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Justin Verlander on track to start in season's first week

Justin Verlander may not be ready in time to be the Tigers' opening day starter, but he is on track to make his regular season debut sometime during the first week of the 2014 season.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

-Justin Verlander may not be the Detroit Tigers' opening day starter, but manager Brad Ausmus is now saying his ace is on track to start during the first week of the season, barring setbacks.

His rehab from off season groin surgery quickly progressing, Ausmus says he wants the 31-year-old Verlander to be capable of throwing approximately 100 pitches when he makes his first regular season start.

"If there are no setbacks, Justin Verlander will be right around 100 pitches. If he’s up to 100 pitches, Justin Verlander could probably will himself to be Justin Verlander."

Verlander faced live batters for the first time this spring on Monday, throwing 48 pitches during a simulated two innings against against a pair of minor leaguers, left-hand hitting Daniel Fields and right-hand swinging Craig Albernaz.

The Tigers have yet to confirm who will be their opening day starter, but appears more and more likely it will be 2013 Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, which would allow a rehabbing Verlander a few more days to prepare for his first regular season appearance.

Scherzer getting the March 31 starting nod from Ausmus would snap Veralnder's streak of six straight opening day starts. The franchise record is 11 consecutive opening day starts, held by Jack Morris (1980-1990). The last reigning Cy Young winner to not be his teams' opening day starter the following season was 2004 winner Johan Santana. Brad Radke got the honor over Santana in the Twins' 2005 opener.