Justin Verlander says he’s behind schedule after offseason shoulder issue


WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander says he is “a little bit behind schedule” due to offseason shoulder inflammation that could prevent him from being ready to pitch on opening day.

Verlander, who turns 41 next week, called the injury “a little hiccup’’ on Wednesday but added he will be “really cautious on how I’m building up.’’

The three-time Cy Young Award winner spoke on the first official day for pitchers and catchers at Astros camp.

“I’m a couple of weeks behind,’’ Verlander said. “I guess my body doesn’t respond at 40 as it does at 25. … Let’s see how things go. If it ends up a little late, it’s a little late. If it’s on time, it’s on time. I’m not trying to rush.’’

General manager Dana Brown said he wasn’t worried about Verlander’s status, saying the right-hander planned to play catch Wednesday.

“Some of these guys when they ramp up, they feel some soreness,” Brown said. “I think he’s going to be fine. I’m not concerned at all.’’

Brown added that if Verlander was “shut down, it would be more concerning.’’

Verlander is back in West Palm Beach after spending last spring training with the New York Mets. He signed an $86.7 million, two-year deal with New York ahead of the 2023 season but was traded back to Houston on Aug. 2. He helped the Astros win their sixth AL West crown in seven seasons before they lost to Texas in the AL Championship Series.

Verlander won the 2022 AL Cy Young with Houston after missing 2021 due to Tommy John surgery.

“I usually shut it down for a while,’’ Verlander said of his offseason. “This time when I shut it down and picked it back up, my shoulder didn’t feel so great. So I kind of had to take a step back in my build-up. I’ve always been somebody who luckily could just pick up a ball and start throwing it. It wasn’t quite as easy, so I’ve had to slow down a bit.“

Verlander said he won’t give an exact timetable on when he will pitch. Houston’s spring training opener is Feb. 24th against the Washington Nationals.

“Let’s not look ahead,’’ Verlander said. “It’s literally a day-by-day, week-by-week thing. It’s a little more slow-paced, a little more thought-out, build-up approach and not with a date in mind.’’

Verlander says he hasn’t contemplated retirement yet and spoke this season with former teammate Kenny Rogers, who pitched in the majors until he was 43.

“It’s not like I come into this season like I’m going to be 41 in four days and the clock’s ticking,’’ Verlander said. “I have the same process I’ve always had — head down, work hard, reset and come back next year and you keep doing that.

“I’ve talked to friends. I’ve talked to Kenny Rogers this offseason. He took me under his wing my rookie year. He made adjustments when he was in his 40s. One of the things he told me is you’ll just know. The game will tell you or you tell yourself. You’ll lose the fire. You’re not competitive. Neither one has happened yet, thank goodness. I’ll keep playing as long as I can.’’


AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB

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