Just about a week ago, it was announced that Justin Verlander would miss around six weeks while recovering from core muscle surgery. With any type of recovery time from surgery, that six week period is simply an estimate. It could take longer or it could be a shorter recovery time.
While you never want to see your ace pitcher go down with an injury, especially after the trading of a reliable starter in Doug Fister, there could be a few positives to take out of this surprising announcement.
First, if the surgery had to happen, its a good thing it happened in early January. Six weeks from the day of surgery (Jan. 9) puts Verlander’s target date on or around Feb. 20. While it is after the time that pitchers and catchers report to Lakeland (Feb. 14), it puts it right around the time of the first full-team workout (Feb. 18) and the first Grapefruit League contest (Feb. 26 against the Braves at Walt Disney World).
What does this mean? Fans making the annual pilgrimage to Lakeland will likely not see JV for the first couple weeks of Spring Training. Justin has an intense and meticulous off-season conditioning program which he implemented a few years back to avoid poor starts in the early part of the season.
This likely means he will speed up that program, under the watchful eye of pitching coach Jeff Jones, and be ready to throw a couple innings in exhibition games around the the third week in March (Mar. 9-15).
The Detroit Tigers have been tremendously successful in the postseason recently. While they haven’t won the ultimate prize, they have won four playoff rounds in three seasons. This means that the JV has pitched quite a few more innings than some of the other top pitchers across baseball.
Heading into 2013, Verlander had trailed only C.C. Sabathia in total innings pitched since 2008 with 1,154.2. Sabathia had a terrible year and Verlander had a rather pedestrian (for him) regular season. One could argue that all that pitching in Spring Training, regular season, and postseason (not to mention All-Star games, bullpen sessions between starts and off-season throwing) for those two pitchers could have contributed to their 2013 problems. Especially since each has been largely healthy over their careers.
Sabathia’s Yankees missed the playoffs last season, but Verlander continued to pitch, and ended up playing his best in the postseason. All told, the regular season and playoffs added 241.1 innings to JV’s workload, which now totals 1,396 innings since the start of 2008.
Rest and rejuvenation sprinkled in with rehab can ultimately be helpful for Justin and the Tigers. The team has a large investment in the former MVP and Cy Young winner, so while they are still clinging to the “win now” mantra, the team also needs Justin Verlander to be a reliable player into the next decade.