Detroit — The change-up used to be a major weapon for Justin Verlander. But, sometime around the middle of last season — about the time he refashioned his slider — he lost the feel for it.
He misses it and is working to bring it back.
“I worked on it some today,” he said after throwing his between-starts bullpen Wednesday. “I’ve been working on it the last few starts. It hasn’t been a pitch I’ve really trusted. You get into a situation and you don’t want to get beat with your fourth-best pitch.”
There have been times, especially in starts like his last one against the Indians, when he was getting hit around, that he wished he had it in his bag.
“Oh, for sure,” he said. “But not throwing it (for so long) — you need to throw it in a game and get a feel for it and get comfortable with it.”
According to Brooks Baseball, he’s throwing the change-up just 4.7 percent of the time this season. Last year, he threw it 8.5 percent of the time and just 9.4 percent of the time in 2015. The last time he truly trusted the pitch was in 2014, when he threw it 13 percent of the time.
Why did he go away from it?
“The change-up was the only thing getting hit, so why would you throw the pitch that was getting hit?” he said. “That used to be a very effective pitch for me. Right now, it’s fallen by the wayside. Last year, I worked so extensively on the slider, I lost the feel for it.”
He is encouraged, though, by how the bullpen sessions have gone.
“It’s a pitch that throughout the remainder of the season I’d like to get a little more comfortable with,” he said. “I’ve worked on it, pretty extensively.”
Manager Brad Ausmus watched Verlander’s bullpen session on Wednesday.
“It’d be an asset for sure,” Ausmus said of Verlander regaining his change-up. “Anytime you add a pitch, it’s an asset. But this is a pitch that got away from him and he’s trying to rediscover it.”
Ausmus added though, not having a change-up isn’t the cause of Verlander’s inconsistency this season, nor would regaining it be the sole solution.
“He didn’t have the change-up last year, either,” he said. “And he was pretty good.”
Around the horn
The Tigers activated outfielder Alex Presley from the seven-day concussion list. Matt den Dekker was sent back to Toledo.
… Outfielder Jim Adduci (oblique) was removed from his rehab assignment and optioned to Toledo.
… Justin Upton, since May 31, has hit .533 (16-for-30) with runners in scoring position. That is tied with Cubs' Anthony Rizzo for the best in Major League Baseball.
Giants at Tigers
First pitch: 1:10 Thursday, Comerica Park, Detroit
RHP Johnny Cueto (6-7, 4.26), Giants: The Tigers haven’t faced him since 2015, and they were glad to be rid of him. In five starts against him, the Tigers hit .227 with just one home run. He posted a 0.997 WHIP in those outings. He’s scuffled some this year, though he’s been better lately (2.84 ERA, .246 opponent’s average in his last three).
RHP Anibal Sanchez (0-0, 6.34), Tigers: He’s writing one heck of a comeback story. In his three starts since rejoining the rotation, opponents are hitting .186 off him with a .254 slugging an .559 OPS. He was tagged for nine homers in his first 21 innings this year, just one in his last 17.1.