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Tigers' Justin Verlander may face career-first DL stint

Justin Verlander's triceps cramp isn't just a cramp anymore, and there is a possibility he could be on the disabled list to start the season.

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Verlander will not make his final spring training start. If things aren't cleared up by Friday, a stint on the disabled list may be a possibility, which would cause Verlander to miss his first regular season game of the 2015 season. The righthander has never been on the disabled list during his major league career.

Although Verlander said there was some slight improvement in his right triceps muscle, the issue has not subsided to the point where he'd be ready to start a major league game. Verlander may pitch in a minor league game, but that the Tigers are taking precautions beyond those of a cramp or mild strain is cause for concern.

"If we get to the point Friday and he's not pitching, it would probably mean he would not make his first (regular season) start," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus told reporters Tuesday morning.

That doesn't equate to panic, and there shouldn't be any at this point. Verlander is still throwing, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see a DL stint in Verlander's future, regardless of his current status. Right now, he's listed as day-to-day, but there's more to it than the usual variety, and even with a level of optimism, it's still an injury no matter how you phrase it.

"If we have to use (the DL), we could," Ausmus said. "I wouldn't rule out Friday yet."

A DL stint for Verlander could be back-dated to March 28, his last start, which would put him in line to return to the rotation during the team's first run through it. Anibal Sanchez would pitch in Verlander's place, and Verlander would start April 12.

Anything beyond that, however, and the Tigers would need to call on help from the minor leagues. Kyle Lobstein would be the most likely front runner for a sixth starter. Ausmus also slated Kyle Ryan to start on Wednesday, Angel Nesbitt for Thursday, and Sanchez on Friday, as he  sorts through the last remaining players competing for spots in the bullpen. Verlander was originally listed for Thursday.

If the Tigers were to place Verlander on the disabled list, it would allow them to carry an extra reliever for the first five games of the season. Verlander and the Tigers have just six days until the season starts, but they will need to make a decision sooner than that. If the continuing soreness isn't resolved in time, Verlander may find himself missing more than a spring game or his first regular season start.