DUNEDIN, Fla. — Panicking Tigers fans can stand down for now.
Tigers starter Justin Verlander left Friday’s game with two outs in the third inning because of a cramp in his right triceps muscle, the team said.
Verlander said he first felt it during warm-ups before the third inning.
"First couple were nice and easy, then I threw a curveball and just kind of felt like when I got extended, my triceps kind of grabbed on me a little bit," Verlander said. "From that point on, the rest of the pitches I threw it was a similar feeling, just kind of like when I got fully extended out it just kind of felt crampy. It was weird. I never really felt anything like that before."
Verlander had just run to cover first base on Toronto’s Ryan Goins’ groundout.
When Verlander returned to the mound, he motioned for pitching coach Jeff Jones.
The trainers, manager Brad Ausmus and Jones all raced out to check on Verlander, who then left with trainer Matt Rankin.
The trainers put Verlander through some tests but he said he doesn’t believe an MRI is necessary.
"It doesn’t seem like anything serious," Verlander said. "Talking to the trainers, it’s not near my shoulder, it’s nowhere near my elbow. It feels like a cramp."
Ausmus said Verlander wanted to face one more batter.
"No reason for him to continue pitching in a spring training game," Ausmus said. "I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a triceps issue with a pitcher as long as I’ve been in the game."
Verlander admitted that if it had been a regular-season game, he might not have called anyone out at all.
It was a very humid day, eventually ending in the game being called in the bottom of the fifth due to rain.
So Verlander suspects he might have been dehydrated.
"The drive here I didn’t really drink any water, didn’t drink much here when I got here and went and threw," Verlander said. "But I think the adjustments I’ve been making mechanically getting further out front maybe put a little more strain on it than I have in the past. I really obviously like the mechanical adjustments I’ve made but I’m using muscles a little bit differently maybe and that also may have contributed to it."
The positive news is before the triceps cramp, Verlander was looking and feeling good.
In his 2 2/3 innings, he allowed one hit — a home run by Toronto’s Dalton Pompey in the second inning — while walking one and striking out two.
"Best I’ve seen him," Ausmus said.
Ausmus was asked, best period?
"You can put an exclamation point if you want," Ausmus said.
Jones agreed with that assessment.
"He threw a couple of curveballs that I hadn’t seen out of him in the entire spring that were filthy," Jones said. "His fastball velocity, his fastball location, his arm speed on all of his pitches was the same. He was very impressive."
The radar gun at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium had Verlander throwing several pitches at 95 miles per hour and a couple of pitches at 96.
"I felt good, I felt really good," Verlander said. "That’s where I want to be. Those first two innings are a great sign. I felt like myself, funny to say."
It wasn’t just his velocity that made Verlander happy.
"The (curveball) I threw to (Russell) Martin was probably the best curveball I’ve thrown in two years," Verlander said. "I think it kind of confused everybody back there, everybody kind of jumped. Mac (catcher James McCann) said it was really good, the umpire said it was a hair low but I was really pleased with that. Everything I was pleased with – changeup was good, I got some good swings on that – so hopefully this is just a non-issue and something that just kind of crept up for the reasons that I talked about."
Verlander will undergo further evaluation Saturday in Lakeland.
"We’re going to touch base with (head athletic trainer) Kevin Rand and the next morning’s always kind of crucial, how he feels," Ausmus said. "It wouldn’t shock me if he was a little bit sore tomorrow, it wouldn’t shock me if he got up in the morning and didn’t feel anything at all."
Ausmus said Verlander was already scheduled to have one extra day before his next start anyway, which should help.
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