Justin Verlander got off to a great start this season, posting a 2.48 ERA in April, but he’s looked unlike his usual dominant self since the calendar flipped to May and that continued this afternoon with a rough outing against the Blue Jays.
Verlander allowed six runs in seven innings versus Toronto, serving up two homers, and has now allowed 33 runs in 46 innings since May 1 for a 5.67 ERA over seven starts. Even the best players struggle at times and certainly seven poor starts is hardly the end of the world for Verlander, but his 30/20 K/BB ratio during that time is uncharacteristic as well and his average fastball velocity is down to a career-low 92.2 miles per hour.
In fact, Verlander’s average fastball has declined from 95.0 to 94.3 to 93.3 to 92.2 since 2011. So he’s throwing slower than ever, he’s struggling for the past 5-6 weeks, and his strikeout rate of 6.4 per nine innings is his lowest since he was a 23-year-old rookie in 2006. Maybe it’ll all prove to be a minor speed bump for the former MVP and Cy Young winner–he was actually throwing a little harder today, for instance–but at age 31 and in the second season of a seven-year, $180 million contract extension it’s definitely cause for concern.
He’s scheduled to face rookie slugger Jose Abreu and the White Sox’s third-ranked offense next week, in Chicago.
Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).
Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.
Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.
Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.
Orioles’ center fielder Michael Bourn is expected to be sidelined for four weeks while he rehabs a broken ring finger on his right hand, according to reports from the Baltimore Sun’s Peter Schmuck. Bourn broke the finger while playing catch with a football after a spring training workout.
The veteran outfielder re-signed with the club earlier this week on a minor league deal and was prepared to compete for a bench role this season. He’s in line to receive a $2 million salary if he makes the major league roster and can make an additional $3.5 million in incentives based on a set number of plate appearances. Now, however, his chances of cracking the roster out of spring training look considerably diminished, as his current timetable gives him an approximate return date of March 25 if all goes well.
Bourn had an impressive, if short-lived run with the Orioles following his trade to Baltimore last August, batting .283/.358/.435 with two home runs and a .793 OPS in 55 PA. While still somewhat removed from the totals that brought him an All-Star nod with the Braves in 2012, his defensive chops should give the Orioles some depth in center once he’s healthy again.