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Verlander rumors swirling as Tigers close out series with Giants

DETROIT -- All of that trade talk is just noise for right now, but the talk of Tigers starter Justin Verlander being dealt is getting deafening as Detroit prepares to close out its three-game interleague series with the San Francisco Giants on Thursday afternoon.

After throwing a bullpen in which he concentrated on remastering his changeup Wednesday, Verlander sat in front of his locker and chatted about the thing a lot of folks in Detroit are talking about right now -- whether the Tigers' longtime ace could get traded this month.

"It's one of those things you don't think about until it's right in front of my face," Verlander said. "It's like when we have a bad stretch as a team and the media talks about that. You come in here and you say, 'Hey, let's keep it internal and keep it positive.'

"It's the same mentality. You worry about what you can control until you can't control it. And for me now, that's my bullpens, my work (Thursday), my start on Saturday and my All-Star break vacation -- that's what's on the forefront of my mind right now."

Of course, Verlander is dealing the cards because he's a 10-year veteran with the last five spent with the same club. He can veto any trade.

"A lot of people will come up to me in the street and say, 'Hey, I hope you stay,'" he said. "Or, 'Thanks for everything you've done.' Honestly, a lot of people say thank you."

The rumors get more frequent as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches and Detroit continues to flounder more than five games under .500.

Those rumors got more life Wednesday night when a four-run Detroit rally in the seventh fell a run short in San Francisco's 5-4 victory over the Tigers.

There will be a lot of scouts for Verlander's Saturday start at Cleveland.

General manager Al Avila has gone on record as saying he'll listen to any and all offers. The unspoken, though, is that he won't be conducting any fire sales.

It's going to be more like the Yoenis Cespedes trade to the New York Mets two years ago that brought back right-hander Michael Fulmer, last year's Rookie of the Year in the league.

Verlander has no great itch to leave (he has two $28 million years plus a pegged option left on his contract) but he also has gone on record as saying he wants no part of a rebuilding project at this stage of his career.

"It's not like I am sitting here feeling like I am at the end of my career," he said. "My body feels great and my arm feels great. I feel like I have a lot of time left. Hopefully, I can win a title for this organization."

On Thursday, the Giants will start right-hander Johnny Cueto (6-7, 4.26 ERA), who will be pitching against the Tigers for the sixth time in his career but for the first time outside the 2015 season. He pitched against the Tigers five times in 2015, once with Cincinnati and four times with Kansas City, and was 1-2 with a 2.88 ERA against Detroit.

San Francisco could get a boost next week if lefty Madison Bumgarner shows this week he's able to return to the active roster.

Bumgarner, out since April 21 with bruised ribs and a left shoulder sprain, was scheduled to make his third rehab start Wednesday night for Class A San Jose.

"We're hoping he can go five innings, 75 pitches, in that area, if all goes well," manager Bruce Bochy said. "Along that line, Conor Gillaspie's going to be there, too. He'll be playing third base."

There's been a loose target date of July 15 for Bumgarner's return and Bochy said, "It's a possibility, sure. So far, it's all been good. We think after the break he'll be ready to go."

Gillaspie also could be coming back for the Giants.

"When we get back (to San Francisco) he'll be able to come off the disabled list," Bochy said. "It could be as early as Friday."

That will cut into the playing time of Jae-Gyun Hwang, who has impressed Bochy, but it's up in the air whether that means the South Korean's time with San Francisco has come to an end.

"He gives you good at-bats," Bochy said. "He's a smarter hitter than you would think for a guy who hasn't spent a lot of time over here. He figures out what they're trying to do to him. He'll go the other way. He's a gap-to-gap guy. That's what I would call him, but with power.

"He's going to hit his share of home runs. He's a threat up there. He gives you good at-bats. He's a tough at-bat with men in scoring position. He seems to have a good idea of what pitchers are trying to do to him once he faces them one time. He's really prepared once he goes into a game."

Detroit has right-hander Anibal Sanchez pitching for the last time before the All-Star break.

Sanchez (0-0, 6.34 ERA) is scheduled for his fourth start of the season. While he has no decisions, he has pitched well in his first three starts and has given the Tigers a chance to win all three.

He is 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA in five career appearances against the Giants, but he has not pitched against them since he was with the Miami Marlins in 2012.

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