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Justin Verlander to make first start Thursday, may be ready for Opening Day

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Justin Verlander's surgery rehab has gone so well, he may be on the fast track to an Opening Day start.

Kevin C. Cox

This past Monday the Detroit Tigers were encouraged enough by Justin Verlander''s core muscle surgery rehab, they were hoping he would be able to take on a starting assignment sometime during the season's first week.

That may have been too pessimistic. Verlander's first regular season appearance could be pushed up to Opening Day.

After Verlander showed no ill effects during latest bullpen session on Sunday morning, manager Brad Ausmus announced the big right-hander had been cleared to make his first spring training start this coming Thursday, March 6. Ausmus' plan is to have Verlander throw two innings against the Phillies, then go from there.

Asmus added the team's feeling from the get-go, "is that, because of the shape he keeps himself in, this was a guy that might have the ability to be back in time for the start of the regular season. It seems like he’s on track for that right now."

Barring any setbacks, Verlander should have five spring training starts on tap before the season starts on March 31. That would give him just one less appearance than the other members of the starting rotation, but still have Verlander ready to pitch against the Royals on Opening Day.

Max Scherzer originally appeared to have the inside track on getting the Opening Day start, putting Verlander's streak of six straight openers in jeopardy. The Tigers have yet to make their final decision as to which starter kicks off the 2014 season, Verlander or Scherzer.

Not exactly a bad situation when you are forced to choose between ace A and ace B, both of whom have won a Cy Young.