Astros targeting Friday return for Justin Verlander

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The Astros look like on the cusp of getting Cy Younger frontrunner Justin Verlander again. Supervisor Dusty Baker tells reporters that whereas nothing is finalized but, the group’s tentative plan is for Verlander to return on Friday (Twitter link by way of Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle). Verlander hasn’t pitched since departing his Aug. 29 begin after three innings attributable to what would finally be recognized as “fascial disruption” in his calf.

If he certainly returns Friday, it’ll go down as an 18-day absence for Verlander — a near-best case state of affairs for an harm that, as acknowledged by the pitcher himself within the wake of his IL placement, may have sidelined him via a portion of the postseason had it been even marginally extra extreme.

[Related: The Changing Landscape of the American League Cy Young Race]

The 39-year-old Verlander has had nothing in need of a outstanding season in his return from 2020 Tommy John surgical procedure — not solely reestablishing himself as a high-quality starter however resurfacing as a bona fide ace with a authentic likelihood at his third Cy Younger Award. Lacking even a few begins may show a deciding issue, notably with Dylan Cease and Alek Manoah surging late within the season, however Verlander’s 1.84 ERA nonetheless tops American League pitchers. He’s now fallen to 18th within the league in innings pitched, nevertheless, narrowing any lead he might need beforehand held over the sphere. He’s additionally returning with no minor league rehab stint, so it’s not less than potential the ’Stros can be just a little extra cautious than traditional along with his workload in his first outing.

The extent to which Verlander is ready to bounce again from this calf problem can be telling with regard to the Cy Younger race, although the workforce focus is definitely simply on having him constructed as much as full power for his or her now-inevitable postseason run. With 20 video games left to play and a 12.5-game lead within the AL West, Houston hasn’t mathematically clinched the division crown, however that’s a fait accompli at this juncture. The Astros have the perfect file within the American League and the second-best file in baseball, trailing solely the Dodgers, positioning them for a first-round bye on this 12 months’s newly expanded 12-team playoff format.

That can give Houston the luxurious of lining up the rotation nevertheless the workforce deems match. Assuming he’s at full power, Verlander could be the apparent option to take the ball in Sport 1 of the American League Division Collection, more likely to be adopted by lefty Framber Valdez, who figures to get some down-ballot recognition on this 12 months’s Cy Younger voting himself. With Lance McCullers Jr. again on the lively roster and 25-year-old righties Cristian Javier and Luis Garcia every pitching properly (Javier, particularly) — the Astros are deep in choices for his or her postseason rotation.

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