The Astros announced Tuesday that right-hander Justin Verlander underwent a surgical procedure on his right groin. He’d been slowed by a lat strain earlier this month, but Verlander was also scratched from an earlier spring start due to tightness in his groin. That was deemed a precautionary measure at the time, but general manager James Click revealed today that the right-hander had a setback in rehabbing the issue.
“The hope was that physical therapy would be the proper course of action,” Click told reporters (Twitter link via Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle). “However, after a recent setback in his rehab, the medical staff recommended that a surgical procedure was necessary. The early prognosis is that Justin will be out for about six weeks.”
With the season pushed back at least eight weeks — quite likely longer than that — Verlander should have ample time to get back up to speed once players are cleared to resume training and once a firm target date for Opening Day is established.
Verlander’s health is paramount for the Astros more than ever, now that Gerrit Cole and (to a lesser extent) Wade Miley have departed via free agency. Houston’s 2020 roster is pricey enough that they’ll face luxury-tax penalties for the first time, and the front office opted to spend the limited resources afforded by owner Jim Crane to bring back catcher Martin Maldonado and reliever Joe Smith.
The hope is certainly that a returning Lance McCullers Jr. and young righty Jose Urquidy, whose stock soared in 2019, can join Verlander and Greinke in comprising a formidable top four. Offseason acquisition Austin Pruitt and holdovers like Brad Peacock, Josh James and Framber Valdez could all be in the mix for starts in the final rotation slot. Right-hander Rogelio Armenteros could eventually be in the mix, although he recently underwent surgery to have a bone spur removed from his elbow. Unlike Verlander, he’ll be sidelined for around four months, so he wouldn’t be an option to pitch until July at the earliest. Given the uncertainty regarding Opening Day, it’s anyone’s guess as to what point in the season that’ll be — or if the season will have even started.