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Verlander miles ahead compared to last year

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Lakeland, Fla. — It's not unusual for Justin Verlander to be working out daily at the Tigertown complex weeks before pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report. He has a house just a few miles up the road and his maniacal work ethic has been well-documented.

What is different this year, though, is that he's already throwing two bullpen sessions a week.

"Last year I hadn't even picked up a ball at this point," he said Friday after throwing his second session of the week.

At this point last year, Verlander was a month removed from core muscle surgery. He was not only unable to throw, he was just starting to get back into his normal conditioning and weight training regimen.

As he would discover later, the core muscle issues adversely impacted his right shoulder, which in turn forced him to alter his throwing motion which ultimately led to the second-worst season of his career in 2014.

That's all in the past now. Verlander has put on 20 pounds of muscle and he's back to his normal throwing regimen, including an impressive long-toss session with catcher Bryan Holaday on Thursday where he was throwing clothes-line strikes from 120 feet.

As for his bullpen work Friday, he just smiled and said, "felt great."

Whether that translates into a complete return to form remains to be seen, of course, but what is fact is that in mind and body, Verlander is miles ahead of where he was at this time last year. And that cannot be a bad thing for the Tigers.

Chris McCosky on Twitter @cmccosky