Astros place Justin Verlander on IL in another blow to injured rotation

The move puts Verlander's 2025 contract status in jeopardy

The Houston Astros placed Justin Verlander on the 15-day injured list on Tuesday due to neck discomfort in another blow to Houston's hobbled rotation.

The move puts Verlander's 2025 contract status in jeopardy. He has a $35 million player option for 2025 that vests only if he pitches 140 or more innings this season.

Verlander has thrown 57 innings so far, and the 33-39 Astros have played 44.4% of their regular-season schedule, putting him already well behind pace to reach the 140-inning threshold. He started the season on the IL and made his debut three weeks into the schedule on April 19.

Verlander, 41, could still reach 140 innings. But he'd need to return shortly from this IL stint and remain healthy and available for the bulk of the remainder of the season to have a reasonable chance of logging 83 more innings.

If he doesn't reach the threshold, he'll become a free agent in the offseason. A three-time Cy Young winner, Verlander has a 3.95 ERA and 1.211 WHIP with 51 strikeouts and 17 walks in 2024.

Per The Athletic, Verlander said he has been dealing with neck pain for "a couple weeks" and initially tried to pitch through it. The Astros scratched him from Saturday's start against the Detroit Tigers before placing him on the IL on Tuesday ahead of his scheduled start against the Chicago White Sox on Thursday.

It's unclear how long he'll be sidelined. The IL stint is retroactive to Sunday, meaning Verlander will be eligible to return to the active roster on June 30. An already thin Astros rotation could use him as soon as he's ready. The Astros called up right-hander Nick Hernandez from Triple-A Sugar Land in a corresponding move Tuesday.

Astros starters Cristian Javier and José Urquidy have both undergone season-ending elbow surgery. Starter Lance McCullers Jr. hasn't pitched since he had surgery last June to remove bone spurs and repair the flexor tendon in his throwing arm. He hopes to pitch this season, but it's not yet clear when he'll return.

The Astros are nine games behind the first-place Seattle Mariners in the AL West and at risk of missing the postseason for the first time since 2016.