Injury Notes: Franco, Verlander, Arano

Rays shortstop Take a walk Franco resumed his rehab assignment yesterday, signing up as a designated hitter for the Triple-A Durham Bulls as he attempts to return from hamate surgery in July. The plan, as relayed by Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, is for Franco to stay with the Bulls for a few more games and join the Rays for their series against the Blue Jays on Sept. 12.

Of course, that depends on whether Franco feels good in the next few days. He attempted to start a rehab assignment a few weeks ago, but was pulled due to persistent pain in his hand. It looks like he’s in a better position this time around, though. “It’s definitely the best I’ve felt since the injury,” Franco told Topkin, via interpreter Manny Navarro. “That’s probably the most important thing, if he feels good where he is, where we are,” director Kevin Cash said.

Getting Franco back for the final weeks of the regular season would definitely be a boon for the Rays. They are currently five games behind the Yankees in the battle for the AL East crown and sandwiched between the Mariners and Blue Jays in the Wild Card picture. The club also put the second baseman Brandon Lowe on the IL last week, which further subtracted their inner depth.

Other injury notes from around the league…

  • Astros right handed Justin Verlander went to IL a week ago with a calf injury, with Verlander and general manager James Click expressing optimism that a significant absence would not be necessary. However, Verlander probably won’t return after the 15-day minimum, says Click Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle. The Astros are fortunate to be sitting on an 86-48 record, six games ahead of the American League-leading Yankees and 17 games ahead of the Central-leading Guardians/Twins. This means the club are headed for a first-round bye and can allow Verlander to return to the pace that best suits his health, instead of rushing him for meaningful games in stride. Prior to the injury, the 39-year-old had an amazing season, especially considering he effectively missed the previous two years. He pitched 152 innings in 2022 with a 1.84 ERA, 26.5% strikeout rate and 4.5% walk rate. By breaking the 130 innings mark, he acquired a $25 million player option for the next year, but would likely be able to do better than that on the open market if he declined the option.
  • The Nationals placed right-handed Victor Arano on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to September 2, due to a sprained right shoulder. The club have not released any information on Arano’s schedule, but with only around four weeks remaining it is possible that this illness could end his season. He has pitched 42 innings so far this year, his first MLB action since 2019. He has a 4.50 ERA, 23.5% strikeout rate, 6.4% walk rate and a ground ball rate of 51.6%. A 58.9% strand rate likely inflates that ERA, with advanced metrics like FIP (3.71), xFIP (3.45), and SIERA (3.12) thinking it deserved much better. The 27-year-old will go through three years of MLB service by the end of the season, which means he will qualify for arbitration for the first time.