This season hasn’t gone as hoped for the reigning American League champion Astros, who have started 22-21 while dealing with several notable injuries. They have gone nearly the entire campaign without 2019 AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, who made one start in July and has been out since with a forearm strain, but it seems there is hope the right-hander will return this year. Manager Dusty Baker told Jake Kaplan of The Athletic and other reporters that Verlander was in line for a 50- to 55-pitch bullpen session Wednesday.
It remains to be seen whether Verlander will get through the session without setbacks, but it’s nonetheless encouraging that he has progressed to this point. Should he get through it unscathed, Verlander could be close to rejoining the Astros, who would make the playoffs if the season ended now.
Thankfully for Verlander-less Houston, Framber Valdez has established himself as a solid starter this year, which has helped complement Zack Greinke in their staff and make up for the loss of Verlander to a degree. Rookie Cristian Javier has stopped runs at a good rate (3.46 ERA over 41 2/3 innings), meanwhile, but his peripherals aren’t as encouraging. And though the Astros did just get back Jose Urquidy back from the injured list, they had to place Lance McCullers Jr. on the IL on Sept. 6 with neck issues. So, while the Astros would be thrilled to welcome a healthy and effective Verlander back under any circumstance, he may be especially helpful in the next few weeks.