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JV throws off hill, Astros hope for Oct. return

@brianmctaggart
September 16, 2020

HOUSTON -- After throwing 75 pitches at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday, including 24 on the main mound during a simulated game against hitters, Justin Verlander’s response physically will determine his next step. The Astros are still hopeful they can get Verlander on the mound for one start near the

HOUSTON -- After throwing 75 pitches at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday, including 24 on the main mound during a simulated game against hitters, Justin Verlander’s response physically will determine his next step. The Astros are still hopeful they can get Verlander on the mound for one start near the end of the regular season and then pencil him into the rotation for a potential playoff series.

Astros manager Dusty Baker, who hadn’t seen Verlander throw since he spun six strong innings on Opening Day and wound up on the injured list a couple of days later with a right forearm strain, said Verlander “looked real good.” The right-hander threw about 50 warmup pitches in the bullpen before facing hitters for the first time in nearly two months.

“Just to be back in the ballpark and on the mound without a screen, it was great having him out there,” Baker said. “We’ll assess [him] in a couple of days after we see how he comes out of this.”

Verlander threw six strong innings on July 24 against the Mariners to begin the season before being shut down with the forearm strain. Last year, he had one of the best seasons in his career, making 34 starts and going 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA, 300 strikeouts and a 0.80 WHIP in 223 innings.

Devenski has elbow surgery

Right-hander Chris Devenski underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his right elbow Tuesday to have a bone spur removed, general manager James Click announced on Wednesday. The recovery time for Devenski is expected to be approximately four months.

Devenski, 29, was limited to just four appearances in 2020 due to discomfort in his right elbow, allowing six runs and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings. In four-plus Major League seasons, Devenski has a 3.35 ERA in 225 appearances with a 1.07 WHIP and a .217 opponents’ batting average.

There’s a chance Devenski’s days in an Astros uniform are over. He’s a candidate to be non-tendered this offseason, considering he made $2 million this year and is a free agent after next season. Coming off a season lost to injury won’t help that cause.

Devenski has never quite captured the form he had earlier in his career, including an All-Star appearance in 2017. He posted a 2.38 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in 110 appearances from 2016-17, but he has seen those numbers balloon to a 4.88 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 115 appearances from 2018-20. He had a win in the ‘17 World Series.

Spring Training schedule released

The Astros will begin their 2021 Grapefruit League schedule against the Nationals on Feb. 27 at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, Fla., with the Astros serving as the road team. Their official home opener will be Feb. 28 against the Marlins.

The Astros will play host to 15 home games at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches and will play 15 road games, including three against the Nationals, who share the stadium with the Astros. The Mets (March 3, 11 and 18) and Cardinals (March 7, 21 and 25) will play at the Astros three times in West Palm Beach, and the Yankees will visit March 13. The Astros will also play host to the Twins (March 15) and the Tigers (March 20).

Worth noting

• Major League Baseball will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with an array of special programming and content focused on celebrating the contributions to baseball by Latino players past and present. For Hispanic Heritage Weekend this weekend, the Astros will be displaying special scoreboard graphics in Spanish, as well as making in-game announcements in Spanish. Houston will also wear its “Los Astros” jerseys for the weekend series against Arizona.

• Baker said left-handed reliever Blake Taylor, who went on the IL on Sept. 6 with left elbow soreness, threw a bullpen session on Wednesday and could be activated prior to Friday’s game.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.