Tigers' Verlander pleased with bullpen session

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — Here we go again.

There's another helping of brimming optimism on the Justin Verlander front, at least from Verlander. Manager Brad Ausmus is optimistic, too, though he classified his as "cautiously."

Verlander threw a light bullpen session of 25 pitches Tuesday afternoon, and was pleased with the results.

"It's just another step that needs to happen for me to get back out there," Verlander said, smiling throughout a lengthy interview with a throng of reporters. "I think a big indicator, and I hate to say this because that means you guys will ask me tomorrow, is how my arm responds."

Makes sense.

Verlander has had several, albeit somewhat sporadic throwing sessions — long toss, flat ground, bullpen, a simulated game — since suffering the triceps strain during a spring-training start.

And following many of them, there has been some soreness and, thus, setbacks.

"Going through the process before, I noticed that I was able to do almost everything that I wanted throwing-wise ," he said. "Once I really threw an exaggerated bullpen or a sim game, the day after I noticed some difference."

No doubt, the Tigers are hoping Wednesday goes a lot better than previous days-after.

Verlander threw in the presence of several guys, including Ausmus, trainer Kevin Rand and pitching coach Jeff Jones.

Ace David Price, who's dealt with a triceps injury before, was out there, too.

"He's kind of been the guy on my shoulder saying, 'Hey, take it easy,' " Verlander said, laughing. "I'm sure if I tried to step on the gas a little bit, he'd be like, 'Hey, Ver, slow it down.' "

Verlander's return isn't close to imminent, but it sure would help — not only the rotation, but the bullpen, as well, as his fill-in, Kyle Lobstein, could transition into a key relief role.

He said the next step is another bullpen, though he's not sure what day that would occur.

Ausmus made it sound like Verlander still is a ways away from facing live hitters.

"He looked good today, free and easy," Ausmus said. "His action was good, his arm was good. All those point in the right direction, but I want to get over that last hump."

Iglesias returns

You didn't need to look at the lineup to see Jose Iglesias was back in it.

All you had to do was look at Iglesias in the clubhouse before the game, and see him bounce around, with a smile on his face and a bat in his hand.

He played some clubhouse basketball — no surprise, making an unbelievable, long-distance shot — and twice grabbed wires near one of the TVs, put them on his head, and started shaking, like he'd been electrocuted.

The Tigers, of course, hope Iglesias can bring some of that electricity to a team that, let's face it, has been treading water of late.

"I think high-energy guys can help a team, especially if the team's a little flat," Ausmus said. "If he makes a great play in the field, he can bring the people around him up."

Iglesias has missed about a week since suffering a groin strain.

He targeted Tuesday as his day to return, and after a pregame run, the Tigers were convinced he was ready to return, even though they might've a bit concerned how the groin would react in the chilly weather.

Around the horn

A couple other injury notes from the Tigers: Bruce Rondon (shoulder) threw a bullpen session of fastballs and change-ups. "It looked pretty firm," Ausmus said. "It might've been light for him."

Meanwhile, catcher Alex Avila (knee) got another opinion on his left knee and Tigers brass were expecting those results after the game.

... Ex-Tiger Torii Hunter thought about retirement after last year, but he reconsidered — and what blessing he's been for the Twins. In his last 11 games, as Minnesota has taken the league by storm, Hunter has hit .413 with three doubles, four home runs, 12 RBIs and 13 runs scored. He was batting second for Tuesday's game, after batting cleanup earlier on.

... Baseball America recently came out with a mock draft, ahead of next month's draft, and has the Tigers selecting right-hander Walker Buehler out of (surprise, surprise) Vanderbilt with their No. 22 overall pick.

... During Tigers batting practice, Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" was blasting through Comerica Park. Appropriate, given what went down late Sunday/early Monday against the Royals.

... Before the game, the Twins placed outfielder Shane Robinson on the family emergency list and called up Aaron Hicks.

Twins at Tigers

First pitch: 7:08 Wednesday, Comerica Park, Detroit

TV/radio: FSD/97.1, 1270

Scouting report

* RHP Ricky Nolasco (2-1, 9.00), Twins: This signing has been a $49 million disaster for the Twins. In three starts this year, he has yet to pitch into the sixth inning. He lasted just three April 8 in Detroit.

* LHP Kyle Lobstein (3-2, 3.00), Tigers: He's been absolutely terrific as a rotation fill-in, particularly in his last start, when he pitched into the eighth inning to salvage one win in the White Sox series.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/tonypaul1984