Astros: Justin Verlander progressing in post-surgery rehab

PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - MARCH 08: Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros in action against the New York Mets during a spring training baseball game at Clover Park on March 8, 2020 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The Mets defeated the Astros 3-1. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - MARCH 08: Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros in action against the New York Mets during a spring training baseball game at Clover Park on March 8, 2020 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The Mets defeated the Astros 3-1. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /
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Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander says his post-surgery rehab is progressing.

As MLB moves closer toward an eventual shortened season that could start in late June or early July, Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander continues his rehab from the right groin surgery he underwent in mid-March. According to Verlander, things are progressing well.

He actually dealt with two injuries in Spring Training — the groin issue and a lat strain. The two injuries were apparently related, with the lat strain a result of Verlander altering his mechanics to adjust to the soreness. He heard a pop in his groin in March, and an MRI revealed that a muscle was nearly torn off the bone. He realized he wouldn’t be able to make it through the season without it getting worse.

Now that the groin issue has been fixed, Verlander has progressed to long toss recently. He says he’s taking it easy on the lat muscle to avoid re-aggravating it, but the groin muscle is feeling strong. He told the Chronicle:

"I’ve been taking my time with my lat because I can, but I’ve been pushing my groin. And I feel like I’m right now reaching the point where my groin is getting strong and healthy enough that I’m almost throwing too hard."

He also said he’s been using the extra time off to improve his mechanics. This is key for someone of Verlander’s age, especially when his stated goal is to pitch into his mid-40s. Probably the only thing that would keep him from reaching that goal is if his body won’t allow him to, so making his delivery even more efficient just puts him in a better position to get there.

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There’s no definitive word on whether Verlander will be ready to go for Opening Day, and that’s partially because we still don’t know when Opening Day will be. If the current reports hold true, we’ve got about two more months before the regular season will begin. A type of Spring Training-esque ramp-up would take place for about two and a half or three weeks before that.

I’m no doctor, but considering the fact that the stated recovery timeline from the surgery was six weeks, and it’s already been six weeks since the surgery, and we still have another couple of months to go, it sounds as if there’s a good chance he’ll be ready to take the mound when the season starts. The Astros will certainly need him, as their rotation depth is perilously thin.

A full, healthy rotation would consist of Verlander and Zack Greinke at the top, with Lance McCullers Jr. (fresh off Tommy John surgery) in the middle. Some combination of Jose Urquidy, Josh James and Austin Pruitt would round it out, but there’s not much depth beyond that. Framber Valdez would probably be the next man up, but it’s not clear who’d follow him.

The shortened season could be good news, though, as McCullers was likely to be on an innings limit this season. Verlander also seemed to break down in the postseason in 2019, so hopefully this will help keep the key players fresh if and when the Astros get to the playoffs.

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For the time being, everyone seems to have reason to be optimistic about Verlander’s availability for the start of the season. As long as there are no setbacks, he looks like he’ll be good to go.

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