Verlander exits as precaution; he'll make next start

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Dunedin, Fla. — The hardest part for Justin Verlander in his abbreviated start against the Blue Jays on Friday might have been having to look into his dugout and call out the trainer.

"If it was the regular season, I don't know that I would have called them out," Verlander said. "I battled myself mentally on that aspect of it. I was like, 'Let me see if I can battle through it and maybe it'll get better.' Then I thought, 'This is spring training. There is no reason to battle through it and risk an injury.'"

Verlander, pitching better than he had all spring, developed what the Tigers medical staff called a cramp in his right triceps in the third inning. He will be evaluated Saturday, though there is no MRI scheduled.

He is expected to make his next start, which will be his final start before the regular season.

"I kind of sensed what it was," Verlander said. "Usually you have a pretty good feel for your body, if it's an injury or something else. I didn't feel injured. I was able to throw."

Verlander had recorded the second out in the third inning of the rain-shortened 4-1 loss. He made the putout on a grounder to first baseman Alex Avila. He then motioned for pitching coach Jeff Jones and the trainer Matt Rankin to come out.

"When I was warming up for the third, my first couple were nice and easy; then I threw a curve ball and it felt like, when I got extended, my triceps grabbed on me a little bit," Verlander said. "From that point on, the rest of my pitches had the similar feeling. When I got fully extended out, it kind of felt grabby."

Jones never had before been summoned to the mound by Verlander during a game, so he wasn't immediately sure what was happening.

"Every now and then he will look over in spring training and ask me what pitch to throw a guy and that's what I thought he was doing," Jones said. "After the ground out I stood up and asked him if he wanted me to come out and he said yeah."

Jones said a triceps cramp was an unusual ailment and manager Brad Ausmus said he couldn't ever recall a pitcher suffering one in a game. Both, though, believe it won't be a serious setback.

"They did manipulations and the strength was still good in that area," Ausmus said. "The shoulder, elbow, triceps were good. That doesn't mean we're out of the woods. It's just not that concerning of an area."

Verlander said he believes there were two possible factors that caused the cramping. One was a lack of hydration. He didn't drink a lot of water on the ride to Dunedin and he didn't have any before he started getting ready to pitch.

Second, he believes he could be stressing his arm differently with his new mechanics.

"My only concern is if it would linger," he said. "I've worked really hard on getting my mechanics and my arm action back to the way I used to throw and I've got more extension because of that — extension out front.

"And the adjustments I've made maybe are putting a little more strain on that area than I have in the past. I really like the mechanical adjustment I've made but I am using the muscles differently and that might have contributed."

Ausmus said Verlander was "the best I've seen him," until the cramp. His fastball was registering between 94-96 mph with easy motion. Even when he intentionally throttled down, it was coming in at 92-93. His curveball and change-up were sharp.

"Everything was impressive," Jones said. "He threw a couple of curveballs that I hadn't seen the entire spring. His fastball velocity and location was good, his arm speed on all his pitches was the same. It was as good as he's looked in a long time."

Verlander allowed one hit, a long home run on a 3-1 pitch to Dalton Pompey. He got behind trying to work on his change-up, then came in with a 94 mph fastball in a fastball count.

"Those first two innings, I couldn't have been more pleased," he said. "It sounds strange, but I felt like myself."

If there are no further complications from the cramp, Verlander's schedule should not be impacted by the shortened outing. He had thrown 79 pitches his previous start and will have a pre-scheduled extra day off before his next start.

"Like I said, this isn't an injury, but my concern is that it lingers or reoccurs," Verlander said. "I am going to take a lot of precautions in terms of hydrating myself and things like that to avoid this."

Ausmus said he will consult with trainer Kevin Rand and other team medical officials Friday night and today.

"Obviously the next morning is always crucial with these types of things," he said. "It wouldn't shock me if he woke up a little sore tomorrow and it wouldn't shock me if he woke up and didn't feel anything at all."