The Houston Astros dropped terms that left reporters and fans scrambling for their medical dictionaries on calf injuries, but all that really mattered Tuesday was that Cy Young favorite Justin Verlander and the Astros are quite confident he’ll be back pitching by mid-September.
The Astros, who have the American League’s best record and have reached the ALCS five consecutive years with three American League pennants and a World Series title, can breathe a huge sigh of relief that Verlander’s right calf injury wasn’t more serious.
“I kind of dodged a bullet here,” Verlander said. “As far as the spectrum of calf injuries go, I feel like this was about as good of news as I could have gotten.”
Verlander, who left his last start Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles after three innings with calf discomfort, was officially diagnosed with “fascial disruption, but no muscle fiber disruption.”
In layman’s terms?
“This was relatively good news is my understanding,” Astros GM James Click said. “Our hope and expectation is that this should be relatively short-term.”
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Verlander, 39, who is coming off Tommy John surgery and producing one of the best seasons of his career, could return to the rotation immediately after his 15-day injured stint ends. He’s eligible to pitch again Sept. 13, giving him potentially four more starts.
“You never want to spend time on the IL in an ideal world,” Verlander said, “but I’m optimistic that can be quick. If I can just be on the IL 15 days and get back out there, that’s a blip on the radar.”
The Astros, of course, have the luxury of being cautious with Verlander. They have an 11 ½-game lead in the AL West over the Seattle Mariners with only 33 remaining games. Their only regular-season drama remaining is whether they finish with the league’s best record, guaranteeing home-field advantage throughout the American League playoffs. They have a four-game lead over the New York Yankees for the top spot, which is really a five-game difference considering the Astros won the season series and have the tiebreaker advantage.
But, oh, it could have been so drastically different, if there was a muscle tear, Verlander says, which might have ended his season.
“I didn’t really know how serious even a small-grade tear of that (calf) muscle could have been,” Verlander said. “Kind of instinctively, I thought it wasn’t bad at first. But after the diagnosis was given to me when I was talking to the doctors is when I realized how close it came to being potentially season-ending …
“Look, this could have been really bad.”
Verlander says he felt his calf pop on Sunday when he broke late to cover first base. He knew something was wrong, informed the training staff and immediately left the game, with the Astros praying it wasn’t serious.
“I knew right away I shouldn’t stay in the game,” Verlander says. “There’s always a little part of you that thinks I want to try to push through this, but I don’t think that’s ever a smart thing to listen to. It’s only gotten me into trouble in the past. You learn from those mistakes.”
When Verlander returns, it will still be his Cy Young award to lose over teammate Framer Valdez, Chicago White Sox starter Dylan Cease, Toronto Blue Jays starter Alek Manoah and Shane McClanahan of the Tampa Bay Rays. He’s leading the American League with a 16-3 record and 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 meaningful, considering his comeback from Tommy John surgery.
If he stays healthy, he just may have another World Series trophy to go along with that Cy Young plaque.
Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Justin Verlander injury: Astros get good news before MLB playoff push