The Houston Astros dropped terms that left reporters and fans searching their medical dictionaries about calf injuries, but all that mattered Tuesday was that Cy Young favorite Justin Verlander and the Astros are pretty confident that he will be back on the pitch by mid-September.
The Astros, who have the best record in the American League and have reached the ALCS five straight years with three American League pennants and a World Series title, can breathe a huge sigh of relief that Verlander’s right calf injury was not more serious.
“I kind of dodged a bullet here,” Verlander said. “As far as calf injuries go, I feel like that was about as good news as I could have gotten.”
Verlander, who left his final start Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles after three innings with calf discomfort, was officially diagnosed with a “fascia disorder, but not a muscle fiber disorder.”
In layman’s terms?
“That was relatively good news, I understand,” Astros GM James Click said. “Our hope and expectation is that this should be relatively short-term.”
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The 39-year-old Verlander, coming off Tommy John surgery and producing one of the best seasons of his career, could return to the rotation as soon as his 15-day layoff ends. He is eligible to play again on Sept. 13, potentially giving him four more starts.
“You never want to spend time in IL in an ideal world,” Verlander said, “but I’m optimistic it can be quick. If I can just be in IL for 15 days and get back out there, that’s a blip on the radar.”
The Astros, of course, can afford to be cautious with Verlander. They have an 11 ½ game lead in the AL West over the Seattle Mariners with only 33 games remaining. The only remaining regular season drama is whether they finish with the league’s best record, securing home field advantage throughout the American League playoffs. They have a four-game lead over the New York Yankees for first place, which is really a five-game spread given that the Astros won the season series and have the tiebreaker advantage.
But, oh, it could have been so drastically different if there had been a muscle tear, Verlander says, which could have ended his season.
“I didn’t really know how serious even a small tear of that (calf) muscle could be,” Verlander said. “Somewhat instinctively, I thought it wasn’t bad at first. But after I was diagnosed, when I was talking to the doctors, I realized how close it came to possibly ending the season…
“Look, this could have been really bad.”
Verlander says he felt his calf pop Sunday when he broke slowly to cover first base. He knew something was wrong, informed the coaching staff and immediately left the game, with the Astros praying it wasn’t serious.
“I knew right away I wasn’t supposed to stay in the game,” Verlander says. “There’s always a little part of you that thinks I want to try to get over this, but I don’t think it’s ever a smart thing to listen to. Only in the past has it gotten me into trouble. You learn from these mistakes.”
When Verlander returns, it will still be the Cy Young Award to lose to teammate Framer Valdez, Chicago White Sox starter Dylan Cease, Toronto Blue Jays starter Alek Manoah and Tampa Bay’s Shane McClanahan Rays. He leads the American League with a 16-3 record and a career-low 1.84 ERA, along with a 0.86 WHIP. It would be the third Cy Young Award of his Hall of Fame career and perhaps the most important considering his return from Tommy John surgery.
If he stays healthy, he might just have another World Series trophy to go with his Cy Young plaque.
Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Justin Verlander injury: Astros get good news ahead of MLB playoff push