Justin Verlander injury situation takes turn for the worse as Astros suffer loss

The Astros ace is headed to the IL.

Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander (35) is removed from the game.
Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander (35) is removed from the game. / Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports
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Astros fans won't like the latest update from manager Joe Espada. According to Matt Kawahara of the Houston Chronicle, Justin Verlander will open the 2024 season on the injured list.

The Houston Astros were hoping for the best after Verlander threw 60 pitches in a side session on Sunday. While Espada cited no setbacks following Verlander's brief outing a couple of days ago, the Astros skipper doesn't foresee enough time for the three-time Cy Young Award winner to build up enough stamina to be part of the Houston's Opening Day rotation with a little more than three weeks left in spring camp.

This means that the Astros Opening Day starter will likely be Framber Valdez. The southpaw was 12-11 last season with a 3.45 ERA in just under 200 innings of work.

Justin Verlander injury situation takes turn for the worse as Astros suffer loss

This isn't exactly a worst-case scenario for the Astros. With Valdez, Hunter Brown, Cristian Javier, and Jose Urquidy, Houston has enough arms to get the team off on the right foot to begin the upcoming season. But with Lance McCullers Jr., Luis Garcia, and likely J.P France beginning the season on the IL as well, Verlander's absence becomes more impactful.

Pushing Verlander to the IL is much more about being cautious than anything else. After all, the former MVP is now 41 years old and Father Time is undefeated. The Astros have bigger aspirations than winning the month of April; this team wants to win it all.

But with an improved AL West including the reigning World Series champion Texas Rangers and upstart Seattle Mariners, the Astros can't afford to fall too far back in the early going, and need their ace for a playoff push come August and September.

Don't expect this latest injury to push the Astros back into free agency. While Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery are still on the open market, Houston feels pretty good about their starting rotation, but they've got to get everyone back healthy.

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