Mets place Verlander on IL with muscle strain on opening day

New York Mets starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) throws during the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the Houston Astros, Friday, March 10, 2023, in Port St. Lucie, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

MIAMI (AP) — The New York Mets placed Justin Verlander on the injured list with a strained upper back muscle on opening day, sidelining the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner before his first appearance with the team.

The Mets announced that Verlander has a low-grade teres major strain a few hours before the club's 5-3 opening-day win over the Miami Marlins Thursday. Verlander will continue throwing at moderate intensity and will undergo more scans in a week.

“Not the way I wanted my Mets tenure to start. That’s for sure," Verlander said. "I’ve put in a ton of work to not have things like this happen.”

Verlander said he had been dealing with some discomfort in his upper arm and armpit area throughout spring training.

“I think looking back it’s something that was kind of lingering but it was spring training and it’s very normal to have to work through some stuff," he said. “I didn’t give it much credence.”

He said the biggest warning sign was a drop in his velocity by “one or two miles an hour."

Mets general manager Billy Eppler said Verlander reported the injury to the club Wednesday night and underwent an MRI Thursday morning.

The club said it would have an update on the three-time Cy Young Award winner after the additional testing.

Max Scherzer (1-0) threw six solid innings with six strikeouts in his first opening-day start with the Mets. He said after the game that the news of Verlander's injury caught him off guard.

“I didn’t realize he was dealing with something,” Scherzer said. “But seems like it was minor in what it is. Hopefully he can get in front of that, nip it in the bud and get back out there as soon as possible.”

Verlander was slated to pitch Saturday against the Marlins and in the Mets' home opener on April 6.

Right-hander Tylor Megill is expected to start in Verlander's place Saturday.

“The fact that I’ll continue to throw is showing how minor the injury is. But still there’s something there," Verlander said. He added that he doesn't anticipate missing much time.

"If it’s a different point in the season, late in the year, pitching is definitely on the table. But being the beginning of the season, coming off spring training, it makes too much sense to not push it right now.”

Verlander, 40, signed an $86.67 million, two-year deal with the Mets during the offseason and pitched well during spring training.

He is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, helping the Astros win the World Series with an 18-4 record and 1.75 ERA. He missed nearly all of the 2020 and 2021 seasons due to Tommy John surgery.

New York manager Buck Showalter said he wasn't very concerned with the team's ability to have success without Verlander in the rotation.

“It’s kind of one of the things that good clubs are able to do," he said. "We did it last year, overcame a lot of this stuff, and whether it’s the first part of the season or later on, I don’t think it’s a real hot topic right now in our locker room.”


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