LAKELAND, Fla. — Justin Verlander hardly needed to win the American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Awards to boost his confidence.
“I am the same as I’ve always been,” he said. “I have never been shy on confidence no matter what. I need my confidence and that’s part of my ability to pitch.”
Verlander allowed two runs and four hits in five innings Tuesday, making his fourth exhibition start as the Detroit Tigers beat the Atlanta Braves 7-2.
Verlander laughed when asked whether expectations would be higher this year, coming off a season when he won the AL pitching triple crown by going 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA and 269 strikeouts.
Verlander struggled at times against the Braves, walking two and striking out four. Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he had no problem with Verlander pitching out of a jam for the first time this year.
“It gears up his intensity,” Leyland said. “I don’t like to see anyone put runners on base, but there’s no problem.”
After the Braves loaded the bases with no outs in the third, Verlander gave up a two-run single to Eric Hinske, then struck out Matt Diaz to end the inning.
Ryan Raburn hit his sixth home run of spring training for Detroit.
Delmon Young hit his fourth homer and drove in three runs. Prince Fielder added two hits.
Braves starter Jair Jurrjens gave up seven runs – six earned – and eight hits in five innings.
Bothered by the right knee injury that sidelined him last September, Jurrjens has a 10.13 ERA.
“I felt good,” Jurrjens said. “They got some cheap hits in and there’s nothing you can do about it. I felt good and I am happy with my control.”
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he wasn’t jumping to conclusions about Jurrjens’ struggles.
“We got five innings out of him,” Gonzalez said. “He left a couple over the plate and they went out of the park. He’s got two more starts.”
Both starters struggled with the mound, and Jurrjens slipped in the fifth inning – causing Braves trainers to come out.
Braves closer Craig Kimbrel pitched one inning in his sixth consecutive scoreless appearance.