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Justin Verlander ends bullpen session early, timetable for return still uncertain

Justin Verlander took a big step toward a return to the Tigers' rotation today, throwing a bullpen session without any shoulder pain.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Verlander threw three innings of simulated game action today at Pittsburgh's PNC Park. The session was cut short an inning due to fatigue, but Verlander reported no pain and none of the "grabby" sensation he had in previous throwing sessions. While the shoulder fatigue may indicate a need for a few more bullpen sessions to get his arm strength back to 100 percent, it is a positive step forward for the Detroit Tigers' ace who has been on the disabled list since the end of spring training with a strain in his right triceps.

With the Tigers' rotation set through the weekend -- David Price, Anibal Sanchez, and Shane Greene will start against the Chicago White Sox -- it is unlikely that Verlander will return to the starting rotation before next week's series with the New York Yankees at Comerica Park. However, a pain-free throwing session is the key step toward getting the big right-hander back into the Tigers' rotation in the very near future. The Tigers will wait to see how Verlander's arm recovers in the next day or two before determining the next step in his rehabilitation.

Verlander performed his normal long-toss and warm-up before facing hitters over three simulated innings. There were normal breaks between "innings" to simulate normal game conditions. Verlander threw approximately 45 pitches in the session against utility infielders Andrew Romine and Hernan Perez, as well as bullpen catcher John Murrian. According to Jason Beck, Verlander mixed in his entire arsenal, and appeared to have good velocity on his fastball.

The fatigue Verlander experienced is consistent with his rehabilitation from the triceps strain. While the fatigue is to be expected, it does seem to indicate that even if his arm feels good tomorrow, Verlander will need to build his arm strength back up before he can rejoin the Tigers' rotation. He'll need to progress to a longer outing in another simulated game or bullpen session over the weekend before the Tigers can estimate a return to the starting rotation.

The Tigers start a four-game set against the New York Yankees on Monday. With Alfredo Simon presumably starting the first game of that series on normal rest, it would appear that the Tigers' will need at least one more spot start before Verlander returns. Facing a lineup heavy on left-handed hitters, Kyle Lobstein will probably find himself called upon for one more start.