HOUSTON — Astros pitcher Justin Verlander, the leading American League Cy Young Award nominee for the first five months of the regular season, was withdrawn from the game against the Orioles at Minute Maid Park on Sunday after only three innings with discomfort in the right calf. He threw 60 pitches.
There was no immediate word on Verlander’s prognosis, and Astros manager Dusty Baker said after the Astros’ 3-1 win over the Orioles that the veteran right-hander would get an image of his calf Monday to determine the extent of the injury. . At least Baker was relieved that the injury wasn’t to his arm or shoulder.
“That’s the best of the bad news,” Baker said. “We were glad it had nothing to do with his elbow or arm or anything like that. We’ll just have to wait for him to get the imaging [Monday].”
A spokesperson for the team said Astros’ training staff advised Verlander to leave the stadium and get up, so that he would not be available for comment after the game on Sunday.
Baker said the injury occurred when Verlander made a move to cover first base in the third inning. With one out and runners on first and second base, Baltimore’s Anthony Santander flied out to midfield, but Robinson Chirinos, who was on second base, got into a rundown and was eventually tagged out in an inning-ending double play.
Just as Chirinos was tagged between second and third for the last out, Verlander fired from the grass behind the mound towards first base while waiting for a relay pitch that was unnecessary. He showed no signs of injury while walking off the field.
“He came off the field with the third out, and he just went through the tunnel and said he felt something when he went to cover first base,” Baker said.
Verlander’s comeback after Tommy John’s surgery, which cost him the entire 2021 season, has been one of baseball’s biggest storylines this year. He went into Sunday’s game tied for the Major League with 16 wins, while leading the Major Leagues in ERA (1.87) and the opposing team’s OPS (.510).
The Astros have been careful with Verlander’s workload this season, giving him extended periods of rest between starts. Sunday marked only the fifth time he threw on four rest days this year, with the majority of his starts (13) coming on five rest days. He threw 91 pitches in his previous start on Tuesday, when he gave up no hit against the Twins.
“Very concerned, of course,” said Astros third baseman Alex Bregman. “I feel like he’s been the best pitcher in baseball all year, and we’re lucky to have him. I don’t know the details.”
With three off-days in an 11-day span starting Monday, the Astros temporarily went back to a five-man rotation — moving Cristian Javier to the bullpen — to ensure their starters don’t have more than a week between the two. had starts. Javier threw three innings in relief of Lance McCullers Jr. in Friday’s loss to Baltimore.
Starting pitching has been the strength of the Astros this season, led by All-Stars Verlander and Framber Valdez. They have top contender Hunter Brown (No. 71 overall by MLB Pipeline) knocking on the door at Triple-A, but losing Verlander would be a big blow to a team trying to take first place in the AL standings and with World Series to hold onto ambitions.
If Verlander is out for an extended period of time, the Astros could use a five-man rotation of Valdez, McCullers, Luis Garcia, José Urquidy and Javier, with Brown perhaps taking a lock if they wanted to go back to a six-man rotation.
Verlander’s early exit broke the Astros’ franchise-record run of 41 consecutive games in which their starting pitcher threw at least five innings. It was Verlander’s shortest start since he gave up six runs and seven hits in two innings against the Mariners on August 9, 2018.
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