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Astros’ Verlander to start 3rd game of season, face Angels

April 3, 2022 GMT
Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander pitches in the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Wednesday, March 23, 2022, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander pitches in the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Wednesday, March 23, 2022, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander pitches in the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Wednesday, March 23, 2022, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander pitches in the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Wednesday, March 23, 2022, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander pitches in the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Wednesday, March 23, 2022, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander pitched five solid innings in his final spring training tune-up Sunday and pronounced himself healthy and ready to start the season.

His next start is set to come in the third game of the year, next Saturday night on the road against the Los Angeles Angels.

“I’m happy to get through it healthy, but I still have some stuff to work on,” Verlander said. “I’m looking at it two different ways. Definitely pleased with the health part, though.”

The two-time Cy Young winner hasn’t pitched in the regular season since July 2020 — after making his first start in the pandemic-delayed year, he had Tommy John surgery.

Verlander made four starts this spring, allowing two runs in 13 2/3 innings while striking out 15 and walking four. He hadn’t permitted a run until Washington scored twice against him Sunday — both scored on a single by Cesar Hernandez in the fifth as Verlander approached his pitch count target of 75.

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Verlander lamented inconsistent timing within his mechanics after allowing six hits. He also struck out five, including Nationals star Juan Soto twice.

Astros manager Dusty Baker thought Verlander tired in the fifth. But overall, Baker said the 39-year-old righty’s spring went as well as he could have hoped.

“Just to see him healthy and see him have that same desire to succeed, it went great,” Baker said.

Pitching on a program designed to have him ready by opening day, Verlander was the lone Astros starting pitcher to make four Grapefruit League starts this spring.

“Hopefully my body is used to the five-man rotation, the five- or six-day routine, and just try to make it as normal as possible,” Verlander said of his plans for the next few days.

Houston’s concludes spring training with Monday’s game against the New York Mets.

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