Justin Verlander to make spring debut on Thursday

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Tigers ace Justin Verlander underwent surgery in January after injuring a groin muscle during offseason conditioning and there was talk that he might have to miss a couple regular season starts. But everything appears to be on the right track here in early March.

According to beat writer Tom Gage of the Detroit News, Verlander made it through his final bullpen tune-up on Sunday without any physical issues and has been cleared to make his Grapefruit League debut on Thursday afternoon in Lakeland, Florida against the visiting Phillies.

“Then we’ll go from there, just like anyone else,” new Tigers manager Brad Ausmus told reporters on Sunday in Lakeland. “The feeling from the get-go is that, because of the shape he keeps himself in, this was a guy that might have the ability to be back in time for the start of the regular season.”

Verlander, 30, posted a 3.46 ERA and 217 strikeouts across 218 1/3 innings last season for Detroit.

He should be on the mound when the Tigers open their 2014 campaign March 31 against the Royals.

Joe Maddon: “I have a defensive foot fetish.”

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The Cubs’ defense — or lack thereof this year — has been a topic of conversation as it could help explain why the team hasn’t played at the elite level it played at last year.

Manager Joe Maddon tried to go into detail about that but ended up channeling his inner Rex Ryan. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney.

Well then.

The Nationals have scored 62 runs during four Joe Ross starts

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If, in the future, Joe Ross ever complains about a lack of run support, point to his first four starts of the 2017 season.

Ross started on April 19 in Atlanta against the Braves, on April 25 in Colorado against the Rockies, on April 30 at home against the Mets, and on May 23 at home against the Mariners. In those games, the Nats’ offense scored 14, 15, 23, and 10 runs respectively for a total of 62 runs, or an average of 15.5 per start. Ross was the pitcher of record for seven, eight, 10, and 10 runs for a total of 35 runs (8.75 runs per start), which would still make him the major league leader in run support by that restrictive standard.

Among qualified starters — Ross did not qualify — entering Tuesday’s action, the Rockies’ Antonio Senzatela led the way according to ESPN, averaging 7.11 runs of support in nine starts. The Rockies scored double-digit runs in only three of those starts, oddly enough.

Per the Nationals, the 62 runs of support for Ross is a major league record in a pitcher’s first four starts of a season.