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Mechanical fix boosts Verlander’s velocity

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
According to MLB’s Baseball Savant website, of Justin Verlander’s 118 pitches Thursday, 55 were thrown at 95 mph or harder. He touched 98.5 twice. He threw 70 heaters with an average velocity of 95.6 mph.

Detroit — When Justin Verlander stormed back to the dugout Thursday after giving up an unearned run to break a scoreless tie in the top of the sixth, you knew he wasn’t going to leave the game without a fight — never mind that his pitch count was 105.

And after the Tigers tied it in the bottom of the sixth, manager Brad Ausmus had no intention of going to his bullpen. Verlander pitched a scoreless seventh, striking out Taylor Motter and Robinson Cano to end another superlative start — seven innings, five hits, no earned runs, eight strikeouts, 118 pitches.

“Those guys have a good lineup,” Verlander said after the 2-1 loss to the Mariners. “They battle pretty good, one through nine. So you don’t freak out about a high pitch count. Some guys are able to put up good at-bats. Cano battled me pretty tough a couple times.

“Again, it’s one of those things — it’s a 0-0, 1-1 game. You can’t so much worry about pitch counts and trying to have a quick inning. You have to worry about not letting them score.”

Verlander was hungry for this start. He had been tagged for 13 runs in nine innings over his previous two starts, and he’d been working diligently on a mechanical adjustment. He felt like he was on to something, but he needed some empirical evidence to support his theory.

How about this: According to MLB’s Baseball Savant website, of his 118 pitches Thursday, 55 were thrown at 95 mph or harder. He touched 98.5 twice. He threw 70 heaters with an average velocity of 95.6 mph. That’s vintage 2011 heat.

Tigers can't solve Mariners, spoil Verlander's outing

“I made an adjustment two starts ago,” he said. “Last time out it was inconsistent but I knew it was right, so I stuck with it this time. I just expected it to get better and better. I knew it was right.”

He didn’t want to get into the specifics of the adjustment, but said he went back and studied video from his pre-injury seasons.

“Even last start, even though I walked some guys, I knew pretty much right as soon as I started throwing that my arm felt cleaner,” he said. “Everything felt like it was coming out cleaner. Just wanted to stick with it until it clicked.”

He credited the mechanical fix for the velocity boost.

“I felt like (my arm) was in a better position, just letting my arm work better,” he said. “I am going to keep trying these mechanics. It’s just a matter of trying to get a feel for it and then it clicks. Today was much better than the last time out, which is a great sign. I hope it keeps getting better and better.”

Also a great sign, he said, was feeling soreness in different areas of his arm.

“I noticed a little bit of fatigue in parts of my arm that wasn’t exactly normal,” he said. “But it used to be normal. Any time you make an adjustment, even small ones, that affect the way you throw the ball, you are going to get fatigue and soreness in new areas.”

He doesn’t expect the soreness to impact preparation for his next start.

“No, I will recover just fine,” he said. “It’s one of those things, like when you find a new exercise at the gym. No matter how much you’ve been doing legs or whatever, you find a new exercise and you feel it little bit. Overall, I feel good.”