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04/25/10 8:51 PM ET

Location is key for struggling Verlander

ARLINGTON -- Manager Jim Leyland talks every day about getting the Tigers' starting pitching going, and that starts with ace Justin Verlander, who will next pitch in Tuesday's series opener against Minnesota.

Verlander is off to a poor start with a 6.95 ERA, but the Tigers have won three of his four starts. Still, they need better than his 125 pitches in five innings that he gave the team Thursday in Anaheim.

Gerald Laird, who catches every Verlander start, said the ace will get going and that there's one main thing that ails him.

"His location is a little off, that's all," Laird said.

One telling number supports Laird's theory. Verlander threw 85 strikes against the Angels, but L.A. hitters were able to foul off 37 of them.

Zumaya back to his old form

ARLINGTON -- Joel Zumaya tied a career high with five strikeouts in Saturday's 8-4 win, continuing his dominant start to the season after an injury plagued 2009.

Zumaya is tied for the American League lead among relievers with 12 innings pitched. His fastball is sitting at 98 mph and missing bats -- he had three strikeouts swinging Saturday, including one by Josh Hamilton.

"Oh yeah," Gerald Laird said. "He looks great."

Zumaya was unavailable Sunday after throwing two innings as manager Jim Leyland emphasizes taking care of everyone in the bullpen early in the season, especially his relievers coming back from injuries.

Zumaya hasn't pitched in back-to-back games this season, but that's more because he's had several multiple-inning outings.

Willis works out of bullpen after missing start

ARLINGTON -- Starter Dontrelle Willis, who missed Saturday's start with flu-like symptoms, said he was feeling better Sunday. At least he was well enough to pitch an inning in Sunday's 8-4 loss to the Rangers to help out a depleted bullpen.

Willis allowed two runs on a hit and three walks. The walks preceded a two-run single by Rangers third baseman Michael Young.

Manager Jim Leyland wasn't going to rearrange the starting rotation to accommodate Willis, so the left-hander will start again Thursday in the series finale against Minnesota.

Willis said he was able to keep down food Sunday morning. He'd gone through 10 bottles of Gatorade since Saturday.

Worth noting

Magglio Ordonez did not start Sunday, so he'll have to wait a few more days to become the sixth player of Venezuelan descent to reach 2,000 hits. Ordonez is four shy of the plateau. He would join Omar Vizquel (2,706), Luis Aparicio (2,677), Andres Galarraga (2,333), Dave Concepcion (2,326) and Bobby Abreu (2,128). ... Tigers relievers have posted a 0.39 ERA over the last seven games. ... Center fielder Austin Jackson's 23 hits in the season's opening month are the most in April by a Tigers rookie since 1952. ... Class A Lakeland right-hander Bryant Villarreal is second in the Florida State League with 26 strikeouts. ... Triple-A right-hander Armando Galarraga is 10th in the International League with a 1.96 ERA.

Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.