Astros won’t give Justin Verlander Opening Day nod

Mar 18, 2022; Jupiter, Florida, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) delivers a pitch from the bullpen prior to the game against the St. Louis Cardinals during spring training at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Two-time Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander is ramping up for the 2022 Major League Baseball season, but that won’t include starting for the Houston Astros on Opening Day.

Verlander, 39 years old and returning from Tommy John surgery, has maintained a 0.00 ERA in three starts in spring training.

But neither Verlander nor manager Dusty Baker felt it was worth taking the risk just to get him on the mound slightly earlier than planned.

“With the shortened spring, we sat down and talked about it extensively,” Verlander said. “We all agreed that trying to build up my pitch count and also (trying) to go on five days every single day just seemed like a lot of extra stress for no reason. So, yeah, we built in these starts where I had an extra blow, kind of like we would in season.”

Baker said not using Verlander on April 7, when Houston opens its season at the Los Angeles Angels, will allow him to take advantage of three days off the Astros have in the first two weeks of their schedule.

Houston has not yet named its Opening Day starter. Verlander has pitched on Opening Day 12 times in his career, which is tied for eighth-most in baseball history.

“There’s two ways to look at it,” Verlander said. “It would be nice to be out there on Opening Day and kind of back out there in that atmosphere, but also with all the perspective I have over the last couple of years, I’m going to really enjoy this Opening Day and not having to pitch, enjoy watching the festivities, enjoying the atmosphere and just being part of the team and being in the dugout and hearing the crowd.”

Verlander last pitched in an MLB game July 24, 2020 — his only appearance of that season before being shut down. He missed the entire 2021 season.

–Field Level Media

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