By CHUCK KING
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander won’t pitch on opening day as the team plans around the early-season schedule. Manager Dusty Baker says skipping Verlander on April 7 at the Los Angeles Angels better positions the 39-year-old right-hander to take advantage of the three off-days the Astros have in the first two weeks. Returning from Tommy John surgery, Verlander hasn’t pitched in a major league game since the delayed opening day of the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season. The two-time Cy Young Award winner threw six innings that July day before being shut down for the year. Verlander hasn’t allowed a run in three starts in spring training this month.