Tigers, Verlander in similar position after loss to Indians
DETROIT -- The Tigers as a team and Justin Verlander are kind of in the same spot right now.
They both seem to be getting better but are nowhere near where they need to be yet after a 5-4 loss to the Cleveland Indians.
Verlander made his 2015 big-league debut Saturday afternoon in front of a sellout crowd of 41,260, ending his first career stint on the disabled list.
Verlander made his MLB debut against the Indians so it was somehow appropriate that he was making his season debut against them.
"It was nice to be back out there, first and foremost," Verlander said. "Felt good to be on a big-league mound. Felt pretty good overall."
Verlander looked pretty good until the fifth inning, when the Indians made him work.
Two walks sandwiched around a hit, plus a sacrifice fly forced Verlander to throw 28 pitches.
Although he only had 87 pitches when he left after five innings, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, pitching coach Jeff Jones and Verlander decided that was enough for his first time out.
"I think moving forward, it's really a no-brainer," Verlander said. "But right now, I think it's smart."
Said Ausmus: "I think in fairly short order, he'll be back up to his 110-120 pitches."
Verlander allowed two runs on three hits while walking two and striking out two but got a no-decision.
Verlander gave up a solo home run to Carlos Santana, who now has six home runs against him, the most by any Indian except Jim Thome, who had seven.
"We're really grateful to have him back," right fielder J.D. Martinez said. "It just looked like he was out there and he was throwing strikes, getting ahead of guys and making good pitches when he needed to. It was just unfortunate we couldn't get that win for him today but I think he pitched really well and I'm excited for the future for the rest of the season."
That future should also include Victor Martinez, who took batting practice and ran again before Saturday's game.
That went well enough that Martinez is now headed to Pawtucket, Rhode Island, to join the Toledo Mud Hens for a rehabilitation assignment.
Martinez will play one game in Pawtucket and three games in Syracuse with the Mud Hens before the team makes a decision.
"We're definitely looking forward to having Victor back, no doubt about it," Anthony Gose said. "I think we're just going out, trying to win games as best we can right now."
Gose made a highlight-reel catch to end the first inning, robbing Tigers killer Michael Brantley of an extra-base hit with a Superman-like, diving catch in center field.
Verlander lifted his arms up to the skies after the catch in celebration and waited for Gose to come in from center field to high-five him.
"That was pretty sweet," Verlander said. "He made a nice play shagging in batting practice (a few days ago), and said, 'Hey, Ver, I'll save that one for you for the game.'
"Then he goes and makes a spectacular play in the first, so I had to give him props for that."
Verlander got his velocity up to 97 miles an hour in the fifth so the Tigers will have to see how he feels when he comes in Sunday morning.
The Tigers have still not found a consistent groove yet, probably due in part to missing guys like Verlander, Martinez and Alex Avila.
Now Verlander is back, Martinez is heading to a rehab assignment and Avila shouldn't be too far behind.
"They're all huge pieces of this team and what they bring to the table is the reason they're here so without them, we're kind of not as strong," Martinez said. "We still have a really strong team but with them coming back is only going to help us."