Astros' Justin Verlander (groin) throws two innings in simulated game

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Justin Verlander pitched a two-inning simulated game on Thursday in place of what had been scheduled as his spring training debut, a switch made because of groin tightness.

"Actually, my dad sent me something last night: An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure," the Houston Astros ace said.

Scratched from Thursday's start, Verlander threw approximately 30 pitches off a back-field mound before the Astros' game against Washington.

"It went about as good as I could have felt today," Verlander said. "Maybe noticed it just a little bit. Once I got on the mound, just kind of tried to pitch and not worry about it too much."

New Houston manager Dusty Baker liked what he saw of the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner. Verlander was 21-6 with a 2.52 ERA last season.

"He looked very good," Baker said. "He looked sharp. He wasn't satisfied with some of his pitches, but I was."

The 37-year-old righty disliked his first inning but saw significant improvement in the second. Verlander considered extending himself to a third inning, then thought back to his father's message.

"I asked Dusty, 'If this were a game and we were out there with the bright lights on, would you take me out?'" Verlander said. "He said, 'Yep, you'd be done right now.' I said OK. Day accomplished."

Groin tightness isn't new to Verlander, but when it has occurred in the past it has been during the regular season.

"So I kind of know, or have an idea, how to maintain it and try to avoid anything serious," Verlander said.

Baker thinks Verlander will start Tuesday against St. Louis in Jupiter. Verlander won't commit until he sees how he recovers.

Verlander will have time to make at least four starts during the remaining spring games and could potentially make five.

"If there's a lot of stuff I need to work on, I don't have a lot of time to do it," said Verlander, who has four or five turns before the March 26 opener against the Los Angeles Angels. "But if I feel pretty good and my stuff's working, then it's just about building my pitch count."
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