Astros Verlander doubts Opening Day availability

Field Level Media

March 09, 2020 at 6:59 pm.

Houston Astros starter Justin Verlander sounds like a longshot for Opening Day after being diagnosed with a strained muscle in his back.

Verlander’s self-assessment on Monday afternoon was it will “probably take a miracle” for him to be on the mound when the season begins.

“But I don’t want to take miracles off the table,” said Verlander, 37, one day after he left his spring training start Sunday two innings before he was scheduled to be pulled.

Earlier Monday, general manager James Click said Verlander was to be shut down and on a “no throw” regimen due to a “mild lat strain.”

Verlander left his spring training outing early Sunday and underwent tests, including an MRI exam.

“By and large, the news we got today was on the positive side,” Click said, adding a timetable for Verlander’s return and his availability for Opening Day would be discussed at a later date.

Verlander, who had been expected to pitch four innings against the host New York Mets at Port St. Lucie, Fla., exited after two innings.

Astros manager Dusty Baker said Monday that Verlander was feeling much better and was glad he left the game when he did.

Baker said he didn’t detect anything wrong by watching Verlander throw, only by what the right-hander said after returning to the dugout following the second inning. The manager added the pitcher’s velocity had been “down a tick” from his first spring start on Tuesday.

Verlander allowed three hits and struck out one in his second spring start. He had been dealing with groin tightness earlier in spring training.

The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner has been extremely durable, pitching at least 200 innings in 12 of the last 13 seasons and making 30 or more starts in 13 of his 14 full major league seasons. He has a career mark of 225-129 with a 3.33 ERA.