For the first time since May 2021, the Astros are including Cristian Javier in their rotation plans as they are about to embark on a 33-game stretch in 34 days. My right knee is already aching from writing that sentence, and I don’t even want to imagine how the players feel. Considering how a shortened Spring Training has already limited availability across the league, it is no surprise to see the implementation of a six-man rotation this early in the season.
A return to the rotation for Javier has always felt inevitable, even if it is only temporary. While his results as a reliever have generally been optimal throughout his career (3.23 ERA, 33.1 percent strikeout rate in 64 innings), general manager James Click has been insistent about the club’s long-term plans for quite some time about the right-hander.
James Click with @raford3: “We see Cristian Javier as a starter long-term.”— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) April 24, 2022
Our own Dan Martin and Juan Páez have each made a case in recent weeks about which role is best for Javier. The former argues that a relief role best optimizes Javier’s current offerings, while the latter points to the overall results when the 25-year-old is used as a starter. There are valid points to both positions, even if I find myself more aligned with utilizing Javier as a starter in the long-term, as I believe that is where he could maximize his potential.
The primary issue for Javier, regardless of his role, has always centered around momentary lapses in control. In various instances, we saw it unfold last season, including a six-walk outing in his last start of 2021 against the Rangers. Javier was also prone to sudden bouts of control issues even as a reliever (13.9 percent walk rate). As long as the control issues were present, at least at his 2021 rate, it would limit his overall productivity. However, Javier appears to have addressed those control issues, as evidenced by him allowing only one walk against 31 opposing hitters. While it is unknown how he will adjust to a role change, this improvement should not be overlooked.
The transition of Javier back into the rotation is something to watch closely in the next month. If he performs well, he could supplant Jake Odorizzi or Jose Urquidy if their struggles persist. If not, we could see Javier reassume his relief role, perhaps with an expanded role in high leverage situations. Again, something to watch that may have more significant implications as the season ages.