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Astros place Justin Verlander on the injured list – another blow to the injured rotation

The Houston Astros placed Justin Verlander on the 15-day injured list on Tuesday due to neck discomfort, another blow to Houston's weakened rotation.

The move jeopardizes Verlander's contract status for 2025. He has a $35 million player option for 2025 that will only vest if he pitches 140 or more innings this season.

Verlander has thrown 57 innings so far and the 33-39 Astros have played 44.4% of their regular season schedule, putting him well short of the 140-inning mark. He began the season on the IL, making his debut three weeks into play on April 19.

Verlander, 41, could still manage 140 innings. But he would have to return from his IL stint soon and remain healthy and available for most of the rest of the season to have a reasonable chance of completing another 83 innings.

If he doesn't meet the threshold, he'll become a free agent in the offseason. Verlander, a three-time Cy Young winner, has a 3.95 ERA and a 1.211 WHIP with 51 strikeouts and 17 walks in 2024.

According to The Athletic, Verlander had been dealing with neck soreness for “a couple of weeks” and initially tried to pitch despite the pain. The Astros ruled him out of Saturday's start against the Detroit Tigers before placing him on the injured list on Tuesday ahead of his scheduled start against the Chicago White Sox on Thursday.

It's unclear how long he'll be out. The IL stay is retroactive to Sunday, meaning Verlander can return to the active roster on June 30. An already thin Astros rotation could use him as soon as he's ready. The Astros called up right-hander Nick Hernandez from Triple-A Sugar Land in a related move on Tuesday.

Astros starters Cristian Javier and José Urquidy have both undergone season-ending elbow surgery. Starter Lance McCullers Jr. has not pitched since undergoing surgery last June to remove bone spurs and repair the flexor tendon in his throwing arm. He hopes to pitch this season, but it's not yet clear when he will return.

The Astros are nine games behind the first-place Seattle Mariners in the AL West and are in danger of missing the postseason for the first time since 2016.