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With Framber Valdez sidelined, is it now Forrest Whitley’s time?

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The Astros suffered a tough blow on Wednesday, when Valdez was diagnosed with a fractured left ring finger.

Houston Astros Summer Workouts Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

If Forrest Whitley wants to step up as one of the Astros’ starters this year, his time has finally come. On Tuesday Framber Valdez suffered an injury and hours later, on Wednesday, he was diagnosed with a fractured left ring finger that will probably keep him out of action for several weeks.

According to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the injury is said to be serious...

This loss will test the Astros’ pitching depth. The rotation was expected to begin the season with Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers Jr., Valdez, Cristian Javier, and José Urquidy, but now the Astros will need to fill Valdez’s void while he recovers and gets ready for a long season.

That’s when Whitley’s name emerges. Now at 23 years old, the young righty —the only Astro among the top 100 prospects in baseball— will have the chance to prove he’s the ace of the future for Houston.

As for Wednesday, Whitley has yet to pitch in a spring training game, but word is he reported to camp in very good shape and focused to enjoy the game without putting too much pressure on himself.

“He came into camp in great shape,” Astros general manager James Click said to MLB.com. “He’s doing really well in terms of getting his work in and it’s just great to see him letting it go and throwing free and easy, which to all us says a lot about how his arm feels. He’s out there and he’s getting after it. The sky’s the limit for this kid and has been for a long time. We’re hoping to try to find a way to help put it all together.”

What we last see of Whitley —currently on Astros’ 40-man roster— on a mound came in late 2019. He pitched in the Arizona Fall League and recorded a 2.88 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP across 25 innings. The righty struck out 32 hitters and gave up nine bases on balls. That’s the kind of pitcher he can be when healthy and focused.

If I needed to point out Whitley’s words since he got to camp, I would pick this one: “It’s definitely something where I feel one step closer. I’m just making sure I’m giving them every reason to believe in me.”

And, again, this could be Whitley’s time, especially considering the start of the Triple-A season will be delayed at least a month. Maybe the Astros could decide to carry Whitley in their 26-man roster and give him some chances in the Bigs to see how he performs.

Past injuries and more depth

Even though there’s not a timetable for Framber’s return to action, we have some past injuries to use as a reference...

  • 09/07/2020: 1B Eric Hosmer suffered a fractured left index finger while attempting a bunt. Initially, it was said he could miss anywhere from two to six weeks, but he came back on September 19.
  • 03/29/2020: 1B Daniel Murphy fractured his left index finger while fielding a ground ball. He was out until April 24.
  • 09/16/2020: OF Adam Eaton suffered a fractured left index finger. With 13 games left on the schedule for the Nationals, Eaton miss the rest of the season.

The Astros also have other starting options such as Luis García and Brandon Bielak. García pitched well in a few regular-season frames and did a good job in a two-inning start against the Rays in the American League Championship Series. As for Bielak, he struggled in 32 episodes of a 6.75 ERA.

Although it’s true Whitley may not be the Astros’ only option to replace Valdez, he might be the strongest one and certainly the one with more upside. Time to decide, Dusty!