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Will Tommy John Surgery End Justin Verlander’s Career?

The MLB ace will face physical challenges as well as age in attempting to successfully resume his career

Star Houston Astros’ pitcher Justin Verlander announced in an Instagram post that he will be undergoing Tommy John surgery. The right-handed ace is one of the toughest players in the game, but will the procedure mark the end of the 37-year-old’s career?

Verlander hasn’t pitched since winning the opening game of the 2020 season after which he reported arm discomfort. Two months later, after uncertainty about when he might return, he made headlines with news that he will undergo the significant surgical procedure:

During a wildly successful 16-year big-league career, Verlander has been one of the sturdiest pitchers in the game, having been on the disabled list just once before (2015). His 226–129 record, 3,013 strikeouts and 3.33 ERA has equated to two Cy Young awards and six other finishes in the top-five in voting.

The reigning 2019 National League Cy Young winner will undoubtedly come back at some point from this setback, but will he have the time and momentum to truly resume his career? Even in the best-case scenarios, he will miss all but the tail-end of the 2021 season, meaning his next full season would be in 2022 when he is 39 and will still have restrictions on his road to recovery.

Verlander is under contract with Houston through 2021 with the final year of his deal calling for a salary of $33 million. Assuming he bounces back physically as expected, there will be a number of teams interested in taking a chance on him in free agency.

The shame of the matter is that despite his age, the way he had been pitching gave him an outside chance at reaching 300 career victories. His prolonged absence has all but destroyed that possibility.

The hurler will eventually return but at what level remains to be seen. Given all that he has contributed to the game, here’s hoping that he is able to finish his career healthy and on his own terms.

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Dabbler in history & writing. Master’s degree in baseball history. Passionate about diversity, culture, sports and education.

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