Astros ace Justin Verlander placed on IL with calf injury

Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports
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HOUSTON — Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander, a leading candidate for the AL Cy Young Award, has been placed on the injured list with a right calf injury.

The team announced the move and said that an MRI done on the calf revealed fascial disruption, but no muscle fiber disruption.

Verlander said he isn’t sure of a timetable for his return but doesn’t expect to be out too long.

“I feel like I really kind of dodged a bullet here where the muscle isn’t actually involved,” Verlander said. “It’s the fascia, which I feel pretty fortunate about because I didn’t realize how serious even a very minor muscle calf injury can be. If that were to happen, we’d be having a much different conversation.”

Verlander’s stint on the injured list is retroactive. He was injured in his start Sunday while going to cover first base during a rundown in the third inning against the Orioles.

General manager James Click said they should have a better idea of how long he’ll be out in the next couple of days.

“We’ll know a lot more about the return timeline once we get the body through the first 48 to 72 hours to heal,” Click said. “But our hope and our expectation is that this should be relatively short-term.”

Verlander said he was relieved when he learned that it wasn’t a major injury because he felt a pop as he took off to run on the play. But two days later he’s already feeling better.

“It got pretty sore,” he said. “It is still sore. I’m laying off of it for a few days. Based on what all of the doctors have said … that fascia heals pretty quickly. So I’m just trying to give it its time to heal before I push it.”

The right-hander lowered his major league-leading ERA to 1.84 by throwing three scoreless innings before his exit Sunday.

The 39-year-old Verlander returned this season after missing almost two seasons following Tommy John surgery. Entering Sunday’s matchup with the Orioles, he was 8-0 with a 1.35 ERA in his last 10 starts.

Verlander’s 16 wins are tied with Atlanta’s Kyle Wright and Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Tony Gonsolin for most in the majors.

The injury has caused Verlander to limp a bit as he moves around the house, something that his 3-year-old daughter Genevieve has noticed. Genevieve, whose mother is Verlander’s wife and supermodel Kate Upton, has been talking to dad about boo boos after scraping her knee while riding a bike recently.

“She asked me if I have a boo-boo,” Verlander said. “And the only thing she’s having a hard time understanding is that the boo-boo’s underneath my skin … so she’s like: `It’s like my boo-boo, but on the inside.’ It’s cute and fun trying to explain it to her.”

Houston recalled right-hander Brandon Bielak from Triple-A Sugar Land and optioned outfielder Jake Meyers there. The Astros also recalled utility player J.J. Matijevic from Sugar Land and added right-hander Hunter Brown to the taxi squad from Sugar Land.

Phillies, RHP Taijuan Walker reportedly agree to 4-year deal

Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO – The active Philadelphia Phillies added Taijuan Walker to their rotation on Tuesday, agreeing to a $72 million, four-year contract with the right-hander.

A person familiar with the negotiations confirmed the move to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because it was pending a physical.

It was the second major free-agent score for the Phillies at the winter meetings after they reeled in shortstop Trea Turner on Monday with a $300 million, 11-year deal. Walker and Turner join a Phillies team that made it to the World Series this year before losing to the Houston Astros.

The 30-year-old Walker went 12-5 with a 3.49 ERA in 29 starts this season for the New York Mets, one of Philadelphia’s biggest NL East rivals. He slots into a rotation fronted by Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola.

The Phillies recently lost pitcher Zach Eflin in free agency to Tampa Bay.

Asked about the market for Walker earlier in the day, agent Scott Boras said it was robust.

“As you can see in the marketplace, there’s a whole number of pitchers that are throwing 60 and 70 innings that have been pursued, probably with the exception of (Jacob) deGrom, at the lower end of threshold around $13-15 million a year because the demand for quality pitching is so great,” Boras said.

“So, Tai … is one of the younger ones, one of the more durable ones and we expect him to be pursued greatly as his market unfolds.”

Walker was selected by Seattle with the No. 43 pick in the 2010 amateur draft. He made his big league debut with the Mariners in 2013.

Walker signed with New York as a free agent in February 2021. He turned down a $7.5 million player option last month in favor of a $3 million buyout, making his deal worth $17 million over two seasons.

The 6-foot-4 Walker made the All-Star team for the first time in 2021, putting together a fast start before fading to a 7-11 record with a 4.47 ERA in 30 games, 29 starts.