CLEVELAND -- Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones knows the look from Justin Verlander. It's not just about the way he's pitching, but the confidence -- maybe a little arrogance -- behind it.
He saw it Tuesday night at Progressive Field, and he saw it pretty early.
"It looked to me like it started in the second inning," Jones said. "Alex [Avila] came over to me in the third inning and he just kind of smiled and said, 'He's got it tonight.'"
After the first inning, Verlander came into the dugout and had a long talk with Jones. It wasn't about the mechanics, Jones said. He just worried that Verlander was too conscious of the baserunner and was getting too quick in his delivery to be consistent with it.
"I don't want him to sacrifice stuff just to be quick so that a guy doesn't steal a base on him," Jones said.
The adjustment that Verlander made between starts, Jones said, allowed him to extend his arm better in his delivery. That gave him some more velocity, sure, but it also allowed him to put his pitches on either corner, too.
That shows in the numbers, and not just on the radar gun. His fastball, which had dropped into the low 90s in some starts earlier this summer, averaged just under 97 mph Tuesday night according to data from MLB.com Gameday and brooksbaseball.net. That's his highest average velocity with it since last September.
The more impressive numbers were on strikes. He threw 50 of his 69 fastballs for strikes, a 72 percent rate, and he induced 10 swings and misses. Both numbers were around his best of the season.
Verlander also threw more curveballs, and threw them consistently for strikes. That wasn't a change, Jones said, so much as a trend.
"His curveball his last three times has been impressive," Jones said.
Jones doesn't want to prematurely proclaim that Verlander is back, though his trend the last few starts strongly suggests it. His next start Sunday at Yankee Stadium might be the sign.
"I think you have to wait and see," Jones said. "In the back of my mind, I'm hoping, but to me you have to keep going out there every time and doing it. But I think he's happy where he's at."