LAKELAND, Fla. -- Justin Verlander knew on his way in to Joker Marchant Stadium on Thursday morning that he probably wasn't going to be taking the mound at 1:05 p.m. ET. He was probably going to have to simulate game conditions while throwing in a cage.
Once the Tigers-Phillies tilt was rained out, Verlander did the best he could. He sat at his locker with music blaring through his earphones while the rain poured outside. He went through his usual pregame routine, except for long toss, which he didn't have room to do. He found hitters to stand in the box while he threw his 45 pitches. He sat down in between to simulate his break between innings.
"I did the national anthem and everything," Verlander said.
He couldn't duplicate the conditions completely, but he tried to make the best of it. By physically getting out of a game setting, he treated it as a chance to work on his mechanics once more, trying to regain what he says is his 2012 form, not his 2013 postseason form. He's not where he wants to be yet, he believes, but he's on his way.
"The adjustments I'm making come all the way back to last year," Verlander said. "I threw like this for a year, so it's not so easy. My body wants to fall back into that naturally, because it's a whole year's worth of muscle memory that I'm fighting right now."
That, he suggested, might have been related to the core muscle injury that required surgery to repair two months ago.
"What we're thinking is, the adjustments I'm making, the way I was throwing last year, might have had something to do with an injury being there without me knowing," Verlander said, "and that might have been why I had to change my mechanics a little bit. …
"We think it was a very slow kind of injury, and that's why there was never a pop or anything. I was losing strength through my core, and that was what I think -- what we think -- was my body trying to adjust to that and being able to pitch through it."
One difference Verlander said he noted was a tilt in his shoulders. Instead of having everything parallel, he was firing from a lower angle. He's now trying to bring that back to a level. It was a recent discovery on his part.
Pitching in the cage, he said, allowed him to focus on that again. Pitching in a game will let him see how hitters react to his pitches, but more importantly, give him video of his delivery to watch and compare.
"I know what I'm trying to get to," Verlander said, "and so I'll be able to stop the video and say that's right or that's not right."