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Justin Verlander struggles with command in first rehab outing

Verlander topped 96 mph in his first start at Triple-A Toledo, but he couldn't make it out of the third inning after 79 pitches.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Verlander's first rehab outing with the Toledo Mud Hens wasn't exactly a surprise. Verlander had command issues, and he departed with two outs in the third. He will be evaluated after the game to determine whether another rehab start is needed, but don't be surprised if Verlander makes at least one more start with Toledo before returning to the Detroit Tigers.

Verlander's fastball sat at 91-93 mph, topping at 94 mph once in his 20-pitch first inning. He also threw a few curveballs, which sat around 80 mph and sliders, at 85 mph, both of which had life. He gave up a one-out hit and battled former Tiger Steve Lombardozzi, who put up a nine-pitch at-bat, to strike him out on an 83 mph breaking ball.

In the second, though, Verlander struggled with his command, leaving a few pitches up, including an 84 mph breaking ball that was nailed for a line drive single to right with one out.

Things unraveled from there, as Verlander was unable to find the strike zone, particularly with his fastball. After getting ahead 1-2 and 0-2 on two batters, he issued back-to-back walks to load the bases. Verlander was able to reach back and top 96 mph, striking Indianapolis' Gustavo Nunez out on a 95 mph fastball.

Unaided by his defense, Verlander wound up throwing 36 pitches in the second alone, as shortstop Dixon Machado lost a routine popup and it fell in for a two-run double -- a popup that should have ended the inning.

After getting ahead 0-2 on the next batter, Verlander drilled Keon Broxton with a 93 mph fastball in the back to reload the bases but got out of the inning on the first pitch to Lombardozzi.

The third inning went just as poorly. After several low 90s pitches, Verlander gave up back-to-back hits again. After striking out a batter on a 94 mph fastball, a single and a sacrifice fly put Indianapolis ahead 3-2 and Verlander's day ended.

Verlander went a total of 2 2/3 innings, giving up six hits, three runs (all earned), striking out three and walking two. He threw 79 pitches, 50 of which were strikes. However, Verlander induced only six swings and misses, and 23 pitches were fouled off.

A safe bet would be that Verlander will need at least one more rehab start before returning to the Tigers. While his velocity wasn't an issue, the command clearly needs work, and for someone who hasn't pitched in real-game conditions, it's to be expected.