Houston Astros: Justin Verlander hopeful to return in 2021

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)
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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Most people wrote off Justin Verlander’s chances of returning in 2021, but he is hopeful of returning in September or October.

Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery on Sept. 30, but he is hopeful to pitch during the 2021 season, general manager James Click revealed on MLB Network.

“With a guy like JV, he’s going to take any timetable as a challenge,” Click said. “This is like me when I get in the car and put on the GPS and it tells me I’ll be there in half an hour. I need to be there in 28 minutes. I got to beat that. JV is like that with everything in life. He’s getting after his rehab like a Hall of Famer. When I last talked to him, he said, ‘Maybe I can give you some innings out of the bullpen in September or October.’”

Verlander, 37, made one start in 2020, a six-inning appearance on Opening Day against the Seattle Mariners. He won the American League Cy Young Award in 2019, finishing 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA and 300 strikeouts in 223 innings.

The Astros, meanwhile, plan to take it slow with Verlander. Click admitted that he “loves the competitive fire and spirit” that Verlander has, but he is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2021 season and rushing a return could put his future outlook in jeopardy.

“He wants to pitch until he’s 45,” Click said. “He has that Tom Brady aspect to him where he has milestones that are unreachable by normal human beings. The last thing we want to have him do is rush back in rehab and try to get us some innings in September or October when it may set him back from his larger term personal goal.”

Verlander’s goal should not distract Click and the Astros front office from their goal this offseason of adding depth to the rotation. The team needs additional arms, especially with Zack Greinke also becoming a free agent in 2021, and this past season underscored why having depth is crucial.

There are no indications of who the Astros are targeting in free agency, but it remains likely that most of the teams money will be dedicated toward the outfield. Any addition to the rotation will likely be complimentary pieces, with arms such as Trevor Bauer and Blake Snell being out of their price range.

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