TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) Justin Verlander made a strong case Saturday that he's ready to pitch for the Detroit Tigers.
In his second rehabilitation start with Triple-A Toledo, the right-hander displayed much better command than his first time out. Verlander struck out nine without a walk, allowing an unearned run and four hits in 5 2-3 innings against the Columbus Clippers.
The 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner has been sidelined all season after leaving a March 27 spring training game with a strained right triceps.
He made his first rehab start for Toledo on Sunday at Indianapolis, giving up three runs and six hits while walking two and striking out three.
''Control was much better today,'' Verlander said. ''I felt like for the most part I was able to hit my spots, get ahead of guys and execute my pitches much better.''
Verlander threw 93 pitches, 69 for strikes.
''I feel like today was the step I wanted to see,'' Verlander said. ''The biggest thing was getting my pitch count up, getting some innings, not just throwing three innings but getting out there and getting up and down a few times.''
When Verlander reached 87 pitches with two outs in the top of the sixth, Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish came out to talk to Verlander.
It appeared that Verlander convinced Parrish to leave him in to face Columbus' Jesus Aguilar.
''He said can I get an out in three pitches and I said yeah. So I threw four, five, and then told (catcher Miguel Gonzalez) we got to go right down the middle here, throw it right down the middle and hopefully get an out. Didn't get an out, he hit a double, but didn't want to end up in another 10-pitch at-bat and then be at 95-96, that wouldn't have made LP look good, either. Just here it is, hit it.''
Parrish said that while it isn't his call to make, he believes Verlander is set, as long as he feels fine physically.
''He looked like he was ready today,'' Parrish said. ''In Indy, no. Today, yeah.''
Although the Tigers snapped an eight-game losing streak Saturday in Chicago, they had fallen to third place in the AL Central in the last couple of weeks.
Verlander said he has not put pressure on himself to get back more quickly.
''You just got to go through the process, you can't try to rush things,'' Verlander said. ''That's how you re-injure yourself. I would like to be there and help, but like Brad (Tigers manager Brad Ausmus) told me, the best way to help is to be healthy.''
Verlander still believes that the Tigers are contenders.
''I've been part of some really good teams that went through stretches where we didn't play good baseball,'' Verlander said. ''I still believe we have a great team. I think when we turn it around, it's going to be a lot of fun.''