LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) - Justin Verlander said he might have won the Cy Young Award last season if it hadn't been for a rocky start. So this season he tried something new.
The Detroit ace began the Grapefruit League schedule by pitching as if it were the regular season already. The results have been impressive: an 0.96 ERA going into his opening-day start outing Thursday afternoon against the Yankees in New York.
Verlander tuned up by pitching seven impressive innings and the Detroit Tigers beat the split-squad Philadelphia Phillies 3-1 Saturday.
``If you take away last April, I could have won the Cy Young,' Verlander said. ``I am right where I want to be. I took a different approach and I think it worked.'
Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Verlander has never seemed better at this point in the season.
``He's looked good all spring and he's the leader of this staff,' Leyland said. ``He earned the opening-day start and I'm looking for a big year. He took a new approach and it has worked out.'
Verlander allowed one run and five hits, striking out three and walking none in the Tigers' final home game of the spring.
Ryan Raburn and minor leaguer Deik Scram homered for the Tigers.
Ryan Felerabend started for the Phillies and allowed one run in five innings. He had already been optioned to the minors, but manager Charlie Manuel said Felerabend made a strong impression.
``He was great,' Manuel said. ``He kept the ball down and that's what he needs to do. I haven't seen a lot of him but I like what I saw today.'
NOTES: Phillies 3B Placido Polanco is struggling with a hyperextended right elbow. Manuel said Polanco would play on Sunday against Toronto, adding nothing is certain for Opening Day. ... The Tigers finished their 75th season in Lakeland with a home attendance of 122,827, second largest in their history. ... Leyland made his final three roster cuts, sending INF Danny Worth to Triple-A Toledo and pitcher Adam Wilk and outfielder Andy Dirks to minor league camp. All three had solid springs. Worth, who was competing for a spot at second base, hit .333 but was beaten out by Will Rhymes. Dirks turned a lot of heads and Leyland said he wouldn't be in the minors for long, especially with RF Magglio Ordonez having tightness in his left hamstring. Ordonez said he would be ready for opening day, but Leyland had said the outfielder's condition was a factor in his roster decisions.
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