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Verlander throws; Tigers comfortable with progress

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LAKELAND, Fla. -- Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones expected Justin Verlander would want extra pitches when he threw his bullpen session Saturday. Really, Jones seemed surprised that Verlander threw only one pitch more than his limit.

Jones knows Verlander as well as anybody in the organization, having worked with him since 2007. And he insists he isn't worried about Verlander pushing himself too hard, too fast in his recovery from core muscle surgery.

"He always pushes himself really hard, but I think he understands what he needs to get ready," Jones said Sunday. "Honestly, when we found out what happened [with the injury in December], we talked on the phone, and I wasn't too concerned with him pushing himself."

It might have been a concern a few years ago. It definitely would have been a concern in Verlander's younger days when he was still trying to prove himself. But as Jones put it, Verlander's no longer trying to make the team.

Jones said they'll take a wait-and-see approach on Verlander's side sessions for the next week to 10 days, holding off on a schedule until he reports no discomfort. Under normal circumstances, Verlander would be throwing every other day for the next couple of turns, then every third day leading into the start of the Spring Training schedule.

As long as Verlander can make five starts this spring, they'll feel comfortable with his readiness going into the season.

Verlander was cleared to take part in fielding drills Sunday for the first time this spring. That included the oft-mentioned ragball drill, taking hard-hit ground balls hit back at him from Omar Vizquel.

"It was good to be able to do that," Verlander said.

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

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