DETROIT -- Justin Verlander threw a simulated game on April 15 when the Detroit Tigers took on the Pirates in Pittsburgh. His session was cut short when he felt fatigue, however, Verlander reported no pain. After two days of rest, though, there is still soreness and the Tigers will be slowing down his rehab. Despite the continued soreness, there is no cause for concern, nor does the situation call for an MRI at this point.
Verlander hasn't pitched in a game since March 28, his last spring training start. Since being placed on the 15-day disabled list for a right upper medial triceps strain, Verlander has made touch-and-go progress. Wednesday's simulated game called for at least four innings with 60 pitches, which was preceded by a 35-pitch bullpen warm-up session. After three innings and 45 pitches, however, the session ended and with Verlander still experiencing soreness, the Tigers aren't going to rush his return.
"We're gonna slow him down, he's not gonna pick up a ball 'til Sunday," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "He's a little more sore the second day than we had planned, so we're gonna slow him down a little bit. There wasn't an injury setback, he's just more sore than we expected. We expected him to be sore, but two days later we thought he would've recovered."
The Tigers haven't reached the point where they can say whether Verlander will need one or more rehab starts prior to returning to the rotation. If Verlander is feeling OK on Sunday, he might pick up a baseball and throw, but right now the team hasn't set up any bullpen or simulated games going forward.
"We're not at that point but I'm sure that Justin (Verlander) will be on board with whatever we're thinking he should do, in terms of getting him back in our rotation," Ausmus said.
Verlander throws simulated game without pain
From a medical standpoint, Verlander's symptoms don't warrant further testing. At first, Verlander described the discomfort in his triceps as a "cramp," which is common with a muscle strain. The tightness and soreness Verlander felt quickly subsided into an "achy" sensation. Verlander said that the affected area "gets tired quickly." These descriptions are all consistent with a muscle strain, an injury that can have a highly variable timetable for full recovery.
Muscle strains or tears involve a shearing of the muscle fibers, and are graded based on the severity of the injury. Verlander's strain was never graded, in part because he has not had an MRI. However, even a Grade 1 strain can take four-to-six weeks for full recovery, especially when one is putting as much stress on that muscle as Verlander is. At no point in Verlander's rehab has an MRI been warranted, and the "wait and see" approach is all the Tigers can do at this point.
Bruce Rondon continues to progress well, Ausmus saying that the flame-throwing right-handed reliever tossed 15 throws at 60 feet. He will likely throw again at some point on Saturday. Joe Nathan also threw Friday and felt good. Ausmus had not asked Nathan how he felt this morning.
Nick Castellanos gets a day off, giving Hernan Perez his first start of the season. Castellanos was 0-for-8 against Chris Sale in 2014 and 1-for-10 in his career, but Ausmus also needed to get Perez into a game so it accomplished a dual purpose. Perez is 1-for-6 against Sale.
"Yeah I'm a nice guy," Ausmus joked. "First start, Chris Sale."