LAKELAND, Fla. -- Justin Verlander's final start of the spring didn't go the way he wanted, but he said he's just happy that it's time to play baseball that counts.
Verlander allowed five runs -- three earned -- in 5 1/3 innings as the Detroit Tigers topped the Pittsburgh Pirates, 8-5.Verlander was hit hard, giving up 10 hits while walking two in his worst performance of what had been a successful spring.He will face Kansas City's 2009 Cy Young Award winner Zach Greinke on Monday."I feel great," Verlander said. "I am positive, I worked on things I don't normally work on in a regular season game and I'm just ready to go. I know Greinke is good, but I don't care who's pitching. If I can keep us in the game we have the bats to win any time."Verlander led the American League in starts, innings pitched and strikeouts in 2009 and said his rough outing was a fluke."I feel like I have one of those every spring," Verlander said. "If something isn't working in the regular season I stay away from it. Today things weren't working so I just decided to work on it."Tigers manager Jim Leyland wasn't quite so positive about Verlander's final spring test."He wasn't real good. He was falling off the mound. When he threw it hard, he left it over the plate and they whacked it pretty good. But he'll be fine."Pirates starter Zach Duke also struggled in his final appearance of spring training. He allowed eight earned runs in 3 2/3 innings and saw his ERA jump to 6.27.He walked one but allowed a long home run to Detroit's Scott Sizemore. Duke went 11-16 last season, but led the Pirates in wins and made his first All-Star team. Like Verlander, Duke said he's just ready to get on with the regular season."I feel fine, the arm feels fine and my pitches are working fine," Duke said. "They hit me hard, but I am where I need to be going into the season."Pirates manager John Russell had no concerns about Duke's performance."He's had a solid spring and he's ready to go," Russell said. "Every one in our starting rotation is right where we want them to be. I have no concerns."Sizemore's homer was his third of the spring. Johnny Damon was 3-for-4 with a double for the Tigers.Aki Iwamura, Lastings Milledge, and Andy LaRoche each had two hits for the Pirates.
LF Carlos Guillen left the game early with left hamstring spasms and C Gerald Laird sat the game out with a mild groin injury. Leyland said he isn't concerned The Tigers completed their opening-day roster, by sending outfielder Clete Thomas to Triple-A Toledo on Wednesday. That move puts utility player Don Kelly on the team. An MRI showed Thomas' right shoulder is bruised, but Leyland says that injury won't prevent him from being a designated hitter for the Mud Hens Detroit is sending Florida $9.6 million as part of Tuesday's deal for Nate Robertson, who is owed $10 million this year in the final season of a $21.25 million, three-year contract. The Marlins will pay just the $400,000 minimum The Pirates sent C Erik Kratz to Triple A Indianapolis and kept Jason Jaramillo as the No. 2 catcher.