Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander, sidelined thus far by shoulder soreness, is expected to begin a rehab assignment come Sunday, according to Chandler Rome of The Athletic. The Astros are hopeful that Verlander will require just two rehab starts, with both taking place with Houston's Triple-A affiliate in Sugar Land, Texas. Provided all goes to plan, that should enable Verlander to rejoin the big-league rotation in mid-April -- be it for an April 17th start against the Atlanta Braves or April 19th against the Washington Nationals.

Verlander, 41, will become Major League Baseball's oldest active player when he returns from the injured list. He rejoined the Astros last summer following a midseason trade from the New York Mets. In 27 starts overall, he amassed a 3.22 ERA (131 ERA+) and a 3.20 strikeout-to-walk ratio. For reference, Verlander has career marks that include a 132 ERA+ and a 3.61 strikeout-to-walk ratio, suggesting he remains highly effective, even by his own standards.

Verlander is, of course, one of the most storied active players. He's a nine-time All-Star, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, and a two-time World Series champion (both coming with the Astros). He's, without a doubt, a future Hall of Famer who has eclipsed the 80-career Wins Above Replacement mark. (The average Hall-of-Fame pitcher has about 73 WAR.)

The Astros will undoubtedly welcome Verlander back to the mix. Their rotation has been greatly compromised by injury to begin the year. In addition to Verlander, the Astros are also without Luis Garcia, José Urquidy, and Lance McCullers Jr. Nevertheless, that didn't stop Ronel Blanco from delivering the franchise's 17th no-hitter earlier this week against the Toronto Blue Jays. Blanco, 30, was making just his eighth career big-league start.

The Astros, swept by the New York Yankees to begin the season, are now 2-5 on the year after winning two of their past three contests.