Astros starter Framber Valdez could return to the team at some point in June, manager Dusty Baker told reporters (including Brian McTaggart of MLB.com) this afternoon. That’s the first timeline the organization has defined since the left-hander fractured his left ring finger on a comebacker during Spring Training.
In the initial aftermath of the injury, it was reported Valdez could require season-ending surgery. A second opinion suggested he may instead be able to rehab without surgery, and he’s continued to make progress since electing that course of action. In Valdez’s absence, Houston starters have managed a solid 3.82 ERA, albeit with a less impressive 4.17 SIERA that ranks eighteenth league-wide. Valdez figures to improve those numbers after tossing 70 2/3 innings of 3.57 ERA/3.23 SIERA ball last year. The 27-year-old posted strong strikeout and walk rates (26.4% and 5.6%, respectively) while inducing ground balls at a massive clip (60%).
Valdez’s injury spurred the Astros to sign Jake Odorizzi to a two-year, $23.5MM guarantee in mid-March. Unfortunately, the righty wound up on the injured list himself after just eight regular season innings, leaving his third start of the year early with forearm tightness. Odorizzi threw 40 pitches in a simulated game yesterday, though, and he’s soon to join Triple-A Sugar Land for a minor-league rehab assignment (McTaggart links).
Valdez and Odorizzi aren’t the only high-profile Astros starters on the injured list. Justin Verlander, who underwent Tommy John surgery last September, met with reporters this week and confirmed his rehab is on track (via McTaggart). Verlander conceded he was unlikely to return this season (no surprise, given the timing of his surgery and the procedure’s typical 13-16 month recovery timeline). However, the 38-year-old stressed he has no plans to retire, tweeting Friday he “(plans) on still pitching for a long time.” Verlander will be a free agent at the end of the year.