Injuries are the one thought that continuously looms in the mind of an athlete because one wrong move could make or break their career. The road to recovery is an uphill battle, the timeframe of returning to the court or the field could be a year or more, and once you’re healed there is no guarantee you’ll be able to showcase your skills to the same extent you were once capable of. But Houston Astros’ pitcher Justin Verlander is demonstrating that the damage is merely temporary and you can rebound without missing a beat.
Drafted second in the first round of the 2004 draft by the Detroit Tigers, Verlander has racked up plenty of accolades in his outstanding 17-year career with a resume including 9 All-Star game selections, 2006 Rookie of the Year, 2011 American League Most Valuable Player, and Cy Young Award recipient the same year and also in 2019 and 2017 AL Championship Series MVP and World Series champion. Though his stripes are marked by accolades and heavy hardware, there was a point where the direction of his career was uncertain.
Starting off the 2020 season, the starting pitcher sustained a right forearm strain in July hoping to return in October, only to overstimulate the injury in September. He underwent Tommy John surgery later that month to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, requiring a timeframe of 12 to 14 months for recovery—setting back his return until 2022. With two years absent from the diamond, Verlander did not let his injuries slow down his aspirations for his career.
Taking his rightful place on the mound for the 2022 season, the Astros’ ace continues to prove previous injuries and age won't slow him down. A strong leader within the team and pitching rotation, he is a compelling reason the team could return to play in the World Series. An irrefutable future Cooperstown Hall of Famer, the 39-year-old recorded his fourth career no-hitter in the Astros’ 4-2 win over the Minnesota Twins on August 23. Now tied as the winningest pitcher in the league, posting 16 wins and the lowest earned run average at 1.84, Verlander is the front-runner to receive another Cy Young Award — which would cement his spectacular comeback season.
Entering the last month of the regular season, Verlander’s stat line includes 16 quality starts, 154 strikeouts, and a 1.69 ERA within his last seven starts. Riding the high of helming his team to first place in the AL West, the ace still has one more obstacle to overcome. The veteran pitcher was forced to leave after three innings in his start against the Baltimore Orioles on August 28 due to right calf discomfort. In his early departure, Verlander still punched out 6 strikeouts in 60 pitches.
All is not lost after the announcement on Tuesday that Verlander was placed on the 15-day injured list after MRI reports showed only fascial disruption, to much relief. Possibly missing a few slots in the rotation, we can expect Verlander back sooner but this could be much-needed rest for the star as the team has 32 games left to wrap up the regular season.
In his 17th season, the knuckleballer from Minute Maid Park is still having a high-caliber season that will forever be a part of his legacy on the hill. Looking outward to October, Verlander could once again cruise through the downtown streets in a championship parade — with another trophy to add to his case.