Astros News: Concerning Justin Verlander, Forrest Whitley updates at spring training

The Astros' pitching staff is missing some key members thus far.

Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35)
Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
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The Houston Astros have their sights set on winning a second World Series championship in three years, and new manager Joe Espada certainly has the horses to get it done. Houston is returning Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker; any one of whom could make a legitimate run at the AL MVP.

Houston also brought in Josh Hader during the offseason, and the Astros bullpen will now have the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings on lockdown with Bryan Abreu and Ryan Pressly joining the best closer in baseball.

But with Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers Jr. set to open the 2024 season on the injured list, there is obvious concern when it comes to the Astros starting rotation. Throw in spring injuries to Justin Verlander and Forrest Whitley, and all of the sudden the Astros pitching staff doesn't look as formidable as the Houston faithful had hoped. What's the latest update on the injury status of both Verlander and Whitley?

Astros News: Justin Verlander & Forrest Whitley injury updates

Verlander reported to Astros camp behind schedule. The former Cy Young Award winner had a lingering shoulder injury that has prevented him from setting foot on the mound during spring games thus far.

Verlander has thrown a few bullpen sessions this spring, but has yet to face hitters in live batting practice. According to MLB.com, it's still unclear whether or not Verlander will be on the mound for Opening Day when the Astros face off against the New York Yankees.

Whitley, who's been in the trainer's room more than the field throughout his professional career, is taking on a new role in 2024. The former first-round pick is slated to pitch out of the bullpen rather than be stretched out as a starter. But that still hasn't helped curb his injury-prone nature, as the right-hander will be out of action for at least a week following an injury to his middle finger.

This is just the latest in a myriad of maladies that have befallen the Astros once promising young pitcher. Though taken with the 17th overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, Whitley has still not made his major league debut. A PED suspension, the cancellation of the 2020 minor league season, and Tommy John surgery have all been contributing factors to Whitley's shortcomings.

The Astros are hopeful to have both Verlander and Whitley back on the hill in the coming weeks. With injuries already piling up, and so many relievers having left during free agency, the lack of pitching depth may be GM Dana Brown's biggest concern heading into the 2024 season.

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