Riggleman talks Capps, Guzman, and Dukes

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MASNSports.com’s Ben Goessling “caught up with Nationals manager Jim Riggleman” for an interview this morning and the lengthy Q&A session included some noteworthy tidbits:

  • Matt Capps will enter spring training as the clear favorite for closer duties, but Brian Bruney may also get some ninth-inning chances and Riggleman “might” use Eddie Guardado or Sean Burnett to close things out against “a strong left-handed lineup” because “all I want is to make sure we get the outs.”
  • Riggleman hasn’t spoken to Cristian Guzman about a potential move to second base since September, when the longtime shortstop made it clear that he was against a switch. If the Nationals sign a second baseman like Orlando Hudson they’d keep Guzman at shortstop, but barring that he’ll likely move to second base to make room for prospect Ian Desmond.
  • Elijah Dukes will “definitely” enter spring training as the starting right fielder, with Riggleman noting that “we need to put him out there every day.”

Riggleman also touched on a few other things, including how spring training with him will be different than spring training with former manager Manny Acta, so the whole interview is definitely worth reading.

Astros’ Verlander to have elbow surgery, likely out thru 2021

Justin Verlander
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HOUSTON — Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander will undergo Tommy John surgery and is expected to be out through the 2021 season, ending his bid to make a late return for a playoff push.

The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner announced the news Saturday on his Instagram account in a 1+-minute video.

“In my simulated game a couple days ago, I felt something in my elbow, and after looking at my MRI and conversing with some of the best doctors in the world, we’ve determined that Tommy John surgery is my best option,” Verlander said.

The 37-year-old right-hander threw to hitters on Wednesday for the first time since he was injured in the team’s opener on July 24. He threw 50 pitches in the bullpen before throwing about 25 pitches to hitters in two simulated innings.

“I tried as hard as I could to come back and play this season,” Verlander said. “Unfortunately, my body just didn’t cooperate.”

Houston manager Dusty Baker said he was hopeful Verlander would return, but he was also fearful of how things were looking.

“I talked to him this morning,” Baker said. “He’s not crazy about the outcome, but it is what it is. He has to get it taken care of. He’s pitched for years. He’s been a warrior and a leader. Hopefully, this will prolong his career, and he can be back to pitching. I always told him he’s a medical marvel, and he’s a great physical specimen.”

Houston general manager James Click said he and Verlander spoke earlier this week about trying to plan the rest of the season if the throwing session on Wednesday had gone well.

“Tuesday, we had long a conversation about what he was going to be able to give, and he was already mapping out `Can I come back and pitch on Monday against Seattle just given where we are in the standings, where they are in the standings?”‘ Click said. “We had a long talk about that. We had a long talk mapping out Wednesday then Monday then Saturday and what that does the rest of the way through.”

“We had every expectation that if things went well Wednesday that we would have a conversation about whether Monday was against Seattle in a major league game or whether it was going to be another sim game against hitters here where we jump through that hoop,” he said.

The Astros entered Saturday at 25-26 and holding the eighth and final AL playoff spot. They were three games ahead of Seattle for second place in the AL West.

The regular season ends Sept. 27.

“First of all, you can’t replace Justin Verlander,” Click said. “No one person can replace Justin Verlander. This is going to have to be a total team effort. If everybody steps up a little bit, your No. 2 starter steps into a No. 1, your No. 3 into a No. 2 and on down the line, we can try to cover that a little bit.”

Verlander is under contract with the Astros through 2021. Click said it was too early to discuss 2022, with the focus being on Verlander getting through the surgery and rehab process.

“As far as next season goes, it makes the offseason that much more challenging, but we have a talented group here, and we will figure something to try to do what we can to put this team in a position to be competitive next year without Justin Verlander,” Click said.

Verlander has been on the injured list with a right forearm strain. He had groin surgery in mid-March and would’ve missed the opener if the big league season hadn’t been delayed because of the pandemic.

When the season began in late July, he beat the Mariners on opening day, holding them to two runs on three hits in six innings and striking out seven.

Verlander went 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA last year, striking out a career-high 300 and throwing his third no-hitter overall. He pitched 223 innings, most in the majors, and then made six more starts in the postseason as the Astros reached the World Series.

Verlander is 226-129 with a 3.33 ERA in 16 seasons. He has won two AL Cy Young awards, the 2011 AL MVP and was the 2006 AL Rookie of the Year. He has struck out 3,013 in his career.

After spending his entire career with Detroit, Verlander was traded to the Astros during the 2017 and went on to win the World Series that year.

“Obviously, this is not good news,” Verlander said. “However, I’m going to handle this the only way I know how. I’m optimistic. I’m going to put my head down, work hard, attack this rehab and hopefully, come out the other side better for it.

“I truly believe that everything happens for a reason,” he said. “Hopefully, when this rehab process is all said and done, this will allow me to charge through the end of my career and be healthy as long as I want and pitch as long as I want and accomplish some of the goals that I want in my career.”