When Justin Verlander struggled in unprecedented ways during his last start — namely, that seven-run third inning in Texas — he said he intended to fix the problem by getting back to basics. His first start since then is here — Wednesday night against the Indians at Progressive Field. So, what steps has he taken between starts that represent a return to basics? First of all, as Verlander said after his start in Texas, no video. Looking for his old velocity, he said he'd been "tinkering a little bit too much." Or as Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones said, "(Verlander) and I had been looking at a lot of stuff. But sometimes you can get into the video too much. It makes you start thinking too much." The search proved productive to this extent: Verlander touched 99 mph his last start, which pleased him. But the command of his fastball was nowhere to be seen. The only way he could get it back, Verlander said, was by repeating deliveries and pitches in bullpen sessions between starts. That was the plan, but that's been the course of action, as well. With five days between starts instead of the usual four, Verlander has been able to throw two bullpen sessions — a long one last Saturday and a shorter one Sunday. But what you need to know about bullpens is that a pitcher doesn't treat them like time at the driving range. On the range, you can hit balls until your swing is where you want it. In the bullpen, you can't throw until you turn a mediocre session into a good one or a good one into a great one. "Physically, you can't do that," Verlander said. "Especially in Texas (where he threw the two sessions), you can't just throw and throw and throw." Verlander, however, was honest about how it went. "It went all right," he said. "I can't say it was great. In my second session, I felt I was finding it for about 15 pitches. Then I started getting tired and began to lose it. So that was enough. "But it's never really great until you flip the switch for the game. We'll find out (tonight)." What did he concentrate on? "Just trying to hit my spots with my fastball," Verlander said. "Trying not to worry about anything except hitting my spots."
Justin Verlander returns to fundamentals to try to remedy slump
Detroit News | May 22