The Houston Astros have found themselves in a position that they did not think would happen. They have a starting pitching problem. After the 2018 season, where they had dominant starting pitching, it’s apparent that they have two holes in the rotation behind the top three pitchers. AJ Hinch has already split Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander up in the rotation with Wade Miley. It was expected that Brad Peacock was about to rejoin the rotation, but he had an injury setback meaning he would not start today.
The Astros went into the season expecting Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock to be placeholders for a couple of prospects. By this time of the year, the front office probably anticipated that Forrest Whitley and Corbin Martin would have joined the rotation. Unfortunately, Whitley has struggled all year, and Martin had Tommy John surgery. It looked like a new option was rising in Jose Urquidy.
Urquidy made a couple of starts with the Astros, but he was unable to go past 3 ⅔ innings in those starts. The Astros sent him down, so he is ineligible to return until his ten days are up. Cy Sneed was also sent down to activate Joe Smith, so he is ineligible as well. Rogelio Armenteros pitched on Friday, so he’s mot an option. He would be pitching on two or three days rest. Cionel Perez and Brady Rodgers are on the MiLB IL at the moment, so they are not options. With the players on the 40-man roster, it will be an interesting few days for the Astros.
The good news is Framber Valdez is on the active roster but has not looked great in his last three starts. The new trend in baseball is using the opener, then going to the primary (bulk) pitcher. Overall, the Astros have not had to use this, but due to injuries, they will give it a shot. Today, Josh James will be the opener, followed by Valdez who can hopefully go five innings to bridge to the back of the bullpen.
The thought here is that most teams put their best hitters in the top of the batting order. If you bring a hard-throwing reliever in to face the top of the order, then the primary guy won’t be facing the best hitters while getting settled in. The traditional opener pitches one inning, but James could go two innings. When Valdez is done, the relievers used would depend on the score of the game.
If the primary guy struggles and has an early exit, it could overwork the bullpen. In situations like the Astros have tonight, you hope that they have their ace going the next day to eat up some innings. However, the Astros don’t have a starter going Tuesday night. It’s a bullpen day. While it hasn’t been announced yet, I would assume that Collin McHugh will get that start. McHugh could go two innings, but the hope here is that the hitters can’t get comfortable seeing a different pitcher every inning.
Beyond the next two games.
James could technically start Tuesday’s game also depending on how many pitches he throws tonight. When Armenteros, Sneed, or Urquidy can be recalled, maybe they could send James down to stretch out to be a starter. Maybe stretch McHugh back out. The Astros do have off days on the 25th and 29th, but they play ten straight games before then. Expect much traffic between Round Rock and Houston before the trade deadline.
Jeff Luhnow mentioned that they have reached out to a couple of clubs, but nothing is close. Luckily, the Astros have a six-game lead over the A’s in the AL West. However, the A’s have been playing great baseball, so the Astros have to continue to play winning baseball. With none of the prospects stepping up yet for the Astros, look for a trade or two before the July 31st trade deadline.
I discussed this on last night’s Locked On Astros Podcast.
@LockedOnAstros is back #Astros— Eric Huysman (@EricTalksStros) July 15, 2019
- Summary of series
- Rangers are back to where they started
- The A's are the real threat
- Look at other trades
- Injury updates
- Bad news for Peacock
- 4th or 5th starter, anyone?
- Any trades soon?https://t.co/aNr9VWuuyq
Verlander has been vocal about the opener in the past, but the Astros don’t have any other options. The Astros bullpen is good, and the offense can help them win. Houston fans have been spoiled with great starters the past three seasons. Now they get to see what it is like for other fans.