By Will Burchfield
The Tigers continue to hold their breath regarding the health of Justin Verlander, but Thursday offered reason for optimism.
Verlander, who left his last start with a tight right groin, threw about 20 to 25 pitches in a bullpen session before the Tigers’ game against the Angels and Brad Ausmus said he looked normal.
Now, the Tigers wait.
“He felt good during the bullpen and we’re gonna see how he feels tomorrow. The 24-hour period, kind of see how it feels the next day,” said Ausmus. “He felt good a few hours after throwing the bullpen, so all signs are positive, but we just wanna cross our T’s and dot our I’s.”
Verlander was originally scheduled to pitch Friday in Boston, but Jordan Zimmermann will take the mound instead. The Tigers are hoping Verlander can start on Saturday.
Ausmus, who held an abbreviated media session on Thursday morning so that he could watch Verlander pitch, said he doesn’t have a gut feeling, one way or the other, as to how things will shake out. A D.L.-stint is still a possibility for the Tigers’ ace, but seemingly less so now.
“He looked completely normal. He’s telling us how he feels and he says he doesn’t feel it (the groin). Throwing a bullpen isn’t the same as getting into a game and having to make a move for a ground ball or a bunt or picking to first, so there’s always a little bit of unknown. But we’ll wait and see how he feels tomorrow,” said Ausmus.
Some eyebrows were raised on Thursday afternoon when it was announced that the Toledo MudHens had scratched Drew VerHagen from his scheduled start on Thursday night.
But Brad Ausmus said the move was merely precautionary, in case Verlander can’t go on Saturday.
The veteran righty has had success in fits and starts this season. He’s 4-4 with a 4.63 ERA and a 1.457 WHIP.
“Verlander’s a big key for us, obviously his health right now is a major key. He’s the horse, he drives the wagon. I think if we can get him going similar to how he was the last three or four months last year we’ll be in grade shape,” said Ausmus.
Verlander declined to talk to reporters after Thursday’s game, an 11-4 loss to the Angels.
Daniel Norris is in line to start on Sunday, although Ausmus said the Tigers could push him back a day depending on the status of Verlander.
“Tomorrow we’ll know a lot more,” said Ausmus. “It’s all conjecture until tomorrow.”