Verlander to start 10th opener, first for Astros

Hinch reveals veteran will get nod March 29, with Keuchel the next day

March 5th, 2018

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- With three experienced Opening Day pitchers to choose from, Astros manager A.J. Hinch tabbed to start the March 29 regular-season opener against the Rangers in Arlington.

While being interviewed during Monday's AT&T Sportsnet Southwest broadcast of the Astros' 5-3 Spring Training win over the Marlins, Hinch revealed that Verlander would make his 10th Opening Day start in the past 11 years. Verlander started on Opening Day for the Tigers from 2008-14 and '16-17.

"It's an honor, especially on this team with the pedigrees that we have," Verlander said. "Obviously, I wasn't expecting it or hadn't really even thought about it, to be honest with you. It's always an honor to have your name called."

After being traded to the Astros last September, Verlander went 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA in the regular season before being named Most Valuable Player of the American League Championship Series. He said Hinch told him earlier Monday he would be announcing it.

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"I couldn't make a bad decision," Hinch said. "They were all good decisions. The fact we have three guys who have done it before and other guys that are qualified makes for a tough decision yet easy decision at the same time. J.V.'s got a long pedigree, he's done a lot in the game, he's pitched very well as an Astro. So has []. It was really consideration of those two. Had to pick an order."

Keuchel, who has started on Opening Day the previous three years for Houston, will get the second game of the season, March 30 at Texas. The rest of the rotation has yet to be announced. , acquired in a trade from the Pirates in January, started on Opening Day for Pittsburgh last year.

"It's pretty special to have that many guys on one staff," Verlander said. "After Game 1, you're part of the rotation. I think we have the luxury of having three, four aces, if that's even what you want to call it. Skipper had to pick somebody, and I'm honored to be able to do it."

After throwing 1 2/3 innings on Monday in his Spring Training debut, Keuchel joked that he would "let" Verlander have the Opening Day nod.

"The guy deserves it," Keuchel said.

Sitting a few feet away, Verlander said: "Thanks, Dallas."

Keuchel said Verlander, 35, has a chance to be a Hall of Famer. The 13-year veteran has won 188 career games and has a Cy Young Award and MVP Award to his name.

"I'll gladly let him go Game 1 and try to replicate the success he's going to have and move forward from there," Keuchel said. "I'll get to see the Opening Day festivities and enjoy J.V. throwing a gem."

Verlander would be scheduled to make his home debut on April 3 (7:10 p.m. CT) against the Orioles, with the Astros set to receive their World Series rings prior to that game. Keuchel would pitch the series finale on April 4 (1:10 p.m. CT). The Astros open the season with four games at the Rangers before coming home to face the Orioles for three games.