Justin Verlander to make season debut Friday as Astros ace returns from injury to struggling rotation


The Houston Astros will get ace right-hander Justin Verlander back on Friday against the Nationals, manager Joe Espada told reporters Wednesday (via The Athletic’s Chandler Rome). 

Verlander started the season on the injured list due to shoulder inflammation at the start of spring training, setting him behind in his ramping up toward the season. Plus, at age 41 and with Tommy John surgery not too far in the rearview mirror, there was certainly no reason to rush through a shoulder issue. 

The return of Verlander can be filed under the old saying “a sight for sore eyes” because the Astros are in last place in the AL West at 6-13. They sport a 5.39 staff ERA, which is dead last in the American League and sitting ahead of only the Rockies among all 30 MLB teams. The rotation ERA ranks 26th in the majors, but it’s an unacceptable 5.13. 

Of course, Verlander’s minor-league rehab starts haven’t gone too well. He coughed up 13 runs (11 earned) on 14 hits in seven innings in his two starts. The nine strikeouts compared to two walks look better and his velocity was said to be in good shape last time out, but getting carved up to the tune of a .378/.410/.676 slash line by minor-leaguers isn’t overly encouraging. 

Still, the Astros need the help and he’s a pro. The rehab start stats don’t always matter, as the pitcher is just working himself back into MLB game shape.

Right now, the Astros have Cristian Javier, the surprising Ronel Blanco, J.P. France and Hunter Brown in the rotation. In addition to Verlander, Framber Valdez, José Urquidy, Luis García and Lance McCullers Jr. are on the injured list. 

After an off day Thursday, the Astros start a series in D.C. Friday with Verlander on the hill to start the series. 

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