LAKELAND, Fla. -- Thursday marked Justin Verlander's 31st birthday, which he celebrated by taking in a serenade from fans. More pertinent to Spring Training, it marked six weeks since his core muscle surgery, which technically ends his rehab process.
He's still not on the same timetable as the other Tigers starters, and he probably won't be until a rotation turn or two into the Spring Training schedule. But he's at the point where even manager Brad Ausmus hesitates to say he's dealing with an injury anymore.
That said, the Tigers are going to have backup options ready if Verlander suffers a setback, with multiple pitchers stretching out as starters in the early weeks of Grapefruit League play. That includes Jose Alvarez, who will start next Friday's split-squad game against the Phillies while Max Scherzer faces the Yankees.
"We have a couple guys," Ausmus said. "Alvarez is one of those guys. [Luke] Putkonen is a guy we've talked about. [Kyle] Lobstein is a guy we've talked about."