There was never really any doubt whether Detroit Tigers‘ Justin Verlander was going to rebound from a disappointing 2013 season in which he went 13-12 and recorded his highest ERA since 2008.
However, there were some concerns whether Verlander would return to the dominant Cy Young pitcher MLB had seen over the past few seasons, especially after he had to go through core muscle surgery that sidelined him for six weeks in January.
The 31-year-old pitcher took his first steps in answering these doubts in his much anticipated first Spring Training performance. There would be no point in overreacting if Verlander struggled, since he is behind schedule in comparison to all the other hitters and batters, but the Tigers were definitely hoping for any positive signs from their ace in his first start since last year’s ALCS.
Verlander showed more than a few positive signs as he pitched exceptionally well against the Toronto Blue Jays earlier today. He only gave up one hit, walked two and struck out two in 3.2 innings of work. The fact that he left his first game of the preseason with a WHIP under 1.00 is phenomenal and probably better than the Tigers could have hoped for.
He was a little erratic with his pitches, as ten of his 24 pitches were balls, but that is to be expected since he was probably pumped up for his first start in over five months which might have led to him overthrowing sometimes. He also might have been reaching back for a little extra power on his pitches since he had not faced batters for an opposing team in a while as well. On a positive note, needing only 24 pitches to get through 3.2 innings is very economical and efficient work which is a great sign for Verlander moving forward.
This was the best case scenario for Detroit and Verlander. If the Tigers want to make a serious run this season and finally get over the World Series hump to bring a title back to Motor City, then they need Verlander to have these type of shutdown performances.
The next biggest concern for the Tigers and their ace will be how he feels after today’s session. It would not be surprising if he comes up a bit more sore than usual due to his recent injury and the long gap between starts. But if he can come back feeling fine and continue to build off this performance, then the Tigers will be in great shape heading into the 2014 season.