The Astros are already without Gerrit Cole after he cashed in with a $324 million deal with the Yankees during the offseason and now they have another ace-sized hole to fill. New manager Dusty Baker announced Sunday afternoon that defending AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander was diagnosed with a right forearm strain and is expected to be reevaluated in a couple of weeks.
Verlander suffered the injury in his season debut Friday against the Mariners, during which he allowed two runs over six innings for the victory. He was sent for an MRI on Saturday, leading to Sunday’s announcement.
Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle initially reported that Verlander would be shut down for the year, but the veteran right-hander issued a denial over social media. Still, even if Verlander is feeling better in a couple of weeks, he’s going to have to progress through a throwing program with no issues. So that pushes him back at least another couple of weeks. Any setback would almost certainly rule out a return in this abbreviated 60-game season.
The impact of losing Verlander can’t be overstated. Despite going into his age-37 season, he was looking better than ever in recent years. This includes a 2.58 ERA with 290 strikeouts in 214 innings last year. Interestingly, Verlander recently said that he changed his mechanics in hopes of extending his career. It’s hard to ignore the worst-case scenario here, since forearm problems often lead to Tommy John surgery. At this stage, any such procedure would likely leave him sidelined until his age-39 season in 2022. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.
With Verlander sidelined, Zack Greinke moves to the top of the depth chart in Houston’s rotation. Lance McCullers is right behind him, though he carries his own questions in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. The Astros have high hopes for Josh James, who is slated to make his season debut in Monday’s series finale against the Mariners. Jose Urquidy was considered a breakout candidate this year before landing on the 10-day injured list for undisclosed reasons. While he’s been cleared to resume baseball activities, he’s still a ways off. The road to another AL West crown could be a bumpy one.
Speaking of the AL West, the Angels welcomed Shohei Ohtani back to a major league mound on Sunday for the first time since September 2, 2018. His long-awaited return from Tommy John surgery didn’t go well. In fact, it couldn’t have gone much worse.
Ohtani was unable to record an out against the Athletics, throwing 30 pitches (15 strikes) while being charged with five runs on three hits and three walks. He didn’t induce a single swinging strike and averaged just 92.7 mph on his fastball, a sharp drop from what he showed as a rookie in 2018.
According to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com, Ohtani said through his interpreter after the game that he thought the poor performance was more about a lack of feel for the game rather than something mechanical. It makes sense, as command is often one of the last things to return after Tommy John surgery. We already got some warning signs about his progress during Angels’ camp. Granted, this has been a highly-unusual year, one where a standard minor league rehab assignment wasn’t an option. It would be unfair to expect excellence right out of the gate.
Ohtani was available as both a pitcher and a hitter in Yahoo! fantasy leagues. The pitcher version had an ADP (average draft position) of 149.7, just behind the likes of Julio Urias, Matthew Boyd, Max Fried and Zac Gallen. The regular season is only nine weeks long and fantasy players are going to have to cross their fingers every time Ohtani comes to the mound, so it’s understandable if you are considering a change.
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Concern Over Ken
The deck has been stacked against the Blue Jays this season. Things at least appear to be falling into place about a plan for the site of their home games, but now they will have to make do without their closer Ken Giles.
Giles appeared to be in some discomfort while showing diminished velocity during a save chance against the Rays on Sunday. He didn’t have the usual bite on his fastball, sitting in the low-to-mid 90s as opposed to the mid-to-high 90s. Giles actually retired the first two batters he faced, but the next three batters reached safely (double, walk, walk) before he was pulled from the ballgame. ‘
Giles was being sent for an MRI to determine the extent of the injury. It’s all very concerning after the veteran closer dealt with an elbow issue last year.
With Giles on the shelf, the Blue Jays don’t have a clear alternative at closer. Anthony Bass is probably the safest bet after posting a 3.56 ERA with five saves in 44 appearances with the Mariners last year, but it’s potentially wide open here. Jordan Romano and Rafael Dolis are among the other names in this bullpen mix. For what it’s worth, I went all-in on Bass in this weekend’s FAAB in the Tout Wars Mixed Draft.
Giles quietly enjoyed the best full season of his career last year, amassing 23 saves with a 1.87 ERA and 83/17 K/BB ratio over 53 innings. The Blue Jays aren’t going to be able to replace that.
American League Quick Hits: Mike Trout went 2-for-3 with a homer and four RBI in Sunday’s loss to the Athletics. … Ageless wonder Nelson Cruz went 4-for-5 with two homers, seven RBI, and four runs scored Sunday against the White Sox … Luis Robert connected for his first major league home run — a two-run shot which traveled 419 feet with an exit velocity of 111.4 mph — on Sunday against the Twins. … Gleyber Torres went 3-for-4 against the Nationals on Sunday, including a solo homer and a go-ahead RBI single. … Corey Kluber left his Rangers’ debut in the first inning on Sunday due to shoulder tightness. … Anthony Rendon (oblique) missed his third straight game Sunday. … Blake Snell struck out five batters over two innings of work in his season debut Sunday against the Blue Jays. … Zack Greinke went 3 1/3 innings while allowing three runs in his season debut against the Mariners on Sunday. … Coming off a blown save on Friday, Liam Hendriks bounced back with a four-out save Sunday against the Angels. … Carlos Carrasco was victorious in his first MLB start since May 30, 2019, allowing two runs over six-plus innings against the Royals while striking out 10 batters. .. Eloy Jimenez left Sunday’s game due to light-headedness after he crashed into the outfield wall while trying to track down a fly ball. … Joey Gallo became the first player to homer at the Rangers’ new home ballpark with his solo shot Sunday against the Rockies. … Kyle Lewis kept on rolling Sunday, going 2-for-4 with a walk and a two-run single to help the Mariners secure a narrow victory over the Astros. … Adalberto Mondesi got on the board Sunday against the Indians, going 2-for-4 with a single, double, and a run scored.
Jose Ramirez went 3-for-5 with two homers and four RBI in Sunday’s win over the Royals. … Zack Britton secured his first save of the season with a scoreless ninth inning against the Nationals on Sunday. … Masahiro Tanaka (concussion) made it through a two-inning simulated game without incident Sunday. … C.J. Cron launched a go-ahead two-run homer in Sunday’s win over the Reds. … Reynaldo Lopez was forced from Sunday’s start against the Twins in the first inning due to right shoulder tightness. … Spencer Turnbull fanned eight batters over five innings of one-run ball in a no-decision against the Reds on Sunday. … Randal Grichuk is considered day-to-day after leaving Sunday’s game against the Rays with irritation around the base of his back. … David Fletcher went 4-for-4 with a run scored Sunday against the Athletics. … Jake Odorizzi (intercostal) is slated to face live hitters early this week. … Jose Iglesias finished 4-for-5 with two doubles and an RBI in Sunday’s win over the Red Sox. … Jake Cave launched a grand slam in Sunday’s blowout win over the White Sox. … Kevin Kiermaier lifted the Rays to a walk-off win on Sunday with a two-run triple in the 10th inning. … The Blue Jays will play their first “home” series on the road in Philadelphia, beginning July 31, as their stadium in Buffalo is in the process of being upgraded. … Willians Astudillo (COVID-19) has been cleared to resume workouts.
National League Quick Hits: Jose Urena, Garrett Cooper, and Harold Ramirez are reportedly among four Marlins’ players who tested positive for COVID-19. … Trevor Story powered the Rockies past the Rangers on Sunday with two homers and three RBI. … Bryce Harper rocketed a three-run blast Sunday against the Marlins for his first homer of the season. … Ketel Marte went 2-for-3 and drove in the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly as part of a 4-3 win over the Padres. … Trevor Bauer struck out 13 batters while allowing a run over 6 1/3 innings as part of a no-decision against the Tigers on Sunday. … Mike Moustakas was placed on the 10-day injured list Sunday after Reds manager David Bell said he woke up not feeling well. … Garrett Richards was brilliant in his season debut Sunday against the Diamondbacks, tossing five scoreless frames with six strikeouts. … Vince Velasquez underwhelmed in his season debut Sunday against the Marlins, allowing four runs over just three innings. … Giovanny Gallegos (undisclosed) is expected to be activated from the 10-day injured list on Tuesday. … A.J. Pollock (paternity leave) returned to the Dodgers’ lineup on Sunday as the designated hitter.
Patrick Corbin was handed a no-decision Sunday against the Yankees despite allowing just one run over 6 1/3 innings with eight strikeouts … Dansby Swanson went 3-for-5 with a home run and five RBI in Sunday's thrashing of the Mets. ... Joey Lucchesi was announced as the starter for Monday’s series finale against the Diamondbacks. … Eric Hosmer continued his early hot-hitting with a solo homer Sunday against the Diamondbacks. … Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes that prospect right-hander Spencer Howard could make his major league debut Friday against the Blue Jays. … Mitch Keller limited the Cardinals to one run over five innings on Sunday despite showing diminished velocity and some shaky control. … Tyler Chatwood struck out eight batters over six innings of one-run ball for the win Sunday against the Brewers. … Part of a timeshare with Roman Quinn in center field, Adam Haseley went 4-for-6 with an RBI and two runs scored Sunday against the Marlins. … Will Smith (COVID-19) has been cleared to rejoin the Braves. … The Nationals moved left-hander Roenis Elias from the 10-day injured list to the 60-day injured list after he suffered a left flexor strain. … Dodgers outfielder Connor Joe wrote on Instagram on Sunday that he’s now cancer-free.