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Astros: Justin Verlander provides update on rehab, future

WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 13: Manager Dusty Baker of the Houston Astros talks with Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros during a team workout at FITTEAM Ballpark of The Palm Beaches on February 13, 2020 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 13: Manager Dusty Baker of the Houston Astros talks with Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros during a team workout at FITTEAM Ballpark of The Palm Beaches on February 13, 2020 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander has provided an update on his rehab.

When news broke on Twitter that Justin Verlander was speaking to the media on Friday afternoon, some fans feared the worst. Thankfully the Houston Astros ace dispelled the retirement rumors and confirmed that he intends to pitch “for a long time.” The main question now is whether we’ll see him in an Astros uniform again.

Verlander, who continues to rehab from Tommy John surgery, explained that while there is no timetable for his return, he’s currently throwing from 90 feet and says he feels great. He also said he believes he can be the same pitcher he was before the surgery, which would be an impressive feat given his age (38) and sheer dominance (2.45 ERA, 0.834 WHIP) in 74 starts for the Astros.

Whether he returns this season is still undetermined, though Verlander stated he “absolutely” wants to pitch this year. But he noted that might require the team continuing to play well into October, and also confirmed there’s no way for him to return as a starting pitcher this year. Even pitching in relief would require “a lot of things to go perfect.”

Future in Houston?

Verlander is set to reach free agency this offseason, so there’s certainly no guarantee we’ll ever see him in a Houston uniform again. He noted that there has been no dialogue with the Astros about a possible extension, but also said he’s not surprised by that. He believes he’ll have to prove he’s healthy before teams will talk about signing him for next year.

If the Astros are interested in keeping him in Houston, they should be able to. The Verlander and Greinke contracts are coming off the books this winter, and Verlander won’t command nearly as much money as he’s making now. The team should have Lance McCullers Jr, Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy, Cristian Javier and Jake Odorizzi on the roster for 2022, though we’ve got a long way to go before we’ll know if we can count on those five to be healthy.

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Verlander himself seems open to the idea of returning, stating “the organization has been incredible to me.” He also noted that it “gnaws” at him that he was only able to pitch in one game under his current two-year deal before succumbing to the injury bug. The Astros certainly didn’t get what they were hoping for on that deal, but it doesn’t take away from what he’s done here.

Since coming over in a last-minute trade with the Tigers on Aug. 31, 2017, Verlander has been absolutely dominant, including garnering a pair of All-Star selections, a Cy Young Award and another runner-up finish in his two full seasons. He held the Yankees to one run over 16 innings with 21 strikeouts in the 2017 ALCS, winning MVP honors for the series.

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To say he’s become beloved in Houston would be an understatement, so the fans undoubtedly would love to have him back. He’s on record as wanting to pitch into his mid-40s, and noted on Friday that he’s “nowhere close to the finish line yet” and that he intends to pitch “until the wheels fall off.” I certainly wouldn’t bet against the future Hall of Famer.

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