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Looking at the Astros’ upcoming bullpen crunch

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The Astros sound optimistic about Ryan Pressly’s return this weekend, but who is the odd man out?

Houston Astros v Oakland Athletics Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

Following a successful rehab outing on Tuesday for the Corpus Christi Hooks on Tuesday, the Astros are inching closer to activating right-hander Ryan Pressly from the IL before their weekend series against the Orioles.

As noted by Brian McTaggart of MLB.com:

Pressly, who is sidelined due to a sore right knee, threw a scoreless inning for the Hooks on Tuesday. The thirty-year-old right-hander took a line drive off his right knee on July 18 against the Angels and has been on the IL since July 27. In between the initial injury and the subsequent IL stint, Pressly made two relief appearances, one against the A’s on July 24 and the other on July 26 versus the Cardinals. His appearance against St. Louis, in particular, was rather worrisome as he surrendered three earned runs without recording a single out. Pressly also looked quite uncomfortable on the mound as he couldn’t put the necessary weight on his right leg.

As it stands right now, the Astros sound optimistic that Pressly will be able to rejoin the club by Friday. If that development comes to pass, then there is a bit of a roster crunch in place. Houston could simply option Garrett Stubbs back to Round Rock if Robinson Chirinos’ shoulder hasn’t suffered any setbacks between his start on Tuesday and the start of the their upcoming series on Friday. Martin Maldonado did receive the start behind the plate with Gerrit Cole on the mound for Wednesday’s finale against the Rockies and Thursday is a scheduled off-day for the Astros.

But Pressly’s immediate return is only the precursor of an upcoming bullpen crunch. Josh James and Brad Peacock, both who’ve been featured in relief roles this season, are working their way back from the IL. The Astros plan to have Peacock return as a reliever for the rest of the season, as noted here by Hunter Atkins of the Houston Chronicle. Meanwhile, James isn’t likely to return prior to September, as stated by Chandler Rome, also of the Houston Chronicle.

So, what if the Astros decide to activate Peacock in August? Joe Biagini, recently acquired from the Blue Jays, has an option left on his contract. Chris Devenski also has three options remaining, although his numbers in July (3.86 ERA and 3.90 FIP) were a step in the right direction. While his most notable pitch, the changeup, has seen a steady increase in wOBA allowed during the past few seasons, the Astros haven’t been wary of using the right-hander in certain situations.

There is another option to consider, which may be a tad extreme: Designate Hector Rondon for assignment. On one hand, it doesn’t make too much sense to cut someone who could provide some depth for the rest of the season, and possibly the entire postseason. There is value in having proven arms waiting in the wings if the moment ever arises. Especially so for a pitcher with a 3.00 ERA in the season’s first half, although the right-hander’s peripherals strip off some of that luster. That said, Rondon’s numbers in July (9.35 ERA and 5.41 FIP) have possibly torpedoed his standing in the Astros’ bullpen going forward.

This is a brief comparison of Devenski’s and Rondon’s 2019 stats.

Devenski: 4.32 ERA...4.72 xFIP...3.95 SIERA

Rondon: 4.14 ERA...5.00 xFIP..4.68 SIERA

By the way, Rondon is in the last year of his current contract, which pays him $4 million. Not exactly a blow to the budget if they did decide to cut him. So, if he is not good enough to be in the playoff picture, and does not have a future on the team, why keep him around when there are better options right now?

At this point, though, I’d doubt we will see Peacock return in August as there is little reason to rush him back before rosters expand in September. I think the Astros need to keep as many arms as possible in case their help is needed later as a team can never have enough pitching. But the Astros are known for their share of surprises, so we’ll have to pay attention going forward.

Poll

How should the Astros shuffle their bullpen with the expected reactivation of Ryan Pressly and Brad Peacock

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    option Chris Devenski
    (119 votes)
  • 31%
    Designate for assignment Hector Rondon
    (398 votes)
  • 3%
    option Joe Biagini
    (49 votes)
  • 55%
    leave Brad Peacock on IL until September
    (702 votes)
1268 votes total Vote Now