Verlander works 6 2/3 innings in Minors camp

Valdez tosses 4 scoreless; Ritchie, Sneed reassigned

March 19th, 2019

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Opening Day starter had a "camp day" start on Sunday, throwing 92 pitches to catcher Max Stassi in a scrimmage against Astros Minor Leaguers on a backfield at the club's spring complex.

The pitching line looked pretty standard -- 6 2/3 innings, one hit, two walks, 10 strikeouts -- but this was about getting Verlander ready for the regular-season opener more than it was about results.

"It's hard to get a little bit of the adrenaline going, but it's also a good opportunity to work on things I've been working on," Verlander said. "Today was a productive day for me."

Between several of the innings, Verlander huddled with Astros pitching coach Brent Strom and manager AJ Hinch, who was serving a one-game suspension and therefore was not with the team for its 7-3 win over the Braves at Kissimmee.

When Verlander was finished on the field, he headed to the video room, looking for insight into how he is progressing with specific mechanical issues he's trying to hammer out. A particular point of focus was his slider, which he was unhappy with in his prior outing.

"It seems to have bounced right back," Verlander said. "Overall, I was very pleased today."

With Opening Day 11 days from Sunday, Verlander will probably scale back on his pitch count in his final spring outing, a standard practice for a veteran pitcher in his last start before the regular season.

He doesn't know how many pitches he'll throw, but it'll likely be far fewer than the 92 he threw on Sunday.

"AJ and Strom, they do a good job of kind of letting players tell them how they feel and what we're looking for workload-wise," Verlander said. "Preemptively, I think we're planning on pulling back a bit, pitch-count wise. I don't think I'll throw above 90.

"But if I go out there and there's really something I'm working on, just trying to find it or something and I feel close, those guys have been really good with me. If I need a little bit more or something, I don't think I'd be opposed to that."

Verlander is expected to remain in Florida when camp breaks rather than fly back to Houston for two days and come right back to the Sunshine State for the series with the Rays.

The Opening Day start will be the 11th of Verlander's career.

Valdez hanging in there
Left-hander Framber Valdez, who has been auditioning for the fifth starter job all spring, had a strong outing on Sunday, recording four scoreless innings against the Braves. He did not issue a walk and struck out four.

With the outing, Valdez, who has been competing with right-hander Brad Peacock for the final spot in the rotation, lowered his spring ERA to 4.05.

Roster moves
The Astros pared their Spring Training roster on Sunday by two, reassigning catcher Jamie Ritchie and right-hander Cy Sneed to Minor League camp.

Following the moves, Houston has 39 players in Major League camp, including 33 players on the 40-man roster and six non-roster invitees.

Up next
The Astros, off on Monday, were to return to action at home against the Phillies on Tuesday, but the game was canceled due to rain. Gerrit Cole had been slated for his fifth spring start. The Astros' next scheduled game is Wednesday at 1:05 p.m. ET against the Yankees at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.