluated further on Friday. At this point, however, he plans on making his final Spring Training start next week.

“I don’t think it’s an injury,” he said. “I just hope it’s not something that would linger and reoccur.”

Verlander, making his fifth start of the spring, looked strong until then, hitting 95-96 mph on the radar gun at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. He broke quickly off the mound after Ryan Goins hit a grounder to first base for the second out of the third.

By that point, what began as a light rain at the park had picked up, leaving a damp field. The problem, however, wasn’t the footing, Verlander said, but the throwing.

“I don’t really know what to tell you, besides I just felt crampy,” Verlander said. “My whole body just kind of feels tight. I think it was a combination of things. I think with the mechanical adjustments I made, I might be using my muscles just slightly different. And also, I don’t think I hydrated myself as well as I should have today.”

Verlander called to the dugout. Manager Brad Ausmus, pitching coach Jeff Jones and athletic trainer Matt Rankin quickly emerged from the dugout to meet him at the mound.

After a lengthy conference, Ausmus made the change. Kyle Ryan entered as Verlander walked back to the dugout with Rankin.

After Ryan finished the inning, Verlander jogged back to the clubhouse with his glove in his hand, seemingly not hindered.

Verlander threw just 40 pitches, 23 of them strikes, over his 2 2/3 innings. His only hit allowed was a Dalton Pompey home run in the second.

“I felt great. I felt really good early,” Verlander said. “Honestly, I didn’t really feel like I was putting much effort in early, either. … That’s a big positive. That’s kind of the way I used to feel.”

Friday’s lineups: Tigers at Blue Jays

Victor Martinez was originally scheduled to make the trip and bat cleanup at DH. The forecast for storms most of the afternoon changed those plans, and Martinez stayed back in Lakeland to take batting practice. Jason Krizan will start at DH. They’re still hoping to get enough innings for Verlander to call it a start.

If Verlander is throwing to Avila today, though, it’s going to have to be a pickoff throw or a comebacker. Avila gets the start at first base today, while James McCann starts behind the plate.

The Jays lineup does not have former Tigers prospect Devon Travis in it. It does have a decent selection of regulars to test Verlander, including Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson.

TIGERS

  1. Anthony Gose, CF
  2. Alex Avila, 1B
  3. J.D. Martinez, RF
  4. Tyler Collins, LF
  5. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  6. Jason Krizan, DH
  7. James McCann, C
  8. Hernan Perez, 2B
  9. Andrew Romine, SS

P: Justin Verlander, Ian Krol, Bruce Rondon, Kyle Ryan

BLUE JAYS

  1. Jose Reyes, SS
  2. Russell Martin, C
  3. Jose Bautista, RF
  4. Edwin Encarnacion, DH
  5. Josh Donaldson, 3B
  6. Dalton Pompey, CF
  7. Justin Smoak, 1B
  8. Kevin Pillar, LF
  9. Ryan Goins, 2B

P: Drew Hutchison, Jeff Francis, Miguel Castro, Liam Hendriks

Ausmus: No closer competition

The strongest statement from Brad Ausmus didn’t involve words, at least not initially. It was a shaking of the head to indicate the Tigers’ closer job is not up for grabs, though the Tigers closer has an issue with his grip.

Joe Nathan paid for a hanging slider with a game-tying home run to Jayson Nix on Thursday, his second of back-to-back outings. Ausmus said afterwards that Nathan was dealing with a thumbnail that had dug into his skin, opening a cut above the nail.

“He was bleeding,” Ausmus said. “He had it all over his pants, so he must have been wiping it off the whole time. Certainly, that was an issue.”

That wasn’t the only question for Ausmus. With Joakim Soria pitching a perfect ninth for the save — his seventh shutout inning this spring — following Victor Martinez’s go-ahead homer, the inquiry came up: Is there a competition for the closer job?

That’s when Ausmus shook his head.

“The answer is no,” Ausmus said later. “I guess it’s tough to quote, so I’ll say no.”

Thus, Soria is set to enter the season as the setup man. It’s the defined role he didn’t have after coming over from Texas in a trade last July, but it’s not the back-end role he had for most of his career.

“That’s what I was doing my whole career,” he said. “It’s something that I know. I’m not excited about it, but being setup is not that different. I love this game and I love it anywhere I pitch.”

Farmer optioned to Toledo, Dolis to minor-league camp

The Tigers bullpen competition is down two more contestants. Granted, Buck Farmer and Rafael Dolis looked like they were on the outside looking in, especially in recent days. But the latest round of cuts from Tigers camp provides a little more clarity on the competition.

Farmer will go back to starting pitching duty, heading to Triple-A Toledo, where he made two starts late last season. He also made just two starts at Double-A Erie, giving rise to the thought that he might go back to the SeaWolves to get more seasoning. However, the Tigers are going to give him a push. That decision came from the front office, not from manager Brad Ausmus or his staff.

“We think he has a very bright future,” Ausmus said of the 24-year-old. “He’s quite a bit ahead of schedule, if you look at his career path.”

Farmer joins Kyle Lobstein, Drew VerHagen, Tim Melville and Thad Weber in a potential Mud Hens rotation. The bullpen has enough depth that some guys will either have to be dropped or sent back to Erie.

Dolis figures to head to the Hen pen. The 27-year-old right-hander gave up seven runs on nine hits over 8 1/3 innings with three walks and seven strikeouts, but showed power stuff.

“He actually has great stuff,” Ausmus said. “He has a lot of movement on his fastball. He throws in the mid-90s with a good split. We were really considering him for a while.”

With Farmer and Dolis out, the Tigers are down to 10 relievers in camp for a seven-man bullpen, including six right-handers for what will likely be five spots: Joe Nathan, Joakim Soria, Al Alburquerque, Bruce Rondon, Joba Chamberlain and Angel Nesbitt. Nathan, Soria and Alburquerque are safe. Chamberlain should be, though he has struggled this spring. If Rondon is healthy and gets enough innings, he should be there, leaving Nesbitt as the odd man out.

Do the math, and that leaves four lefty relievers for two spots. Tom Gorzelanny, despite his spring, is believed to be in, leaving Ian Krol, Kyle Ryan and Blaine Hardy competing for the other role.

Thursday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Orioles

Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez are back in the lineup after playing yesterday. Alex Avila gets back behind the plate, while J.D. Martinez is in right field. In fact, other than Rajai Davis in center field, this is pretty much a regular lineup for the Tigers’ second Fox Sports Detroit broadcast in as many days.

Meanwhile, the former Tiger reunions keep on coming at Joker Marchant Stadium. One day after Don Kelly batted cleanup for the visiting team, it’s Delmon Young’s turn. Also on Baltimore’s travel roster is former Tigers reliever Pat McCoy, claimed off waivers by the O’s last fall.

TIGERS

  1. Rajai Davis, CF
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. Victor Martinez, DH
  5. J.D. Martinez, RF
  6. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
  7. Alex Avila, C
  8. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS

P: David Price, Joe Nathan, Joakim Soria, Angel Nesbitt

ORIOLES

  1. Manny Machado, 3B
  2. Dariel Alvarez, CF
  3. Jimmy Paredes, DH
  4. Delmon Young, RF
  5. Nolan Reimold, LF
  6. Ryan Lavarnway, C
  7. Christian Walker, 1B
  8. Jayson Nix, 2B
  9. Paul Janish, SS

P: Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Tommy Hunter

Wednesday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Marlins

  The original plan was for Miguel Cabrera to play across the street in a minor-league game at DH today and play first base tomorrow. Instead, Cabrera felt good enough that he talked with head athletic trainer Kevin Rand and got clearance to play first base. Thus, Cabrera and Victor Martinez are in the same lineup, giving the Tigers close to a regular lineup for their first Fox Sports Detroit broadcast of the spring.

Cabrera isn’t the only return to first base today. Don Kelly not only makes his return to Lakeland, he’s batting cleanup.

TIGERS

  1. Anthony Gose, CF
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. Victor Martinez, DH
  5. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
  6. Rajai Davis, RF
  7. Hernan Perez, 3B
  8. Bryan Holaday, C
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS

P: Alfredo Simon, Bruce Rondon, Joe Nathan, Joba Chamberlain

MARLINS

  1. Dee Gordon, 2B
  2. Christian Yelich, LF
  3. Marcell Ozuna, CF
  4. Don Kelly, 1B
  5. Donovan Solano, SS
  6. Reid Brignac, 3B
  7. Reed Johnson, DH
  8. Jordany Valdespin, RF
  9. Jhonatan Solano, C

P: David Phelps, Sam Dyson, Aaron Crow, Preston Claiborne, Nick Masset

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