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DET@KC: Verlander flirts with no-no, fans seven

The Tigers took advantage of a series with the Astros early this week by winning three of four, and they hope for similar success when they welcome another sub-.500 team, the Twins, for a weekend set at Comerica Park beginning on Friday night at 7:08 ET.

Minnesota has lost seven of its last 10, while Detroit saw its eight-game winning streak come to an end with Thursday's 6-2 loss to Houston.

Also in the Tigers' favor is that Justin Verlander will start the opener for Detroit. The right-hander is coming off a win over Kansas City in which he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning.

Though Verlander's fastball rarely tops out in the high 90s anymore, his ability to mix speeds is key. In fact, none of Verlander's seven strikeouts against the Royals came on his heater.

"[Against Kansas City], his fastball was anywhere from 89 to 96-97 [mph]," catcher Alex Avila said. "That's a lot to cover for a hitter, plus he has the offspeed stuff and he knows how to pitch."

Verlander will be opposed by right-hander Phil Hughes, who has won his last three outings. Hughes has lowered his ERA from 7.20 through his first three appearances to 4.72.

In his last start, against Baltimore, Hughes helped end the Twins' homestand on a positive note, though he wasn't nearly at his best.

"I was kind of wild, all over the place," the veteran right-hander said of his last start. "I didn't have good command of my cutter or my fastball, really, but I was able to have a good enough fastball to move around the zone and generate some outs."

Hughes likes where he is right now but knows that facing the surging Tigers and their productive lineup is a tall order.

"Obviously, it's a tough place to pitch," Hughes said of Comerica Park. "I'm going to have my hands full."

Twins: Lack of depth straining part-time players
Jason Kubel and Sam Fuld weren't supposed to be everyday players, but with the Twins' entire Opening Day outfield on the disabled list and first baseman Joe Mauer recovering from back spasms, manager Ron Gardenhire hasn't had much of a choice.

Now, Fuld has joined his teammates on the DL due to concussion-like symptoms, and Kubel is coming off a tough series in Cleveland in which he went 2-for-16 with 10 strikeouts.

Because of Fuld's injury, Gardenhire's bench on Thursday consisted of Pedro Florimon -- who was optioned to Triple-A along with Chris Herrmann after Thursday's game, with corresponding roster moves to be announced Friday. The Twins called up Eduardo Nunez on Thursday after putting Fuld on the DL.

"Kubel, he needs his breaks," Gardenhire said. "You give him his breaks, and you've got a productive guy. That's your starting outfield. You're talking about guys being sent out. That's depth. How much depth do you have to have? We've got Sammy Fuld. We've got Kubel. That's three guys on the DL who are supposed to be playing."

One of them is eligible to return for the series opener in Detroit. Starting center fielder Aaron Hicks went on the seven-day concussion DL on May 2, and Gardenhire said Hicks would be ready to come back to the team.

Tigers: Joba adds stability to setup role
When they signed veteran closer Joe Nathan over the offseason, the Tigers finally put to rest their instability in that role after a season of tumult.

The same could not be said for the eighth-inning job, and with nobody having claimed that position in Spring Training, manager Brad Ausmus said he hoped somebody would earn the role. Joba Chamberlain has done so with authority.

"I think Joba's shown so far that he's running with it, so we're going to try to keep handing him the ball and hope he can hand the ball to Joe," Ausmus said.

Chamberlain has six holds with a 3.55 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP this season.

Worth noting
• Detroit's Victor Martinez enters Friday's series opener riding an 11-game hitting streak.

• In April at Target Field, the Twins and Tigers split two games before the rubber match was postponed. Hughes pitched seven innings in Minnesota's win, allowing four hits and one earned run.

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