Justin Verlander named Astros' opening day starter vs. Rays

WEST PALM BEACH, Florida (KTRK) -- Justin Verlander is getting the nod as the opening day starting pitcher when the Houston Astros begin their 2019 season.

The club announced Verlander as the ace starter on Friday. He will face the Tampa Bay Rays on the road on March 28 to start a four-game series.

The Astros have expectations coming into the year. Baseball Prospectus forecasts Houston with a 98-64 record, which it believes will be an MLB-best in 2019.

For Verlander, the Tampa Bay opener will be his 11th opening day start in his illustrious 15-year career and the second straight opening day start as an Astro.

The 36-year-old Verlander is earning $28 million this season and has incentive to be one of the best pitchers in the American League. His 2020 option would be guarantee him $22 million if he finishes in the top five in Cy Young Award voting.

This week, Verlander also revealed a new pitch to his repertoire in spring training - the changeup.

"I saw the reactions I wanted on almost every one I threw," Verlander said after throwing seven of them during a 4-1 win over the Miami Marlins on Thursday in Jupiter, Florida.

The Associated Press and ESPN contributed to this story.

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