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Justin Verlander encouraged by first start of spring play

LAKELAND, Fla. -- If Friday was indeed akin to taking a new car off the lot for the first time, Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander was pleased with the test drive.

The 33-year-old ace was encouraged by his initial outing of the spring in which he threw two scoreless innings and worked an array of pitches in a 3-0 win against the Yankees.

"You know, first start, you don't get a lot of time to work on a lot of stuff. I mean it's two innings. I guess the biggest thing to focus on is health and now you start getting into your regular pitching routine, get yourself recovered and ready to go every fifth day," said Verlander, who gave up one hit -- a bloop single to Brian McCann -- one walk and struck out one.

Verlander said he threw four changeups, five or six curveballs, a couple of fastballs in the high-80s that might have looked like something else to the untrained eye. He wasn't thrilled with his slider, but that is the pitch he started throwing most recently. Verlander said he did not start working it in until a week ago.

Still, he feels his normal spring progression allows him to build on his velocity as the spring deepens and he anticipates that to happen with each start. Verlander still experiences some nerves but is able to keep the timeline in perspective.

"Yeah, not as amped up as the young kid -- letting it eat early," Verlander said. "It takes me a little longer to get going. That's pretty traditional for me, I think. Besides my first start in my first spring training, I think I'm typically that someone progresses as spring goes along, velocity, arm speed-wise."

He's still working toward pitching at maximum capacity, not from a health perspective, but from an ability to hit full throttle.

"You can't really put a number on it. It's effort, that's for sure. I'm out there trying to pitch like it's a game; it just takes -- it's like your arm has got to get broke in," Verlander explained "Every year, every spring training it's like a new car. You've got to take it off the lot. You have to break it in a little bit. As things kind of break in, loosen up, your arm, your body everything kind of gets a little looser. That's when you start to climb a little bit."

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus generally does not put too much stock into spring training starts, particularly those on the early end. Health remains paramount. But he was pleased with what he saw.

"I thought it was a good first outing. He used all his pitches, got his work in. Fastball had a little life at the end on guys, and jammed a few guys so that was a good first outing," Ausmus said.