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Verlander does light tossing, feels 'little tight, but not bad'

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers players pose for a photo taken by their teammate before Sunday's game against the Phillies in Clearwater, Florida.

Clearwater, Fla. – Better.

That was Justin Verlander's one-word answer Sunday morning when manager Brad Ausmus asked how he was feeling.

"He just said he was better," Ausmus said.

It's been two days since he got a cramp in the triceps of his pitching arm. On Saturday he said he was sore but he was still optimistic that with therapy the soreness would dissipate.

Verlander felt good enough Sunday to do some light throwing back in Lakeland. Ausmus, hearing back from pitching coach Jeff Jones, said Verlander felt "a little tight, but not bad."

Ausmus hasn't yet ruled out Verlander for his final spring start, which is scheduled for Thursday. But that doesn't seem to be a priority for either Verlander or Ausmus.

If he doesn't pitch Thursday, he could pitch in either a minor league game or a simulated game, though that might jeopardize his first regular-season start, against Minnesota April 8.

"With the off day (after Opening Day), he could conceivably pitch Sunday (April 12) against Cleveland," Ausmus said.

There is another off day April 16, so Verlander could get re-slotted into the second spot in the rotation if that scenario were to play out.

Rondon out

Right-handed reliever Bruce Rondon was supposed to pitch an inning against the Phillies Sunday but was scratched. He has been dealing with neck soreness the last two days.

"He slept wrong or something and his neck is stiff," Ausmus said. "He was better today but not well enough to pitch."

Rondon, nearly a full year removed from Tommy John surgery, is very much on the bubble for a roster spot.

"If this goes too long, it certainly doesn't help us, or him," Ausmus said.

Gose-Davis platoon?

Ausmus was asked Sunday if he was confident that center fielder Anthony Gose will hit left-handed pitching well enough to avoid a straight platoon set-up with right-handed hitting Rajai Davis.

"I don't know if we are at that point," he said. "I am not sure, quite frankly, how much Gose will or will not play against lefties."

Davis is expected to fill in at all three outfield positions this season.

"We can't discount what Raj did for us last year," Ausmus said. "Raj played against right-handers, as well. I am not going to commit either way as to whether they will play against right-handers or left-handers, either one of those guys.

"And I will go as far as to say Raj will play against some righties, for sure."

Davis robbed

Speaking of Davis, he was robbed of a home run in the third inning Sunday when Phillies left-fielder Ben Revere leaped up at the wall, reached over and pulled back Davis' long fly. Revere celebrated triumphantly and Davis give him a fist-pump for his efforts.

"That one doesn't show up on the back of my baseball card," Davis said, when asked why he'd congratulate a player who robbed him of a homer. "Those don't count down here."

Twitter@cmccosky