Justin Verlander injury update: Astros pitcher could make next start in majors after latest rehab appearance


The Houston Astros may be close to getting one of their top starters back. Justin Verlander went four innings and threw 77 pitches in his second minor league rehab start Saturday night, and as long as he feels good in the coming days, he could be activated off the injured list later this week. Verlander has been sidelined with shoulder inflammation since the start of spring training.

“I have not seen him today. He was up to 96 last night. Once he comes in, we’ll sit down and talk and figure out what’s next,” Astros manager Joe Espada said Sunday. “We’re just going to do what’s best for JV. How he bounces back from his start … and if he feels good, we’ll move forward and try to get him on the mound pitching for us pretty soon.”

The Astros have an off-day Thursday, so the earliest Verlander could start for them would be Friday with an extra day of rest. They open a series in Washington against the Nationals that day. Houston rookie Spencer Arrighetti, who allowed seven runs in three innings in his MLB debut last week, is scheduled to start Monday. Houston could send Arrighetti down after that game, carry an extra bullpen arm for a few days, then activate Verlander for Friday’s start.

Verlander’s two minor-league rehab starts have not gone well: seven runs (six earned) in three innings on April 7, then six runs (five earned) on April 13. That said, we shouldn’t read too much into the results. A veteran like Verlander goes into rehab starts looking to get work in and build up his pitch count, not compete and get outs.

Including Verlander, the Astros have five starting pitchers on the injured list: Verlander (shoulder inflammation), Luis Garcia (Tommy John surgery), Lance McCullers Jr. (flexor surgery), José Urquidy (forearm strain), and Framber Valdez (elbow inflammation). In related news, Houston’s rotation has a 5.57 ERA, third worst in baseball.

The Astros are 5-11 to start the new season. It is their worst 16-game start since the 2016 team also started 5-11. The 2016 Astros recovered to finish 84-78, though they missed the postseason.

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