WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Hunter Brown is now a co-worker with his childhood idol, forcing him to find a balance he never needed as a child. Brown is originally from Detroit. In his youth, he imitated everything about Justin Verlander, right down to the delivery Brown practiced in front of his mirror.

A chance to meet Verlander seemed foreign to me then. Now it is a daily occurrence. Brown is two lockers behind Verlander in the team’s spring training club. The two had lunch earlier in the camp and continue to maintain an open dialogue. Brown sometimes tries to downplay sentimentality.

“This guy is a Hall of Famer, probably first-rounder,” Brown said earlier this spring. “Seeing him in the same dressing room, you want to talk to him as a professional and try to get to that level, but there’s always this little kid in me that’s like ‘It’s JV here. “”

Brown buried the nostalgia and took advantage of Verlander’s knowledge. Brown said the two had discussed routines and Verlander wanted to get a good idea of ​​where the 23-year-old is in his career.

Brown is on the heels of a breakout season, but still needs the kind of consistency that Verlander has mastered. Houston’s best pitching prospect pitched three scoreless innings Friday against a Mets roster that included Francisco Lindor, Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith. The output illustrated the fine tuning it still needs.

Brown bullied the Mets in a dominant first inning, knocking out two of three batters he saw and prompting a scout in attendance to say it was “as sharp as I’ve ever seen it.” Another scout said Brown’s fastball came in at 96-97 mph in the first frame.

Maintaining all of this is still a work in progress. Brown battled bouts of poor command throughout the second and third frames. He also didn’t execute in a two-strike count, wasting the leverage he created. Brown grounded four base runners, showing an ability to evade damage on his arrival.

“I was really happy with how I came out (in the first run). I was throwing the ball well,” Brown said. “I took a few walks tonight. These guys are disciplined hitters. I felt good in some of the throws I made, but I need to be better in those areas. Overall, I felt in sync throughout the ride. I think I made some good pitches tonight. I feel good.”