Houston Astros right-hander Justin Verlander exited his start against the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday because of right calf discomfort. On Tuesday, the Astros placed Verlander on the injured list as part of a series of roster moves that included right-hander Hunter Brown being added to the big-league team’s taxi squad. Brown will be activated when rosters expand to 28 players on Sept. 1:
Astros general manager James Click called Verlander’s diagnosis “relatively good news” and said their expectation is that it’s a short-term injury. It’s unclear what, precisely, that entails in terms of a timetable for his return. Verlander, as with all pitchers placed on the IL, must be inactive for at least 15 days, suggesting he’ll miss a couple of turns through the rotation, at minimum.
Prior to Verlander’s departure, he had thrown three shutout innings. Verlander had surrendered three hits and a walk in that span. He’d also struck out six of the 12 batters he faced on a total of 60 pitches. It’s worth noting that Verlander had shown no signs of distress with his velocity: his final three pitches of the day each clocked in north of 95 mph, suggesting the injury must not have been bugging him too much.
Verlander, who missed most of the last two seasons because of Tommy John surgery, entered Sunday having made 23 starts this season. In those outings, he’d accumulated a 1.87 ERA (good for a 203 ERA+) and a 5.92 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His performance was good enough to earn him a nod to the All-Star Game, the ninth of his career, and should put him in the running for the American League Cy Young Award. Verlander has previously won a pair of Cy Young Awards: one in 2011, another in 2019.
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There are a number of other worthy candidates out there, but we’re including Brown because his season deserves acknowledgement. He’s struck out 31 percent of the batters he’s faced in Triple-A this season, and has done so while coercing more than 50 percent groundballs. That’ll play. Brown isn’t on the 40-player roster, but he’ll have to be added this winter for Rule 5 purposes. The Astros can save themselves the paperwork by making the move now and letting him get a look-see out of the ‘pen.