According to a report by Houston Chronicle beat writer Chandler Rome, two-time Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander was to be shut down for the remainder of the season due to an injury, a major blow to the Astros’ hopes of making another run at a World Series title.
Current Astros manager Dusty Baker had a different story however, telling media on Sunday evening that the veteran ace had merely suffered a forearm strain and would be re-evaluated in a couple of weeks.
Verlander himself took to Twitter on Sunday night to characterize Rome’s report as inaccurate, confirming Baker’s version of events.
Based on these conflicting reports, it seems the Astros are choosing to minimize the severity of Verlander’s injury. However, I think the team is not optimistic about his ability to return given the shortened length of the season and Verlander’s age. I expect the current Cy Young Award winner will need more time to recover than a younger athlete. This means he may not be able to return on time to have any sort of meaningful impact on the season.
Verlander’s injury leaves Houston with a significant hole to fill as 2019 strikeout king Gerrit Cole departed over the offseason to make bank on the free agency market. The Astros’ top remaining starting pitchers are fellow veteran ace Zack Greinke and Lance McCullers Jr., another member of the 2017 World Series championship* squad. Houston should be shopping for a trade to bolster its pitching staff but other teams might be less willing to make a deal considering the expanded postseason format for 2020 means more teams will be in the playoff hunt. I expect to see a lot of smoke but little fire on the trade market for Houston for the time being.
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