LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander didn't feel he was operating at maximum efficiency on Friday afternoon during his start against the Braves at Champion Stadium.
But that was OK with Verlander, who tossed 84 pitches over five innings in his second-to-last start before he takes the ball in the Tigers' season opener on March 31 against the Royals in Detroit.
"I needed that," he said. "You don't want to go through all of Spring Training and just have everything be a breeze. You want to be able to grind and work through some innings."
Verlander still didn't allow a run in his third spring start, keeping his Grapefruit League ERA at 0.00 through his first 13 2/3 innings. He gave up five hits, walked one and struck out four.
The Braves did manage to threaten Verlander multiple times. Jason Heyward led off with a hit in the first inning, and Atlanta put runners at first and third with one out in the second before Tyler Greene was caught stealing and Ramiro Pena fouled out.
Verlander then put up consecutive one-two-three innings and got the first two outs in the fifth before loading the bases on a double, a single and a walk. But he finished his outing by getting out of the jam on a B.J. Upton fielder's choice grounder.
"I feel like my stuff is getting a little better every time out," Verlander said.
Verlander hopes to go six or seven innings and throw about 95 pitches in his final spring tuneup next week.