Astros’ Justin Verlander to be activated from IL and make season debut Friday

Justin Verlander has not pitched for the Astros this season due to right shoulder inflammation. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander will be activated from the injured list and make his season debut Friday against the Washington Nationals.

“Getting him back is huge because it brings a level of confidence to our team, a boost of confidence that we’re going to get someone who’s been an MVP, a Cy Young [winner] on the mound,” said Astros manager Joe Espada. “It’s [good] for the morale and to get stuff started and moving in the right direction.”

Verlander, 41, has not pitched for the Astros this season due to inflammation in his right shoulder. He made two rehabilitation starts in the last 10 days for Triple-A Sugar Land and Double-A Corpus Christi, posting nine strikeouts, two walks and 11 earned runs allowed in seven innings.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner wasn’t happy with the results, but was pleased he came out of his two minor-league starts healthy.

“The first thing is health and I came out of it feeling good,” he said. “Obviously, I have some stuff to work on pitching-wise, but that’s kind of what Spring Training is for and what rehab starts are for. I felt better last time than I did the [rehab start] before, so just keep building on that, and like I always do, kind of work on stuff in the bullpen in between and keep trying to make it click.”

Espada did not say what sort of pitch count Verlander will be on, but his workload will be monitored.

“We’ve got to be careful how hard we push him early,” Espada said. “I know he’s going to want to go and stay out there and give us an opportunity to win, but we’ve got to be cautious of how hard we push him early in the season.”

Verlander’s return comes at a time when the Astros are without Framber Valdez and José Urquidy, who are both on the injured list. Houston finds itself last in the AL West with a 6-13 record.

In 68 innings last season, Verlander posted a 7-3 with a 63:14 strikeout-to-walk ratio with the Astros and New York Mets.

As part of the two-year deal he signed with the Mets in 2022, Verlander’s contract has a vesting option for 2025 that will be triggered if he pitches 140 innings this season. Should that happen, the Mets will pay half of his $35 million salary.

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