The 2020 season of Houston Astros ace right-hander Justin Verlander is in jeopardy after just one start. Verlander was shut down by the Astros on Sunday due to a forearm strain, and it's unclear if he'll pitch again during the shortened 60-game campaign. According to Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle, Verlander is expected to miss the rest of the season. However, the reigning AL Cy Young winner shot down that report on Twitter and said he's "hopeful to return soon."
Verlander pitched Friday on Opening Day for the Astros against the Seattle Mariners. His outing saw him complete six innings, strike out seven, and hold Seattle's lineup to three hits and two runs. There was no indication in Verlander's performance or velocity that he was injured during his 2020 debut: he averaged 94.9 mph with his heater, according to Statcast. For reference, last season he clocked in at 94.6 on average.
Astros manager Dusty Baker addressed Verlander's status after Houston's loss against the Seattle Mariners. He told reporters, including Brian McTaggart of MLB.com, that Verlander has a forearm strain and will be shut down for a "couple of weeks" before being reevaluated.
Verlander spoke out on social media shortly after Baker made his comments.
The report that I’m currently missing the rest of the season is not accurate. There is a forearm strain... I’m hopeful that with some rest it will heal and I’ll be able to return soon. Thank you for all the well wishes. 🙏🏻— Justin Verlander (@JustinVerlander) July 26, 2020
It's worth noting that forearm strains are often precursors to Tommy John surgery. The Astros might be holding out hope that Verlander can prove to be the exception. Either way, he seems likely to miss a relatively large chunk of time -- something that the 60-game season doesn't offer much of to anyone.
Have Justin Verlander on your fantasy team? CBS Sports expert Chris Towers breaks down the replacement options with the Astros ace on the shelf.
Verlander was originally expected to miss the start of the season in March after he suffered a strained lat. At the time, we wrote that a long-term absence from Verlander or fellow veteran Zack Greinke would "risk setting off a chain reaction that will see the Astros overexpose the rest of their starters, their depth, and their bullpen."
The rest of the Astros rotation at present includes Greinke, Lance McCullers Jr., Josh James, and Framber Valdez. Houston has multiple starting candidates on the injured list, such as Rogelio Armenteros, Austin Pruitt, Jose Urquidy, and Brad Peacock. That could leave them picking between Forrest Whitley, Cionel Perez, and a few other younger options as fill-ins.
Verlander, 37, has been one of the most reliable starters in the game. He had linked together four consecutive seasons in which he started at least 33 times. He's under contract for an additional season, as he's set to make another $33 million in 2021.
Over part of 16 big-league seasons, Verlander has started 454 games. He has a career 3.33 ERA (129 ERA+), 3.54 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and 71.6 Wins Above Replacement.