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Verlander to throw simulated game Wednesday

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Pittsburgh — Wednesday is an important day for Justin Verlander, and for the Tigers' starting rotation.

Verlander, on the disbled list since March 29 with right triceps strain, will throw a simulated game before the Tigers finish their series with the Pirates. It could be the last hurdle he needs to clear.

"Let's wait and see how he feels," manager Brad Ausmus said, trying to curb the enthusiasm.

Verlander will throw to Tigers hitters, at least four segments of 15 pitches. He will throw to one group, sit down, get back up and throw to the next — simulating a game.

"We are shooting for at least four rounds (60 pitches)," Ausmus said. "If he feels better, he might go a little further."

If all goes well, and Verlander has no pain or soreness on Thursday, the Tigers could start planning on when they will slot him into the rotation. But Ausmus was clear they weren't at that point yet.

"It depends on how he feels and on how many pitches he throws," Ausmus said. "If he only throws 60 pitches, and he doesn't feel great and we have to cut it off, it would be tough to throw him right into a major league game with a 75-pitch pitch count.

"We have to wait and see before any decision is made."

If Verlander doesn't throw enough in the simulated game, he may have to make a minor league rehab start, though Ausmus said that hadn't been discussed.

Verlander, who threw a 45-pitch bullpen in Cleveland and felt no pain on any of his pitches, expects this to be the final test.

"I would say yeah," Verlander said. "If I can go out and pitch, get up and down — I don't know how many pitches they want me to throw — but if I could do that, it could be it."

Davis over Gose

Rajai Davis came into Tuesday's game 4-for-9 against Pirates right-handed starter A.J. Burnett. Anthony Gose, who bats left-handed and usually starts against right-handers, has struck out nine times in 23 at-bats, including five times in his last two games.

Those were some of the factors Ausmus considered when he chose to start Davis Tuesday.

"There are going to be times when Raj has to play against righties," Ausmus said. "If I just played him against lefties he wouldn't get enough at-bats. We will try to find spots against righties that he's done well against."

Gose's struggles were only a minor consideration.

"He's scuffled since he hit the home run (off Corey Kluber Saturday)," Ausmus said. "But it was more about Raj than Gose."

Burnett also has a slow delivery to the plate, which makes him easy to steal bases off of. Ausmus, though, was not tempted to start both Gose and Davis.

"You don't generally steal your way to victory," he said. "I love stolen bases, but I like home runs better."

Facing Burnett

Ausmus, who turned 46 Tuesday, recalled facing a young A.J. Burnett, when he possessed one of the hardest, and wildest, fastballs in the game.

"He was a guy who threw 97 to 99," Ausmus said. "He always had that curveball but he was a power pitcher. I remember he drilled me once in Florida, right in the belt, with 97-98."

The belt, Ausmus said, took the worst of it.

"Because I had that leather belt on, it didn't leave a mark," he said. "The leather protected me. I don't know if I'd ever been drilled by 97 before, but it didn't hurt that badly. It hit me squarely on the leather belt.

"If I was 0-2 I was probably happy I got hit."