Astros 7, Tigers 2

While many players are saying spring training this year is too

long because of the World Baseball Classic, Tigers ace Justin

Verlander is happy to have more time.

Verlander allowed three homers and four runs while pitching into

the sixth inning Thursday of the Tigers’ 7-2 loss to the Houston

Astros.

The 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner had yielded nine runs

in his last two starts against major league competition.

”My slider’s not anywhere near where it needs to be,”

Verlander said. ”I must need to work on it and get a feel for

it.”

Verlander, however, wasn’t concerned that his spring training

ERA rose to 4.74. He has one more spring start before opening up

the regular season in Minnesota.

Houston Astros starter Lucas Harrell, who will follow Bud Norris

in the rotation, allowed two runs in five innings and walked

three.

”I was struggling,” Harrell said. ”But I felt like every time

I needed to make a pitch, I made it. Everything feels fine but

there are times I need to fight through certain situations. Tonight

was one of them.”

Astros manager Bo Porter said Harrell was rounding into shape as

he tries to fill out the rest of the Astros staff. Besides Norris

and Harrell, along with No. 3 starter Phillip Humber, Porter still

has heavy competition for the final two spots. Brad Peacock, one of

the candidates, pitched the final three innings, striking out five

and allowing only two hits.

Porter said Erik Bedard, Alex White, and Edgar Gonzalez are also

fighting for the last two spots.

”(Harrell) did a good job considering he didn’t have his best

stuff,” Porter said. ”He ran into patches where he had some

trouble, but he got out of it. I liked that.”

Porter also liked the two home runs that catcher Carlos Corporan

hit, including one off of Verlander. Corporan is batting .370 for

the spring and competing with Jason Castro for the starting

catchers spot. Castro is batting .448 this spring.

Brandon Laird and Matt Dominguez also homered for the

Astros.

Victor Martinez went 2-for-3 with a double for the Tigers.

NOTES: 1B Brett Wallace experienced shoulder spasms in his right

trapezius diving back to first on a pickoff move and is day to day.

. Gonzalez left his start for Triple-A Oklahoma City after being

struck in the shin by a line drive. He is day to day. . RHP Jordan

Lyles and RHP John Ely were optioned to minor league camp. . The

Tigers bullpen allowed three more runs and manager Jim Leyland said

he is starting to get concerned. ”That would be safe to say. Some

of these guys need to start stepping it up. It’s getting late,”

Leyland said. . Leyland said he isn’t concerned about his starting

rotation being ready for opening day. ”We are going to have six

guys I can count on to throw 100 pitches by opening day.”