Detroit Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones says ace pitcher Justin Verlander is "way ahead of schedule" in his return from offseason muscle repair surgery, reports George Sippel of the Detroit Free Press.
Verlander suffered the injury while doing squats in December. Though he originally believed it to be a mild muscle strain. An MRI a couple of weeks later showed that he had actually suffered damage to both sides of his groin. He had surgery on the injury Jan. 9.
The Tigers had Verlander throw 20 pitches off the mound on Monday, after which he reportedly felt good. Jones has been working with him to create a plan for his return that involves Verlander making five starts in spring training.
That's a fairly typical spring training regimen. Last year, Verlander appeared in six games during spring, tossing 24⅔ innings. Only six pitchers made more than six starts during spring training last year, with most starters throwing between 4-6 games.
Verlander, 30, is expected to be ready to pitch Opening Day provided he does not suffer any setbacks. He's looking for a bounce-back season after a little bit of a down year last year. Over 34 starts for the Tigers, he had a 3.46 ERA and 1.32 WHIP with nearly a strikeout per inning. He also was elected to his fifth consecutive All Star game. Verlander won the AL Cy Young award in 2011 and finished second in 2012.