Astros’ Verlander skips scheduled bullpen session

MLB
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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP)Justin Verlander elected not to throw his scheduled bullpen session and No. 2 starter Zack Grienke isn’t even in camp yet, adding to an unusual start to Houston’s spring training.

Verlander’s name appeared on Houston’s daily schedule as a thrower, but a team spokesman said Verlander threw a 60-pitch bullpen on Tuesday before camp opened and requested ”a little extra time before he threw again.”

Grienke isn’t expected to arrive in camp until Feb. 22 – opening day of the Astros’ Grapefruit League schedule. His absence is not a surprise to the club.

Astros manager Dusty Baker said Grienke is 100% healthy.

”He’s working out and is contact with our training staff and (pitching coach) Brent Strom,” Baker said. ”We’re not worried about him. This guy is a guy who works and so when he comes to camp we expect him to fall back in place with everybody else.”

Verlander and Grienke have three Cy Young Awards between them, with Verlander claiming the award last season.

This will be Grienke’s first spring training with the Astros. He posted an 8-1 record with a 3.02 ERA after a mid-season trade from Arizona to Houston.

Verlander led the league with 21 wins last season. He’s started fewer than 30 games in a season only once since 2006, his first full major league season.

On Thursday, Houston did get it its first look at the surgically-repaired arm of Lance McCullers Jr. for the first time since 2018.

McCullers threw 17 pitches, incorporating fastballs, sinkers, curveballs and changeups in his first bullpen session.

An All-Star in 2017, McCullers had Tommy John surgery following the 2018 season and missed all of last year. He’s one of the pitchers Houston is counting on to help fill the void created when free agent Gerrit Cole signed with the New York Yankees during the offseason.

”It felt really good to be back on the mound with the other guys around in a normal spring training routine,” McCullers said. ”I wasn’t worried about how I was going to feel, anything like that. I wanted to just stay under control. It was a long time coming for my first pen.”

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