Verlander hit hard before settling down
Ausmus lauds Tigers' ace, cites improved slider
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Although Tigers ace Justin Verlander succeeded in limiting damage, his third start of Spring Training on Tuesday against the Phillies -- an 11-6 Detroit loss -- was not quite the bounce-back outing he had hoped for.
The Phillies singled twice with one out in the first inning before making hard contact for two outs. Michael Saunders flew out to the warning track for the second out, then right fielder J.D. Martinez had to dash to make a lunging grab on Aaron Altherr's hard liner to quell the Philadelphia threat.
"We got crossed up," Verlander said, referring to catcher Alex Avila and himself on Saunders' flyout. "He set up away; I was trying to go in. I think it ended up middle."
Verlander walked Brock Stassi to open the second, but he struck out Taylor Featherston and then ranged to his right to throw out Jesmuel Valentin at first on a dribbler while Stassi trotted to second. Pedro Florimon smacked a single down the right-field line to score Stassi, and Chris Coghlan followed with a hot shot over Verlander's head and through the box. Verlander escaped by striking out Ryan Hanigan looking.
"He was good today," manager Brad Ausmus said of his ace. "His slider was much better today than it was the last outing."
The third was the smoothest for Verlander, who walked Altherr with two outs but allowed no hard contact. He finished with two strikeouts and one run on four hits and two walks in his three innings. Just 33 of his 50 pitches were for strikes.
"I thought I was around 50, 55 [pitches]," Verlander said of his planned pitch limit. "I don't think I was going to go back out to throw five pitches."
Last Thursday against Pittsburgh, Verlander allowed three runs on two homers and two walks in two innings. Like Tuesday against the Phillies, hitters kept the ball in the air against Verlander, who finished with groundout-to-flyout rates of 0.20 Thursday and 0.40 Tuesday.
"That [ratio] is probably about normal," Verlander said. "I've always been a fly-ball pitcher. I am right now."
Verlander will look to lower his 5.14 ERA in his next start, likely Monday against the Nationals in West Palm Beach.