MINNEAPOLIS, MN (WTKR)- Entering this season, Justin Verlander had not pitched since July of 2020. That's when the Old Dominion product suffered an elbow injury and had to undergo Tommy John surgery, forcing him to miss the entire 2021 season.
So what would 2022 hold? Verlander hasn't skipped a beat. His most recent outing on Tuesday saw him take a no-hitter into the eighth inning and he boasts a 4-1 record with a 1.55 ERA. Despite coming off an injury and surgery, the success does not shock Verlander's father, Richard, who has been watching his son compete for decades.
"I've got to say I'm not surprised," the elder Verlander said. "Just knowing Justin and his work ethic and what goes on behind the scenes, I can't say I'm surprised."
Richard said that his son didn't talk about his recovery process too much as it just became part of his routine, but noted that he would check in and fill his parents in from time to time. That process can prove difficult for an elite pitcher with a competitive edge.
"You don't push it, you don't rush it" Richard said of Justin's injury recovery. "You have to do what to doctor says, you have to take your time and you have to let it heal. For a guy that pushes himself that hard, sometimes that's a little bit of an oxymoron I think, but he did and he still is doing that."
Tuesday saw Verlander lose a no-hitter in the eighth inning or later for the eighth time in his career, tying Randy Johnson for the most in history. He was five outs away from becoming just the third pitcher ever to throw at least four no-hitters, but all things considered, it was still a successful night.
"It may have been a blessing in disguise and I would never say that about a no-hitter," Verlander's father said of the eighth inning base hit. "They had Justin on a 90 pitch count last night so that could've made for an interesting dilemma for a guy who doesn't want to give up the ball and a manager who's been around long enough to force the issue."
At 39 years old, Verlander still looks like he's in the prime of his career. His family was on-hand at his season debut against the Angels in Anaheim, hoping that any elbow, ligament or tendon issues were behind him. That hope has lingered during each of his starts so far this season.
"It's in the back of your mind, it's something that's kind of new," Richard noted. "He did a pretty good job convincing us all that he was Superman for a lot of years."
It's early, but Verlander is back to resembling Superman. He's won four of his six starts, struck out 36 batters while walking just six and his 1.55 ERA is good enough to rank seventh in the majors. Could another Cy Young Award be in store for the former Monarch? If the first month of the season is any indication, he'll certainly keep his name in the mix.