3/1/2013 5:43 P.M. ET
Things coming along perfectly for Verlander
Nine up, nine down against Mets in second spring start
By Joey Nowak / MLB.com
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Justin Verlander took the opportunity to have a little fun on Friday.
The powerful Tigers right-hander was dealing against the Mets in Port St. Lucie, and that includes going against his old childhood foe, David Wright.
"I just told him to swing the bat," Verlander said of the words he had for Wright, the fellow Virginia native, after Verlander struck out the third baseman on three pitches. "Just joking around with him. We grew up playing against each other. If you're gonna have fun with somebody, now's the time."
It's already been a little bit of fun and games for the Detroit ace, who was lights-out on Friday at Tradition Field. He cruised through a perfect three innings before coming out after 35 pitches (23 strikes). He was consistently touching the low-to-mid-90s on the radar gun, while mixing in a few breaking pitches.
"My fastball location was good, if not better than what it should be right now," Verlander said. "I think it was pretty doggone good today."
He mowed down New York's lineup in succession, beginning with two strikeouts against the Mets' first three hitters in the first. He caught Wright looking to finish the frame.
The only sharply-hit ball was off the bat of first baseman Ike Davis, who lined out to second base for the first out of the second. Verlander finished his day with a comebacker to the mound and walked off to a large cheer from the Detroit fans who made the trip to Port St. Lucie.
His final line: three innings, zero runs, hits and walks, and three strikeouts. Only two balls -- both flyouts to center field -- left the infield.
"He's a proud guy," manager Jim Leyland said. "He's gonna go out there every time and try to do his best. But this is a process right now. This is Spring Training. It's his second outing. He's trying to locate the ball, get strike one. He's doing what he should be doing."
It's typical for pitchers to work on establishing the zone early and honing their fastball command in their first couple of Spring Training starts, before establishing their off-speed arsenal. But with Verlander able to work the corners with his fastball without touching the upper-90s, he was also able to use his changeup to keep New York hitters off balance.
"I'm somebody that just gets a feel for pitching," Verlander said. "And the more I throw, the better that feel is. It kind of comes and goes. I think the name of the game for me during the season, and now, is to find the right rhythm to be in where I'm hitting my spots consistently, and trying to elongate that rhythm as long as I can. And if I get out of it, be able to rein that in quicker."