St. Petersburg, Fla. — Justin Verlander gave himself a gold star for Tuesday’s first test since he left the rotation last week with a shoulder ailment.
It’s how he grades out today that counts for a pitcher who knows the day after a workout is often the real test of how much he has healed.
If all is fine today, Verlander is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Thursday at Tropicana Field, which, if reassuring, could enable him to start Saturday against the Twins as the Tigers deal with a day-night doubleheader at Target Field.
“As far as shoulder-joint mobility, it felt a lot better,” said Verlander, who lasted only one inning in his last start, Aug. 11 against the Pirates, when his right throwing shoulder acted up.
The pain led to tests that failed to find any damage to the shoulder capsule. Additional opinions, Verlander said Tuesday, matched the diagnosis from Detroit’s medical team.
Verlander threw for about 10 minutes Tuesday from a distance he estimated at 60 feet.
“There wasn’t that I-can’t-get-loose feeling,” he said. “We’ll know more tomorrow, and a lot more Thursday. I expect it to get a little better each day.
“Hopefully, it’s a natural process,” said Verlander, whose one-inning nightmare at Pittsburgh (five hits, four earned runs) was his briefest start since he arrived in the big leagues nine years ago. “Obviously, I want to get back.”
Andy Dirks, who has not played a game in 2014, is moving closer to missing the entire Tigers season.
Dirks re-injured a hamstring, which had been troubling him since he began last month a rehabilitation stint in the minor leagues. He was making his second bid to join Triple A Toledo and work his way back to Detroit as part of a process that began when he had back surgery in March.
Dirks originally had been expected to miss three months and to be back at his outfield job ahead of the All-Star break. But with a bad hamstring now sabotaging two rehab returns, and with little more than a month remaining on the regular-season calendar, Dirks’ return is becoming less probable.
“I don’t want to write him off,” said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, “but it would be tough.”
Ausmus said another of the disabled Tigers, reliever Joakim Soria, was still fighting effects from a strained oblique muscle.
“He still felt it a little bit,” Ausmus said of Soria’s most recent test.
Soria has been on the disabled list since Aug. 10.
Anibal Sanchez, who hit the DL a day ahead of Soria, is not expected back until sometime in September. He is gone from the Tigers rotation because of a strained right pectoralis muscle.
David Price is now a Tigers pitcher. Drew Smyly is with the Rays. A month ago, their loyalties were reversed, befitting a pair of starters who had begun their careers in Tampa Bay (Price) and Detroit (Smyly).
Price has been restored to his old workplace, Tropicana Field, because of this week’s three-game series against the Rays. Price will work Thursday’s game.
Waiting for him Tuesday in the Tigers dugout were two-dozen media members, armed with video cameras, notebooks, and tape recorders. The TV lights burned bright on the face of a man who had, along with Evan Longoria, reigned as the deities on a Rays team that had grown into a playoff and championship contender.
“I plan on hitting Matt Joyce in the ribs,” Price said, with a laugh, poking fun at an old Rays teammate, and all for the benefit of his media audience.
“No,” he said, still grinning, “if I’m not ragging and ripping on you, it probably means I don’t care enough for you.
“Joyce — he knows I care for him.”
Smyly spoke Tuesday about his appreciation for Detroit — and for the lessons learned from the Cy Young Award winners with whom he shared a rotation spot in Detroit.
But he also said he appreciated the long-term commitment to starting he was enjoying in Tampa Bay, something, he said, he was not entirely sure would be a permanent role, given his 2013 season, which he spent mostly in the Tigers bullpen.
“There wasn’t any controversy,” Ausmus said, explaining the Tigers front office’s disposition toward Smyly’s alternate bullpen and rotation assignments.
“It (returning Smyly to the bullpen) was never explored.”