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Verlander shows improved fastball command

Verlander shows improved fastball command play video for Verlander shows improved fastball command

DETROIT -- Justin Verlander's return to form is more like a process than a switch, his pitching coach cautioned on Thursday.

"It doesn't always happen overnight," Jeff Jones said the day after Verlander's latest outing.

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Wednesday's outing in Cleveland, despite all the damage, was a part of the process for the coach. After back-to-back games in which Verlander struggled with fastball command, Jones said he was around the plate with fastballs for most of the night. The problem, Jones suggested, was the reverse of his previous outings.

"I think early, he wasn't getting his offspeed stuff over, so they were kind of sitting on the fastball," Jones said. "And then he started getting his curveball over in the third and fourth, which I thought made a big difference.

"After that, it's as good of a curveball as I've seen him have all year."

The data coming out of Wednesday's outing backed up the thought on fastball command. After throwing barely half of his 62 fastballs for strikes two starts ago against Cleveland, then throwing about 60 percent of his fastballs for strikes -- many of which Rangers batters hit -- in his last start, Verlander was around the strike zone consistently with his heater Wednesday night, hitting it with better than seven out of every 10.

It wasn't as much heat as last Thursday in Texas, dropping a tick to an average of just over 95 mph according to data from MLB.com's Gameday application. However, out of 35 strikes, 26 weren't put in play, according to brooksbaseball.net.

Just three of those were swings and misses, compared with a high total of foul balls. He still managed nine strikeouts over five innings. The last of those, a curveball for a called third strike on Ryan Raburn, was encouraging for Verlander, who used his fastball to set it up after waiting through a 62-minute rain delay.

"Those last couple batters, Raburn in particular, was probably the best I felt all night, being able to find my location on my fastball," Verlander said after the game. "That's a big positive for me moving forward."

It's not where he wants to be, but it's a building block for his next start on Memorial Day against the Pirates.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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