LAKELAND, Florida — Two days after being told he would not be the Tigers' opening day starter, Justin Verlander gave up three home runs in less than five innings of a 7-7 tie Sunday between Detroit's split squad and the Washington Nationals.
Two days after learning David Price would be starting on opening day instead of him, the 2011 Cy Young Award and MVP winner's spring training ERA inflated to 6.08.
"I have work to do on my slider," Verlander said. "My slider has been about 50-50. I still have some tinkering to do before opening day."
Michael Taylor had two homers for the Nationals, giving him three for the spring. Ian Stewart also homered off of Verlander. Stewart was 3 for 3.
Miguel Cabrera made his Grapefruit League debut on Sunday for Detroit, and went 1-for-3 with a single and two strikeouts.
"I have two starts left," said Verlander, who gave up five runs in 4 1-3 innings. "I'm just not there yet. My fastball is getting better, but they hit some pretty good pitches."
J.D. Martinez hit his fifth homer. Alex Avila also homered for Detroit.
Pitching in place of injured Stephen Strasburg, A.J. Cole made his second start for the Nationals and allowed two runs in 3 2-3 innings. He walked two and struck out five.
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said he isn't concerned about Verlander's spring.
"Most of the runs he gave up were just from getting the ball up," Ausmus said. "When he gets it where it needs to be it is really good."
A.J. Cole made his second start of the spring for the Nationals and allowed two runs in 3 2-3 innings. He walked two and struck out five.
NATIONALS: Cole isn't likely to be in the Nationals rotation this season, but manager Matt Williams said it's likely he'll make his big-league debut this season.
"He got us through three innings and that's what we wanted," Williams said. "We just want to see what he can do and he's doing great."
NATIONALS: Doug Fister will make his fourth start of the spring on Monday in Viera against the New York Yankees.
TIGERS: The Tigers are off on Monday and travel to Tampa to face the Yankees on Tuesday. Anibal Sanchez will get the start.
TIGERS: Cabrera, who won the American League Triple Crown in 2013 and batted .313 with 25 homers and 109 RBI last season, has been hampered by off-season surgery to remove a bone spur from his right ankle and had a stress fracture repaired in his right foot.
Ausmus said Cabrera would be designated hitter on Tuesday and may be ready to start playing at first base. Tigers regular designated hitter Victor Martinez is also recovering from an offseason injury and was the DH in another Tigers game on Sunday.
Ausmus wasn't making any guarantees whether or not Cabrera would be ready for opening day, but he said the chance was better than 50 percent.
"I was very excited today," Cabrera said. "I wasn't excited after striking out my first time up. I was restless. It was like taking a long vacation."
TIGERS: The Tigers once again went with their three key bullpen pitchers — Joakim Soria, Joe Nathan and Joba Chamberlain. Ausmus said he's trying to use the three in the same game every other day. Against the Nationals, Chamberlain allowed a run in one inning and his earned run average rose to 7.50. Nathan, who had pitched shutout innings his last three times out, allowed a run, and Soria had a shutout inning.
Soria hasn't allowed a run in five innings this spring.
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