An injury delayed the start of Justin Verlander’s Mets career, but he was finally able to make his 2023 debut on Thursday in Detroit. After a shaky start, Verlander settled down and the performance has to be considered a net positive, despite the 2-0 loss to the Tigers as Detroit completed a sweep against the slumping Mets.
The said shaky start for Verlander was giving up back-to-back home runs to Riley Greene and Javier Báez in the first inning.
Hey, Verlander is 40 years old and coming off an injury. He’s entitled to a little rust, right? It’s a lot easier to accept the rust argument considering what he did the rest of the way.
Excluding the first inning, Verlander gave up only three hits in four scoreless innings. In total, he struckout five batters in his five innings and needed 79 pitches. Basically, the two home runs were the only problem with the performance. I’m sure he would have liked to be more efficient and annoyed by his one walk, but that’s all nitpicking. It was really just a great outing other than the two homers.
He will try to build on this and the next scheduled start for Verlander is next Thursday in Cincinnati. His likely Citi Field debut as a Mets pitcher is likely to come in the May 16-18 series against the MLB top-seeded Rays.
Verlander making this start at Detroit’s Comerica Park was pretty fun. He was drafted second overall by the Tigers in 2004, made two starts in 2005, and won Rookie of the Year in 2006. He pitched in stretches of 13 seasons for the Tigers, winning a Cy Young and MVP while leading six All-Star teams made and part of the rotation for two AL pennant winners.
After being traded to the Astros in late 2017, Verlander spent 2018-22 with the club. He missed most of 2020 and all of 2021 due to an elbow injury and subsequent Tommy John surgery. He returned from surgery in 2022 in his 39-year season and won his third Cy Young. He was the trump card of the Astros’ staff, who also won the 2022 World Series.
Last season, Verlander signed a two-year, $86.67 million deal with the Mets. He’s been delayed for this start due to a strain in his teres major muscle, which is located close to the shoulder in the lat area (think close to the armpit on your back).
It will be interesting to see how he fares this season given his age, Hall of Fame resume and recent arm injuries. While there are caveats that the back-to-back homers are allowed, things started well on Thursday, at least for Verlander on an individual basis.