Detroit Tigers: Justin Verlander’s Return Makes Rotation Whole


For the first time all season, one can look at the Detroit Tigersprobable pitchers page and see the names we expected to see back in spring training. The organization announced yesterday that Justin Verlander (triceps) would return from the disabled list and make his season debut Saturday at Comerica Park.

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When Verlander steps onto the rubber and delivers the first pitch of the game, it will mark the first time the Tigers were able to string together the quintet of Verlander, David Price, Anibal Sanchez, Alfredo Simon, and Shane Greene in consecutive games.

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It’s not yet clear how much stamina Verlander has built up or how effective he’ll be up on his return, but he remains a decided upgrade over Kyle Lobstein and Kyle Ryan even if he never returns to former glory.

Verlander threw 93 pitches on June 6 in what was his second rehab start with the Toledo Mud Hens. He struck out nine batters in 5.2 innings of work while surrendering just four hits, zero walks, and a single unearned run to the opposition.

But even more important than the results was how he looked while doing it. According to Tony Paul of the Detroit News, Verlander looked like his vintage self, albeit with a bit of diminished velocity.

"The fastball was in the low 90s, topping out at 94. The change-up was impressive. And the curveball was breaking like crazy, just like the Verlander of old."

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  • The high-90s velocity isn’t coming back, but Verlander’s secondary offerings have always been excellent as well. One has to think he still has the arsenal to be a successful pitcher while working in the low-to-mid 90s with his heater.

    The Steamer projection system currently pegs Verlander as a league-average starting pitcher in both the strikeout rate (19%) and ERA departments (3.90). It’s disappointing to view the once-mighty Verlander as merely average, but even that type of performance down the stretch will stabilize a rotation that has already had to plumb the depths of the system to fill starts.

    But one also shouldn’t be too quick to discount the possibility of Verlander making a resurgence. If the recent triceps issue is really in the rear-view mirror and if he’s now back to strength after his early 2014 core muscle repair surgery, then we may be looking at a player who hasn’t been this rested and healthy since the 2012 season.

    There are a lot of ifs in that last sentence, but we probably shouldn’t count out the potential hall of fame pitcher.

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