Reigning AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander was hampered by a pair of spring health troubles — a lat strain and a groin injury that required surgery — but the Houston ace told reporters Thursday that he’s progressed to playing long toss (Twitter links via Brian McTaggart of MLB.com). The lat strain, per Verlander, is mostly healed up, and he’s made “a big stride” in his rehab from the groin surgery as well.

Both updates are encouraging for the Astros, although there’s still no formal word from the team on a timetable for the right-hander’s return to the mound. At the time of Verlander’s surgery in mid-March, Astros general manager James Click put a rough six-week timetable on his rehab process. We’re a couple days past that point now, although with the 2020 season in limbo, it’s only sensible to be a bit cautious in the rehab process.

Verlander added that the surgery is “already showing some benefit in my mechanics” as he works to make his delivery as efficient as possible (link via the Houston Chronicle’s Chandler Rome). Notably, Verlander revealed that the surgery stemmed from an MRI that revealed his adductor muscle had nearly torn off the bone completely.

Verlander, 37, is signed through the 2021 season at $33MM per year under the terms of the extension he signed with Houston late in Spring Training last year. He responded to that contract with arguably the best season of his Hall of Fame career. Verlander led the league with 223 innings and pitched to a 2.58 ERA with a masterful 300-to-42 K/BB ratio (12.1 K/9, 1.7 BB/9) and narrowly edged now-former teammate Gerrit Cole for Cy Young honors in the AL. He made at least 30 starts for the 13th time in 14 years, and his 179 ERA+ represented a career best.

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