Ever since he sent shockwaves around the baseball world by signing a two-year, $86.67 million deal with the New York Mets last winter, the team’s fans have been dying to see Justin Verlander in orange and blue. That was put on hold almost immediately this spring after the former MVP was shut down with muscle strain in his shoulder, just the latest in a years-long line of extremely ill-timed injuries to befall Mets pitchers. Instead of having the two-time Cy Young winner make them forget all about Jacob deGrom, Queens has been stuck watching Jose Butto, Joey Lucchesi and David Peterson labor through the first month of the 2023 season.
But Verlander has been recovering ahead of schedule, and on Friday both he and Mets fans finally got their wish — well, sort of — when the righty took the mound for his first Minor League rehab start with Double-A Binghamton.
.@JustinVerlander spotted in Binghamton. pic.twitter.com/gqlapMrkPP— Mets Player Development (@MetsPlayerDev) April 28, 2023
Okay, so it’s not Citi Field just yet, but it’ll do. Even better, Verlander looked ... pretty much like Justin Verlander throughout, throwing 69 pitches over 4.2 shutout innings, allowing just two hits and striking out 6 while reportedly sitting at around 94-95 on the radar gun.
A strikeout and a double play in the second inning of Justin Verlander's rehab start for Binghamton pic.twitter.com/oYy3CWoyQJ— SNY Mets (@SNY_Mets) April 28, 2023
Obviously that’s not the premium velocity we’ve come to know, but it was a cold day in upstate New York, and Verlander will need some time to build his strength back up after missing most of the spring.
The slider, however, looked to be in midseason form:
Justin Verlander strikes out two in the 4th— SNY Mets (@SNY_Mets) April 28, 2023
Make that 4 scoreless innings pic.twitter.com/1Y4ijrzaFL
The Mets have previously said that Verlander will likely only need the one rehab start assuming he comes out of it feeling alright, which would line him up to make his New York debut either at the Detroit Tigers next week or at home against the Colorado Rockies next weekend. New York could really use the help, as the thinned-out starting rotation — plus a recently-shaky bullpen — has them a couple games back of the Atlanta Braves in the NL East entering a big weekend set between the two teams starting Friday.