Justin Verlander's status for Opening Day is in question after the team shut him down with a "mild lat strain," general manager James Click announced Monday.
"I would say it would probably take a miracle for me to be back by Opening Day," Verlander said. "But I don't want to take miracles off the table."
The Astros ace was removed after two innings and 29 pitches in Sunday's 3–1 loss to the Mets. He was expected to pitch four frames in his second spring training start. Manager Dusty Baker said Verlander told pitching coach Brent Strom that he felt soreness in his right arm when he came off the mound in the second inning on Sunday.
The team initially diagnosed Verlander's injury as triceps soreness, but an MRI on Monday revealed the lat strain. He had a similar injury in 2015, but told reporters that his current strain doesn't feel as severe.
Verlander, who dealt with groin tightness at the start of spring training, went 21–6 with a 2.53 ERA in 34 starts last season. He struck out 300 batters and reached 3,000 career strikeouts while helping the Astros capture the American League pennant. Verlander ended one of the best campaigns in his career by winning his second AL Cy Young Award.
Houston will host the Angels on Opening Day on March 26 at Minute Maid Park.