Justin Verlander to start opener

Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus picked Justin Verlander to make his seventh consecutive Opening Day start Monday but acknowledged it was difficult to bypass reigning American League Cy Young winner Max Scherzer for the honor.

Verlander, a former Cy Young winner (and league MVP) himself, will take the mound March 31 when the Tigers host the Kansas City Royals. Ausmus said that the right-hander's streak factored into his decision.

"It's a decision that 29 other managers would like to have: choosing between two former Cy Young Award winners," said Ausmus, who is entering his first year as a big league manager, according to mlive.com. "It's a very difficult decision because Max was the best pitcher in the league last year, and there's a very legitimate argument that he should get that opportunity to pitch Opening Day. But we're in a unique situation because we have Justin Verlander, who has also won a Cy Young and an MVP. And he started the last six opening days. Ultimately, all that factored into the decision."

Verlander, who had core-muscle repair surgery Jan. 9, was dominant in his second spring start Sunday, allowing one hit, one walk and striking out four against the Washington Nationals. He has pitched 8 2/3 shutout innings in his two Grapefruit League starts.

"I'm always grateful to pitch on Opening Day," Verlander said Monday, according to the Detroit News. "I know what the day means to Tigers fans. It is like a holiday and I never take it for granted."