Justin Verlander throws off a mound, expects to be ready for the start of the 2014 season

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Tigers ace Justin Verlander underwent surgery in January after injuring a core muscle during offseason conditioning and the initial expectation was that he’d be behind his fellow rotation mates when spring training began. But that might not be the case.

According to beat writer Chris Iott of MLive.com, the right-hander threw 20 pitches off a mound Monday at the Tigers’ spring training complex in Lakeland, Florida and told reporters afterward that the workout went “very well.” Verlander has mapped out a plan with Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones that should allow him to appear in five Grapefruit League games and to take the mound on Opening Day (March 31) against the Royals.

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

Beyond the conditioning injury, it’s safe to say that he spent his offseason wisely (via Getty):

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Astros clinch postseason berth with 11-3 win over Angels

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No surprise here: The Astros are headed back to the postseason to defend their title following a landslide 11-3 win over the Angels on Friday. This figures to be their third playoff run since 2015, though they have yet to wrap up the AL West with a division title.

First baseman Yuli Gurriel led the charge on Friday, smashing a grand slam in the first inning and tacking on a two-run homer in the second and RBI single in the fifth to help the Astros to a seven-run lead. The Angels eventually returned fire, first with Mike Trout‘s 418-foot homer in the sixth, then with an RBI hit from Francisco Arcia in the seventh, but they couldn’t close the gap in time to overtake the Astros.

On the mound, right-hander Gerrit Cole clinched his 15th win of the year after holding the Angels to seven innings of three-run, 12-strikeout ball. His sixth strikeout of the night — delivered on an 83.1-MPH knuckle curveball to Kaleb Cowart — also marked the 1,000th strikeout of his career to date. He was backed by flawless performances by lefty reliever Tony Sipp and rookie right-hander Dean Deetz, both of whom turned in scoreless innings as the offense barreled toward an 11-3 finish with Jake Marisnick‘s sac bunt and George Springer‘s three-run shot in the eighth.

Despite having qualified for the playoffs, the Astros still carry a magic number of 6 as they look to clinch a third straight division title. They’re currently up against the Athletics, who entered Friday’s contest against the Twins just four games back of first place in the AL West.