In the month since the Astros settled with Shortstop Carlos Correa instead of dueling with him in arbitration, the news coming out of the Astros camp was pretty mundane. They had signed a couple of NRIs (Non-roster invitees) in pitchers Steve Cisehek and Robel Garcia. There had been a bit of talk after both Correa and pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. announced they would really, really, really like to sign an extension with the Astros as long as it happened before the season started and as long as it was for more money and years than the club wanted to pay. OK, the last part was unspoken. Astros’ extension candidates and discussion | CHIPALATTA
Then the last half of this week, starting on Wednesday, pitching jumped into the baseball spotlight, mostly for unfortunate reasons. Framber Valdez who busted out in 2020 and was expected to be a critical cog in the starting rotation, busted something else and was diagnosed with a broken ring finger on a fielding play from the game on Tuesday. It was speculated this would require surgery, which unexpectedly could cost him the season. Surgery Recommended For Framber Valdez – MLB Trade Rumors
Just as everyone was speculating on who might have to step up to take Framber’s spot, in-house options dropped like flies as it was announced on Friday that eight pitchers, including starter Cristian Javier and potential starters Brian Abreu, Luis Garcia and Francis Martes, along with sure thing relievers Pedro Baez and Enoli Paredes and also NRIs Hector Velasquez and Ronel Blanco would all be sent away from camp due to safety (read this COVID) protocols. Astros pitchers quarantined (mlb.com)
This was followed up on Saturday by the only good news of the last few days (that has not yet been officially announced by the team) that starter Jake Odorizzi was signed to what appears to be a two-year contract with a third-year player option. This pairing had been rumored after the Valdez injury due to Odorizzi being one of the best FAs left on the market and due to some connection with James Click from Odorizzi’s time with the Rays. Astros To Sign Jake Odorizzi – MLB Trade Rumors
Later on Saturday, there was a news blip on Forrest Whitley, who had to be considered a candidate for a next man up spot, dealing with a sore arm, which has seemed to be an annual event for the last few years. Injury Notes: Longoria, Urias, Whitley – MLB Trade Rumors. A few hours later, another article on Framber Valdez considered a non-surgical approach to healing his broken finger. Latest On Framber Valdez – MLB Trade Rumors
This did not stay at the top of the Astros page as a follow up article on Whitley on Sunday morning stated he has a sprained UCL in his right arm and that Tommy John surgery has been recommended for him. Tommy John Surgery Recommended For Astros’ Forrest Whitley – MLB Trade Rumors
By this time, Astro fans’ eyes were wobbling in their sockets, and their brains were concussed from whacking the wall too many times. What does it all mean?
- The Astros first game is April 1 (and no, that is not a joke) in Oakland, approximately 3-1/2 weeks away.
- It is a sure thing that Odorizzi, who started between 28 and 33 games every year between 2014 and 2019 before being slowed down by injury in 2020, will be expected to step up into Valdez’s spot in the rotation.
- Unless someone truly has COVID and has a long recovery, the pitchers out on protocol should return (if they are clear) about 7 days out from when they were put into quarantine. This means that pitchers Javier, Paredes, and Baez, who are expected to make the squad, should have enough time to get ready before the season starts. But should is not shall, so there could be a delay to their seasons and an opportunity for someone else.
- Whitley, who, if he had been healthy last season, should have gotten a shot at the majors amid the many Astro rookies used, now has that potential debut pushed a year plus into the future, if then. He is becoming the white whale for fans. Will we ever really see him with the big club?
- It suddenly becomes quite critical that the Astros try to skate through the rest of March with minimal injury news on the pitching front.
Beyond that, it is hard to remember a week (actually five days) crammed with so much Astros pitching news in the past. Hopefully, the rest of the spring will be quiet and filled with returning arms.