WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Houston ace Justin Verlander has a mild strain of a back muscle and said it would “probably take a miracle” for him to pitch in the Astros’ opener at Oakland on March 26.

In an effort to remain positive, Verlander quickly added, “but I don’t want to leave miracles off the table.”

The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner was hurt on his second-to-last pitch in Sunday’s exhibition game against the New York Mets. He had an MRI on Monday and was diagnosed with a strained latissimus dorsi muscle. There is not a timetable for his return.

“Talking with doctors and looking at the scans, it’s definitely not worst-case scenario,” Verlander said, “Best-case scenario would be nothing. It’s just probably somewhere in the middle of that.”

The 37-year-old right-hander’s velocity was down from his previous start, and he was removed after two scoreless innings of what had been scheduled as a four-inning outing.

“Hardly noticed it to be honest,” Verlander said of the injury-inducing pitch. “It didn’t quite feel right, just felt maybe I was a little off mechanically or something – kind of one of those spring things. Then in between innings it started to tighten up a bit.”


Groin tightness slowed Verlander earlier in spring training. He said he did not know whether the two issues were related.

INDIANS: All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor has suspended talks with Cleveland about a new contract so he can focus on the upcoming season.

Lindor told The Athletic on Monday that the sides have had “good conversations” but couldn’t come up with an agreement.

“So we put that aside and let’s focus on winning,” said Lindor, who will make $17.5 million this season and is under the team’s contractual control through the 2021 season.

RANGERS: Texas outfielder Willie Calhoun had surgery to repair his broken jaw, a day after being hit in the face by a fastball.

YANKEES: Catcher Gary Sánchez could be back in the lineup Friday if his sore back keeps improving.


Sánchez played consecutive games for the first time this year on Thursday and Friday, then felt sore Saturday and hasn’t played since.

New York said left-hander James Paxton plans to start a throwing program on Wednesday as he works to return from a back injury that is expected to keep out until May or June.

DODGERS: Clayton Kershaw will start the Los Angeles Dodgers’ opener against the visiting San Francisco Giants on March 26. Kershaw will extend his franchise record for opening day starts to nine.

PHILLIES: Philadelphia ace Aaron Nola was scratched from his scheduled start Monday against the Yankees due to the flu.


RED SOX 2, BRAVES 1: Ryan Weber pitched scoreless four innings, allowing one hit and striking out four, in Boston’s win over Atlanta in Venice, Florida.

Jose Peraza had two hits for Boston. Marco Hernandez had an RBI single and Rusney Castillo an RBI ground out.

Former Seattle ace Felix Hernandez pitched five innings, allowing one run on six hits, while striking out six and walking two for the Braves. Touch Toussaint pitched four innings for Atlanta, allowing a run on one hit.

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