As reported by AT&T Sports Southwest’s Julia Morales, manager Dusty Baker commented on the Opening Day starter Tuesday, mentioning that Justin Verlander will probably not be the Opening Day starter.
Baker likely won’t mess with the rest of the Astros rotation and move forward with Framber Valdez.
Valdez is currently slated to rotate into the Opening Day position which bumps Verlander to another slot in the rotation to open the season. With that being said, since there are a few off days in the first week, I can imagine that Verlander would pitch in the opening series and then follow up with a start against Seattle and then Toronto.
The Opening Day starter would be the only pitcher to miss the Blue Jays the first go around, and if Baker slides Verlander into the No. 2 slot, he would face Toronto two times, if the five-man rotation holds true throughout the first month.
Valdez would face Shohei Ohtani on Opening Day which will be a marquee matchup. Ohtani’s low 3.00 ERA and his 10-11 strikeouts per nine innings average along with his bat will be tough to open for the Astros with a few remaining questions on the starting lineup.
Will the probable Astros starting shortstop Jeremy Peña perform at the big league level against one of the better pitchers or will his highly-touted debut be a flop?
One thing is for sure, Peña’s first major-league at-bat will not be an easy one. The likely starting centerfielder Chas McCormick will also have a tough time coming back from a disappointing second half of the season last year against Ohtani, but time will tell how he will perform in the new season.
Valdez will have his first Opening Day start of his career following a mercurial performance last year in the postseason. The lefty wowed in his Game 5 start last year in the Fall Classic but gave up early runs the rest of the postseason, knocking him out of most starts by the third inning.
Valdez will look to build upon his impressive 2021 season, where he posted a 3.14 ERA and going 11-6 despite his slightly lower K/9 average of 8.4. Valdez’s new cutter will also make its debut and add to versatility to the lefty’s arsenal, hopefully cementing his position as a top pitcher in MLB.
The Astros’ Opening Day is currently slated for April 7 in Anaheim.
Baker announced the rotation Wednesday evening — Valdez, Jake Odorizzi, Verlander, Jose Urquidy and Luis Garcia — according to multiple reports.
The Astros signed right-handed pitcher Carlos Mateo to a minor-league contract. Outfielder Dexter Fowler signed a minor-league deal with the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday, Keegan Matheson of MLB.com reports.