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The Houston Astros welcomed one of their injured starters back Friday night. Erstwhile ace and future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander made his 2024 debut against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park (GameTracker). Verlander got a late start to spring training after dealing with shoulder inflammation over the winter.

"It's good to get him back in the rotation and what it means to this club," Astros manager Joe Espada said earlier Friday (via MLB.com). "Just to get him back on track and get some innings from him, fill our rotation with the pieces that we need to move forward, it's exciting to have him back."

In his return, Verlander gave the Astros exactly what they needed. He held Washington to two runs on four hits (including a Riley Adams solo homer) and no walks over six innings, and struck out four. Verlander was on a pitch limit and threw only 78 pitches in his six innings. Here is his first strikeout of the season:

Verlander's velocity was down compared to last year -- he averaged 93.4 mph and topped out at 95.0 mph Friday night -- though not alarmingly so, and that is to be expected given the shoulder issue and lack of a proper spring training. He'll likely need a few more starts to get all the way back up to speed. Regardless, what Verlander has now is plenty good enough to get outs.

The Astros entered Monday's game with a 6-14 record and a 5.24 team ERA, second worst in baseball. Their starters had a 5.05 ERA. Verlander's return came not a moment too soon. Luis Garcia (Tommy John surgery), Lance McCullers Jr. (flexor surgery), José Urquidy (forearm strain), and Framber Valdez (elbow inflammation) are all still on the injured list.

Houston has three off-days in the next 11 days, so they will be able to give the 41-year-old Verlander extra rest between his starts without much difficulty. That'll be helpful as he works his way back from his shoulder issue.