Boston — He and the disabled list have never been close acquaintances. Rarely, in fact, does he miss a pitching turn in the Tigers rotation.
And nothing this month has changed with Justin Verlander.
He got the go-ahead Friday to make a Saturday evening start against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, saying he “seems good to go” after a groin strain knocked him out in the third inning of his last start, Sunday, against the White Sox at Detroit.
“The morning after (Monday) I was a little concerned, but it started getting better very quickly,” Verlander said in the visitors clubhouse Friday, a few hours before Red Sox beat the Tigers, 5-3, in the opener of a three-game weekend series.“We’ve done all the precautionary stuff. There’s nothing to do but pitch.”
Verlander acknowledged, “I’ve always been a fast healer” and that this week’s bout with a tight right groin was but one example that he and his body seem to enjoy a particularly happy relationship.
He will wear “braces,” he said, referring to compression shorts favored by athletes who need extra support in an area so often prone to game stress.
Verlander had an unusually rugged day Sunday, throwing 72 pitches and leaving the game two batters into the third inning. He had needed 39 pitches in the first, when he first reported to pitching coach Rich Dubee that he felt something out of whack in his abdominal-right leg region.
He was watched closely by the Tigers training staff and manager Brad Ausmus. And early in the third inning, he was excused.
Verlander had an MRI examination that showed nothing but inflammation.
He felt fine during a Friday throwing session and was pronounced good to go for Saturday night’s game.
Verlander will go against Boston’s best, Chris Sale, who has been unmerciful in 2017.
That’s as Verlander would have it. He likes the head-to-head duels with opposing aces. And, he conceded, he “loves” pitching at Fenway.
He simply hopes a 2017 season that hasn’t been one of Verlander’s most pleasing or most consistent journeys (4.63 ERA, 1.46 WHIP) will begin to smooth Saturday.
And that goal, he agreed, begins with his groin cooperating and his body set at full steam against the East Division-contending Red Sox.
“I’m confident,” he said. “The last thing I want to do is put the bullpen in jeopardy. After 12 years (he broke in with the Tigers during the 2005 season), I’ve gotten smart about things. I’m able to slow things down.”
Verlander said he spoke with William Meyers, the Philadelphia doctor who performed abdominal surgery on him in 2014.
“I’ve always been someone who asks a lot of questions,” said Verlander, who Saturday will make his sixth start against Sale.
Verlander in those games is 2-0, with a 1.46 ERA and 0.81 WHIP, with an opposing batting average of .185. The Tigers have won all five of those previous Verlander-Sale starts.
Sale is 0-2, with a 2.78 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and .228 opposing batting average.