On is good. Ahead is even better.

Justin Verlander being on schedule in his preparation for the season is always music to the Tigers' ears in spring training.

But ahead of schedule? That's a veritable symphony.

In Friday's 6-2 loss to the Mets at Tradition Field, Verlander was not the reason for the Tigers' defeat. With three perfect innings, he couldn't have been.

But here's why what appears to be perfect can sometimes be even better than that.

Verlander felt his fastball command was ahead of schedule — and you, no doubt, know by now how important that is.

"It was a good day for me," Verlander declared about his nine up, nine down session. "For the most part, I felt like my fastball location was as good if not better than what it should be right now.

"For this time of year, it was coming out free and easy. I threw a couple of hanging breaking balls, but that's usually the last thing which comes around for me."

In fact, of the 23 fastballs Verlander threw only two weren't where he wanted.

"I threw one in the middle of the plate to the leadoff guy," Verlander said, "and another to either the No. 8 or No. 9 guy. The rest were just off the corner."

Verlander usually works with Alex Avila behind the plate, but for the first time was caught by Brayan Pena, who'll be the Tigers' second catcher.

"He did a great job receiving," Verlander said. "It's obvious that he cares back there. You can tell that right away because he really gets into your success.

"Alex is like that, too. They care about what you're doing out there."

From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130301/SPORTS0104/303010447#ixzz2MOPvE6k3