Since making his one and only start of 2020 back on Opening Day (July 24), Astros ace Justin Verlander has been sidelined with a forearm injury. The injury is such that it's not certain Verlander will pitch again in this, his age-37 season. On Thursday, though, Houston manager Dusty Baker raised hopes that Verlander would again see game action before the season is done.
Manager Dusty Baker said on Thursday that the club has mapped out a schedule for Verlander for the rest of September. Though he didn't give details on what the schedule entails, Baker sounded optimistic that Verlander could return.
"Hopefully, if everything goes well, he could be back at the end of the month," Baker said.
Verlander has been throwing for some time and was able to complete a bullpen of 50 or so pitches on Wednesday. The Astros' final regular season game is scheduled for Sept. 27, and they'll likely be playing beyond that point. While the defending AL champs are just .500 at this writing, the expanded 2020 postseason means they're on track for a spot. Coming into Thursday's slate, the SportsLine Projection Model (@SportsLine on Twitter) gave the Astros a 95.7 percent chance of making the playoffs. Assuming that comes to pass, Verlander could be in line to start a game in the Wild Card round or work high-leverage innings out of the bullpen. Obviously, he'd be a major boon to the team's hopes in any role.
Verlander, who's almost certainly bound for the Hall of Fame, is coming off a 2020 season in which he pitched to a 2.58 ERA, struck out 300 batters, and won the AL Cy Young award for the second time in his career. His absence in tandem with the free agent loss of Gerrit Cole has been a blow to the Houston rotation. Zack Greinke has been ace-caliber, and Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier have been strong stabilizers. Depth, though, is a major concern especially now that Lance McCullers Jr. is on the IL. As a partial consequence, the Astros right now rank a middling 13th in MLB in rotation ERA.
It remains to be seen whether Verlander is able to ramp up in time and avoid any setbacks, but he'll be sorely needed if the Astros are to find a higher level in the postseason.