Cautious Verlander likely to avoid opening series against Yankees


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Justin Verlander‘s hopes of starting Opening Day for the Houston Astros have been clouded by a right shoulder setback, the veteran pitcher revealed Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters, Verlander acknowledged experiencing some discomfort in his throwing arm, causing him to fall behind in his spring training preparations. When asked specifically about his chances of pitching against the Yankees in the season-opening series, the starter admitted uncertainty. He emphasized that it’s too early to diagnose the issue’s severity and its potential impact on his availability for the crucial first games.

Verlander mentioned that he is currently a bit behind schedule. He explained that he encountered a minor issue early on, which has since been resolved. However, he emphasized the need for caution in his approach to building up his workload.

He further remarked that his body didn’t react the same at 40 as it did at 25, indicating that he was a couple of weeks behind.

Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander’s hopes for an Opening Day start have been put on hold due to a shoulder setback. He revealed Wednesday that he experienced discomfort when resuming throwing after the offseason break, typically a time for pitchers to rest.

This setback disrupts his preparations for the season, impacting his ability to ramp up fully during the six-week spring training camp. The Astros begin their season with a four-game series against the Yankees on March 28th, with Verlander initially envisioned as the opening-day starter, health permitting.

Verlander remains to Huston ace

Last year, Verlander started the Astros’ first playoff game after being acquired from the Mets mid-season. Now, as he approaches his 41st birthday on February 20th, his Opening Day availability will depend on his progress and recovery throughout spring training.

Verlander mentioned that he had always been fortunate to pick up a ball and start throwing it, but this time it wasn’t as easy, so he had to slow down a bit.

Verlander added that he has always preferred to give himself as much rest as possible, so his timeline tends to be a bit tight. He emphasized the importance of rest but acknowledged that with the tight timeline and the need to slow things down, he ended up a little behind schedule.

While echoing the veteran pitcher’s concerns about being ready for the March 28th series against the Yankees, Astros GM Dana Brown has sought to assuage any worries about Verlander’s overall health.

Last season, Verlander’s Mets debut was delayed due to a back injury, pushing his first appearance to May 4th. This time, the issue is shoulder inflammation, not a structural concern. Brown emphasized that the pitcher is still throwing, and there’s no need for alarm.

Verlander’s well-being is particularly crucial for the Mets, who hold a vesting option for 2025 worth $35 million, contingent on him reaching 140 innings this season. They would incur half the salary if he falls short.

Both Verlander and the Astros are eager to bounce back from their heartbreaking Game 7 loss to the Texas Rangers in the ALCS. While Verlander’s Opening Day status remains uncertain, the team is confident in his recovery and their shared goal of returning to the World Series.

The Houston Astros remain optimistic about their World Series chances thanks to key offseason moves and Verlander’s expected recovery.

After a strong post-trade debut with the Astros last season (7-3 record, 3.31 ERA), Verlander is facing a minor hurdle, but GM Dana Brown has assured fans that the issue is nothing more than inflammation and shouldn’t derail his season.

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Meanwhile, the Astros haven’t been idle during the offseason. They significantly bolstered their bullpen by acquiring closer Josh Hader and rewarded franchise cornerstone Jose Altuve with a five-year, $125 million contract extension.

These moves, coupled with their already potent lineup and pitching rotation, have established the Astros as serious contenders. FanDuel currently ranks them third overall in World Series odds (+700) and the favorites in the American League (+380), just ahead of the Yankees (+400).

While Verlander’s Opening Day status remains uncertain, the Astros believe he’ll be ready to contribute soon and are confident in their ability to contend for another championship.

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