Physically, Justin Verlander feels “absolutely wonderful” while pitching.
The mental side has proven to be more of a hindrance recently.
The Mets co-ace superstar, who is rehabbing from a low-grade shoulder strain, said he has strengthened the troublesome muscle and is “99 percent” of the way back.
Verlander, whose club debut will likely be next week, will have missed his first month with his new team, part of a Mets team that is four-fifths below its projected rotation.
Verlander’s absence, which exacerbates the depth problem, has made it more frustrating for the right-hander.
“You will see [healthy] guys stretching a little bit, it’s frustrating,” Verlander said Tuesday before the Mets played the Nationals at Citi Field. “It’s hard for me not to be a part of [the team] and not helping in any way, shape, or form.
“But everyone behind the scenes says, ‘Just wait. Your time will be here. It is still early. Let’s not exaggerate now. ”
The next step is expected to be the final one.
Verlander, who most recently threw 43 pitches in a live batting practice session in Port St. Lucie on Sunday, will make a rehab start Friday in which he will stretch further, likely to four innings.
The Mets “have a pretty good idea,” Buck Showalter said, where the rehab assignment will come from, though the manager declined to disclose the location.
If all goes well, Verlander could start his season next Wednesday or Thursday in Detroit, where he shone from 2005-2017.
“Thank God the guys have been playing great baseball,” Verlander said, adding that he has started to pick up his speed and is happy with his performance. “That makes it a little easier.”
The Mets finished their West Coast tour a game behind the Braves despite losses to Verlander, José Quintana (left rib fracture), Carlos Carrasco (right elbow inflammation) and most recently Max Scherzer, who was suspended 10 games following his ejection on Wednesday for having a hand that officials deemed too sticky.
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The Mets have stayed afloat with a rotation that includes Tylor Megill, David Peterson, Joey Lucchesi and Jose Butto, who was called up to start Tuesday.
Of the rotation the Mets entered spring training with, only Kodai Senga has made a start every shift.
“It’s tough,” Showalter said. “I’m sure we can find someone else going through this somewhere. But… it’s a great opportunity for some other people. We were hoping it wouldn’t happen so soon, but we felt like there was a good chance we’d have to dive into the depths at some point.”
Verlander won’t be fully built and ready for 100 pitches when he makes his Mets debut.
He’s been able to pitch consistently since going on the disabled list on March 31, which encouraged him, as did a recent follow-up MRI in which “everything looked very, very good.”
Scherzer is expected to rejoin the rotation for the home series against the Braves this weekend.
With Verlander scheduled to be back in the next series, this year’s version of the Mets 1-2 dream hit is about to make its debut.
It will be delayed, but the hope is that it will last after Verlander has tried to avoid forcing his return too soon.
“Although it’s a minor strain, it’s an area you can’t play with,” the 40-year-old said. “It has to be fully healed before you step on the gas. If it’s a hamstring or something else, those things can be thrown.
“This is something that if you rush, you can be three months behind.”