Verlander, in just second spring start, overpowers Nationals
Justin Verlander, making his second spring start, allowed one hit, one walk and struck out four.
Andrew Weber / USA TODAY Sports
VIERA, Fla. (AP) -- Justin Verlander was dominant over five innings and Washington's Jordan Zimmermann gave up his first run of the spring as the Tigers defeated a Nationals split squad 2-1 on Sunday.
Verlander, making his second spring start, allowed one hit, one walk and struck out four. He threw 49 pitches and joked that Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones purposely jinxed the no-hitter he had going through four innings just to get his pitch count up.
Washington's Adam LaRoche singled off Verlander with two outs in the fifth.
"(Jones) said, 'If you keep the no-hitter going, I'll let you go back out,'" Verlander said. "Which, he was totally lying (about).
"He said it just to jinx it on purpose, which I knew he was doing. I laughed."
The right-hander then went to the bullpen where he was told to throw 15 more pitches. In typical Verlander fashion, he threw 16.
"Where I'm at today, if I took that into opening day, or whenever my (first regular season) star is, I like my chances," Verlander said, then went to the bullpen to throw 16 more.
Zimmermann, meanwhile, struggled with his fastball command. He allowed four hits and one run while striking out three in four innings. His streak of nine scoreless innings in his previous three starts was snapped in the first inning when Detroit's Don Kelly drove home a run with an infield out.
"I fell behind some guys and was working some deep counts, which I don't want to do," he said. "Overall, it was OK. But I wish the fastball command was there a little bit."
Like Verlander, Zimmermann said he feels confident about the approaching start of the regular season.
"I've felt good all spring," Zimmermann said. "I'm ready to go. It was just one of those days where it was pretty windy out there. I didn't have much command of anything, so it was a little bit of a battle for me."
Tigers: Verlander, who has made six consecutive opening day starts, left no doubt he would like to make it seven in a row. However, he won't be campaigning for it and will leave the decision to new manager Brad Ausmus.
"We're in a pretty unique and very envious position where you've got myself, whose done it for (six) years, you've got Max (Scherzer) who is the reigning Cy Young winner and you've got the reigning ERA champion (Anibal Sanchez)," Verlander said. "I think any manager would like to make that tough decision."
Nationals: Manager Matt Williams wanted Zimmermann to practice bunting in a game situation, so the pitcher got an at-bat in the third inning.
"When I walked up there, I told the catcher (Bryan Holaday), `Just throw it over the middle. I'm just trying to get a bunt down here,'" Zimmermann said. "I don't know if he believed me or not."
Nationals RHP Doug Fister is scheduled to throw two innings (roughly 30 pitches) in a minor league game Monday. Fister has been working his way back after being diagnosed with right elbow inflammation following his first spring training start.
ZIMMERMAN DEBUTS AT FIRST
Ryan Zimmerman saw his first action at first base this spring when he moved over from third base to start the sixth inning.
Zimmerman was tested right away. After a walk to Victor Martinez, Kelly sent a ground ball -- and part of his broken bat - toward first. Zimmerman fielded the ball and stepped on first base.
Zimmerman will still be the Nationals third baseman, but he could transition to first base later in his career. He played two innings there Sunday.
"I could go play there right now," Zimmerman said. "I wouldn't be as confident as I wanted to be, but I feel like I could go do that if we needed to."