HOUSTON — Despite undergoing surgery on his right groin that will keep him out of baseball action for six weeks, Astros ace Justin Verlander could still be ready to start the season, the start of which has been pushed back because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The Astros announced on Tuesday that Verlander was going to be sidelined approximately six weeks after undergoing surgery on his right groin. Verlander dealt with groin discomfort early in Spring Training and left his second and final Grapefruit League start on March 9 with what was later diagnosed as a mild right lat strain.
“Initially, the hope was that physical therapy would be the proper course of action,” Astros general manager James Click said. “However, after a recent setback in his rehab, the medical staff recommended that a surgical procedure was necessary."
Opening Day, which was originally scheduled for March 26, was postponed for two weeks as of last Thursday, but MLB announced on Monday that the start of the regular season would be pushed back even further after the Centers for Disease Control urged a nationwide halt of any gatherings of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks.
Verlander, 37, is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, which resulted in his second American League Cy Young Award. He went 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA in 34 starts, leading the Majors in wins, opponents’ batting average (.172), WHIP (0.80) and innings pitched (223). He struck out a career-high 300 batters and reached 3,000 career strikeouts while throwing his third no-hitter.
The Astros are banking on Verlander and Zack Greinke, as well as the returning Lance McCullers Jr., at the top of their rotation in 2020 after losing 20-game winner Gerrit Cole to the Yankees in the offseason. McCullers is coming off Tommy John surgery, which caused him to miss the entire '19 season, and the fourth spot in the rotation is currently occupied by Jose Urquidy, who made his Major League debut last year.
The fifth spot in the rotation was up for grabs during Spring Training, with Austin Pruitt, Josh James, lefty Framber Valdez and prospect Bryan Abreu all vying for the starting role.
If Verlander is able to start on Opening Day, it would be his third consecutive Opening Day start for the Astros and 12th of his career.