Verlander serves up homer -- to his brother

Ben takes Justin deep in Minor League game

March 31st, 2016

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Justin Verlander used to threaten his younger brother, Ben, about what would happen if they ever faced each other.

"I've always told him my whole life I'm going to hit him," he joked.

Instead, it was the other way around, with the younger Verlander getting big brother for a home run Thursday in a Minor League game.

"I thought about throwing behind his back," Justin Verlander said, "but I decided to throw him one down the middle instead. I'm sure he'll enjoy that for a long time."

Justin Verlander did not expect their meeting to happen. When he walked across the street to the back fields of Tigertown, he was simply getting his work in during a Minor League game in his final tuneup for Opening Day. Ben Verlander, a 2013 Draft pick who spent last year at Class A Advanced Lakeland, was supposed to be playing in a different game on another field.

With four fields next to each other, however, it's not difficult for players to jump from one game to another. Ben Verlander jumped across and came up swinging, hitting an opposite-field homer.

"When he came up there, I knew exactly what he was doing," Justin Verlander said. "If I was pitching in a real situation, I'd probably just throw him a heater down and away right here. If that's a different situation, it's probably a different pitch. I had a lot of situations like that today."

Justin Verlander lasted five innings, giving up another home run to Tigers infield prospect JaCoby Jones. He did not get another chance to face his brother.

"I did keep waiting for him to come back around," he said. "He wasn't going to get another cookie down the middle. I guess he was supposed to be on one of the other fields."

In fairness, Ben Verlander did his part to help out his brother earlier Thursday, making a cameo appearance at the Grand Slam Adoption Event that Justin Verlander co-hosted with supermodel/actress Kate Upton at Joker Marchant Stadium. Seven dogs from SPCA Florida were adopted Thursday morning, Verlander said, and several more are expected to be adopted later.

In addition to finding homes for adoptable dogs, the event raised money for SPCA Florida, Verlander's Wins for Warriors project and K9s for Warriors, which provides comfort dogs to veterans.

"They've already raised a decent amount of money," Verlander said, "and with the silent auction there's a chance to raise some money for a great cause."

The silent auction continues through April 8 at

Quick hits

• The Tigers finished their positional moves Thursday by assigning outfielder Nate Schierholtz to Minor League camp. The veteran left-handed hitter, who spent last season in Japan, is expected to fill a corner-outfield spot at Triple-A Toledo alongside Wynton Bernard and Steven Moya.

• Cameron Maybin took batting practice Thursday and could begin playing in Minor League games Friday as he works his way back from a fractured left wrist. Maybin, who will open the season on the 15-day disabled list, will need around 40 at-bats before he returns, manager Brad Ausmus estimated.

• Daniel Norris will throw on flat ground from 120 feet Friday, the next step in his rehab from non-displaced fractures in his spinous process. Norris will probably throw twice from that distance before stepping onto a mound for a bullpen session.