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.

Aaron Judge was involved in a weird play in the fourth inning

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Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge found himself front-and-center in a weird play in the bottom of the fourth inning during Game 4 of the ALCS on Tuesday evening. Judge drew a walk to lead off the frame. After Didi Gregorius lined out, Gary Sanchez flied out to shallow right-center.

Judge must have thought the ball had a high probability of falling in for a hit, so he was past the second base bag around the time he realized his mistake. He retraced his steps, running back to first base. Reddick’s throw hopped a couple of times but first base umpire Jerry Meals called Judge out on the tag-up play.

Manager Joe Girardi requested a review and the call was overturned: Judge was safe. However, Astros manager A.J. Hinch wanted to challenge that Judge did not re-touch second base on his way back. Rather than issuing a formal challenge, the Astros had to appeal the play by having starter Lance McCullers throw to second base, at which point second base umpire Jim Reynolds would issue a ruling. McCullers was a bit hasty, though, and made his appeal throw before Greg Bird stepped into the batter’s box. Reynolds told McCullers that he had to wait. So, McCullers again made his appeal throw.

This time, Judge was running and he was simply tagged out at second base for the final out of the inning. No need for a review.

As Ken Rosenthal explained on the FS1 broadcast, the Yankees were trying to “beat the police.” They knew Judge would have been ruled out — replays clearly showed he never re-touched the base — so they had nothing to lose by sending Judge. If he was safe, the Astros would no longer be able to appeal the play. If he’s out, then it’s the same outcome they would have had anyway.