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Cautious Verlander 'feels good' after live BP

@cdenicola13
February 27, 2020

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- On Wednesday night, Astros right-hander Justin Verlander's father sent him a text with advice: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Verlander, originally slated to make his Grapefruit League debut on Thursday night against the Nationals, instead threw live batting practice on

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- On Wednesday night, Astros right-hander Justin Verlander's father sent him a text with advice: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Verlander, originally slated to make his Grapefruit League debut on Thursday night against the Nationals, instead threw live batting practice on the back fields of the FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches complex. He had been scratched after reporting right groin discomfort following his bullpen session on Monday.

"I can't tell you. I don't know what led to it," said Verlander, who has dealt with similar discomfort in the past. "Just noticed it and didn't want to push it too hard. Wanted to be in a little more controlled environment, and everybody kind of agreed with that.

"It went about as good as I could've hoped today. Maybe noticed it just a little bit, but once I got on the mound, tried to pitch and not worry about it so much. It felt really good. Didn't feel it after that. Probably best-case scenario today."

Barring a setback, Verlander is scheduled to start against the Cardinals on Tuesday in Jupiter, according to Astros manager Dusty Baker. Asked whether this development prevents him from remaining on schedule, Verlander said he didn't know.

The Astros begin the season on March 26 against the A's at home; the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner is aiming to get the nod for his third straight Opening Day assignment for Houston.

"It's hard to say," Verlander said. "I really can't answer that question right now. We'll see. Typically, I've gotten six starts, counting this one it would be five. I don't think I'll be behind. It all depends on where I'm at when I start in games. If there's a lot of stuff I need to work on, then I don't have a lot of time to do it. But if I feel pretty good and my stuff's working, it's just about building my pitch count. It's kind of a TBD."

Verlander, 37, threw around 30 pitches and faced Josh Reddick, Taylor Jones and Jeremy Peña across two simulated innings.

"Thought of going back out again, and my game plan today coming in was to not push it too much," Verlander said. "That was the whole purpose of what I was doing. My instincts and my competitiveness wanted to go back out for another one. ... I asked Dusty, I said, 'Hey, if this was the game and we were out there with the bright lights on, would you take me out?' And he said, 'Yup, you'd be done right now.' So I said, 'OK, day accomplished.'"

Other pitching updates
Lance McCullers Jr., who missed the 2019 season because of Tommy John surgery, will make his Grapefruit League debut on Sunday against the Cardinals.

Ryan Pressly, who is being eased back into action this spring, threw one inning in a sim game on Thursday.

Prospect watch
• Right-hander Cristian Javier, ranked as the Astros’ No. 9 prospect by MLB Pipeline, made the start against the Nationals on Thursday night, working two innings after allowing a leadoff homer to Adam Eaton. Javier struck out four batters and walked two in his second spring start.

"He responded great," Baker said. "I liked how he finished his work out there."

The 22-year-old battled command issues in the first inning before retiring the side in order in the second. Of his 43 pitches, 26 were strikes.

• No. 5 prospect Abraham Toro, who missed the past two days because of pink eye, played third base and went 0-for-3 with an RBI in the cleanup spot.

"Yesterday I was OK, but they told me to take another day just in case," Toro said. "That was it. They told me to stay in my room and try not to go anywhere."

• No. 14 prospect Garrett Stubbs went 1-for-1 with a walk and an RBI hit.

Up next
Zack Greinke will make his spring debut when the Astros play the Marlins at 12:05 p.m. CT on Friday in Jupiter. The right-hander reported to camp last Saturday on what he said was the final day pitchers were allowed to show up. Miami will counter with lefty Caleb Smith. The game can be heard on Gameday Audio.

Christina De Nicola is a reporter and game producer for MLB.com based in Miami. Follow her on Twitter @CDeNicola13.