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Published: Thursday, 4/1/2010

Tigers' Verlander shaky in final spring game


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 51/3 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 so positive.

"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 32/3 innings and saw his ERA jump to 6.27.

Duke 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.

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.

NOTES: The Tigers completed their opening-day roster, by sending outfielder Clete Thomas to Triple-A Toledo. 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.

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