Justin Verlander on surgery recovery, timeline of return, and career longevity

The Astros Ace is recovering from Tommy John surgery

FILE - In this March 3, 2020, file photo, Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander walks in the dugout after pitching to the St. Louis Cardinals in the first inning of a spring training baseball game in Jupiter, Fla. The Astros announced Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, that Verlander needs Tommy John surgery and could miss the entire 2021 season. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File) (Julio Cortez, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

When the Astros announced they would make Justin Verlander available via Zoom to Houston media on Friday afternoon, the speculation began. Would Verlander, in the middle of rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, announce retirement?

He quickly put that rumor to rest, tweeting “Lol…. Man y’all are crazy. I’m not retiring! I was asked to do a zoom call to give updates to the media. Sooooo here’s the update. I’m feeling awesome and plan on still pitching for a long time.”

While Verlander didn’t offer specifics on his timeline, it was the most we’ve heard from the Astros ace in a long time. Here’s what he had to say.

On where he’s at in his recovery, and what his goals are:

“I don’t know time-wise where I’m at,” said Verlander. “I’m throwing at 90 feet right now, feeling great. Timeline.. impossible. I know it sounds cliche, but I’m taking it one day at a time.”

“I have to listen to my doctors, and my body, but the hard thing about this is it’s one of those surgeries that they told me, ‘you can’t overpush it,’ which is against my nature,” said Verlander, who said when he’s been injured in the past, he usually tried to come back as soon as possible.

“First and foremost, I want to make sure I hit every check mark, every step of the way. And not try to look too far ahead.”

On being away from the game:

“It’s been intersting. A lot of it’s been really difficult, a lot of it’s really great,” said Verlander. “The family time has been really special. My daughter turns two and a half today. This is time I’ll never be able to get back. I’ve been pretty fortunate my entire career, and I think I’m at a place in my life where I look at everything and try to look at the positive. "

He’ll take his time with this recovery, because he doesn’t want to retire anytime soon:

Verlander said there’s also a silver lining regarding his injury, noting last time he was injured he learned a lot about his body, and tried too hard to rush things. This time, he’ll take the opposite approach.

“My mindset is to continue to take care of my body the way I’ve learned how, and how far that takes me, I don’t know, but I know I’m no where close to the finish line yet. I’m hoping that whenever that time comes that my body and mind say that it’s time to go, that I look back at this rehab the same way I did that (previous rehab) where it’s like, Ok, did it happen, yes. Did it suck at the time, yes. But what did you learn? How did you come out of it? Did it prepare you for the long haul?”

On his interest in returning to the Astros:

Verlander said the Astros have been “incredible” to him.

“Jim (Crane) and the organization extended their faith in me to keep me going, and I was able to pitch one game so far for that contract which, you know, that gnaws at me.”

“There’s really been no conversations about anything moving forward, I don’t know why there would be at this point. I think anybody would like to see how my rehab continues to go further down the line. I think I would have to prove that I’m healthy before that was even a topic of conversation.”

How he feels he’ll come back:

I feel fantastic. I’ve got ranges of motion that I haven’t had in a while, but in a good way,” said Verlander.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be better. The last season I was healthy, I won the Cy Young. So, anything on top of that is gravy. But I definitely think I can get back to the pitcher that I was at the least.”

Does he hold out hope that he’ll come back later this season?

JV said he tries not to let himself get too excited about the thought of coming back this season. He talks to his teammates to check in, but “if I let myself look too far in the future, I get too excited and anxious. Do I want to pitch? Absolutely.”

“There’s a lot of things that need to go perfect from now until then for that to even be a discussion.”

Verlander said before he comes back, he’ll have to consult with his surgeon and the staff, because of the risk of re-injuring.

But, what if the Astros go deep in the postseason? Verlander smiled while addressing that possibility.

“I really hope my teammates put me in a position to make that decision, you know, I hope these guys continue to play great baseball, and win big ball games, and go out there and play deep into October. That would be very difficult to not join them.”