Matt Gage has joined the Houston Astros.
In last night’s game, and for the second game in a row, the Houston Astros starting pitcher left early due to a possible injury. Brandon Bielak, who was called up to replace José Urquidy, was inserted with nobody out in the first inning and filled in for four innings, allowing two runs and striking out six when Luis Garcia was lifted before retiring a batter.
It wasn’t clear if Garcia was going to be considered day-to-day or if he was joining the injured list. Right around gametime, Matt Gage joined the team, was activated to the 26-man roster, and Garcia was placed on the 15-day IL.
Gage has played in the majors before. Last season, while with the Toronto Blue Jays, he came into 11 games in relief, striking out 12 in 13 innings while allowing a WHIP of 0.923. A six-foot-three, 265 lb. left-hander, Gage was initially drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 10th round back in 2014.
After four seasons toiling in San Francisco’s minor league system, he was released and signed on with the New York Mets. Released once more, he went abroad and joined the rotation with the Diablos Rojo del Mexico in 2019, and went 10-4 despite a 5.57 ERA and a 1.534 WHIP. He remained in independent league and the Mexican League through 2021 before joining the Arizona Diamondbacks organization.
Gage gives the term “journeyman” a quite literal spin. Prior to joining the Astros in Houston on Tuesday night, he had collected 1116 innings pitched at varying levels of ball since his time with the Siena Saints in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Aside from his time with the Blue Jays last season, he also appeared in 41 games in relief for their Triple-A club, the Buffalo Bisons, where he pitched to a 2.34 ERA over 42 1⁄3 innings, with 46 strikeouts.
As to what Gage brings to the Astros, well, whatever it is, the front office was certainly determined to claim him off waivers from Toronto. So much so that GM Dana Brown engineered a signing bonus just for the waiver rights.
The Astros started their season with their rotation set thusly:
With Urquidy and Garcia removed from the equation on successive days, and Bielak and Gage replacing them on the roster proper, what’s to make of the rotation going forward?
Bielak is nicely situated to hold down Garcia’s turns, if Dusty Baker is amenable. There was talk in spring training that Dana Brown was interested in stretching out Ronel Blanco from a reliever to a possible starter. Then there’s always the possibility of a “tandem start.” That’s where two relievers are scheduled somewhere around 60 pitches each, one after the other. Ryne Stanek in particular has a lot of experience with the “opener” tag, starting 56 games for the Tampa Bay Rays earlier in his career, but usually only going one or two innings.
Gage subbed in for starting pitcher Hunter Brown in the fifth inning against the Giants on Tuesday night with two runners on, and aside from an infield single to load the bases, pitched out of a tough situation without surrendering a run.
Will Gage and Bielak join the rotation? Probably not. There’s even a chance that JP France gets called up from the Sugar Land Space Cowboys to fill in. I think the likeliest option is a Blanco/Martinez tandem start, with Bielak continuing in Garcia’s spot. What do you think? Thanks for reading.