It hardly seems possible, but the 2021 regular season is rolling into its final six weeks. The Astros are floating just above the Oakland A’s in the AL West, surging ahead and then falling back with inconsistent play.
Besides the two-man increase in rosters for September, there are “potentially” a couple of big decisions to come. But the increase from 26 to 28 is a subject for another day. Today we will concentrate on a couple of personnel use questions. They are “potential” decisions because they are both tied to injury recoveries for players who have struggled with that this year.
The Return of Yuli Gurriel and Alex Bregman – By the time this is posted, Yuli may already be announced for tonight’s lineup. Bregman’s return is not as sure, though the party line is that he will re-start his rehab in Sugar Land this next week and return to the team at the end of August.
Question – The biggest question here is what will be the potential reduction of Aledmys Diaz‘s playing time? Since his return from the IL on July 27, Diaz has been one of the best offensive weapons on the club, slashing .350 BA/ .371 OBP/ .954 OPS with 9 runs scored, 5 doubles, 3 HRs and 14 RBIs. With Bregman out that whole time and Gurriel out the last 10 days or so, Diaz has played in every game in his return, which is not something that has occurred in his stint with the Astros. And he’s played good defense at 3B and 1B with the two starters out (not at the same time wise guys and gals).
What They Will Do – This is a tough situation as the Astros already have the DH fully covered between Yordan Alvarez and Michael Brantley. As far as what they will do? They will have Yuli and Alex as their “regular” 1B and 3B. But I think they will rotate Diaz around to get 3 or 4 starts a week between 1B, SS, 3B and DH. And the bonus is that on games where he is on the bench, they will have an actual dependable bat in reserve to toss out there for the catcher or for the pitcher in NL road games (OK – only three of those left this season).
What Should They Do – Your turn – Whatcha think?
The Return of Jose Urquidy. This is Urquidy’s second stint on the IL, having missed a couple of weeks in May with a similar shoulder issue. They believe he will return at the beginning of September. It is hard to remember back that far, but after a so-so April, Urquidy was 5-1 with a 2.68 ERA in May and June. If you drop that one loss (4.1 innings and 6 runs allowed), he was a sparkling 5-0 with a 1.76 ERA in the other 8 starts.
Question. The question is, where does he fit when he returns, and that question encompasses the starting rotation and the bullpen? Do they extend the rotation to a six-man squad to take the wear and tear off some of the members? Do they slide one of those starters who has not performed well (Jake Odorizzi) into the bullpen? Do they put Urquidy in the bullpen as a longer option? He had success there in both the 2019 and 2020 postseason, starting some and relieving some. The bullpen is not hurting like it was a few weeks ago, but it might make sense for someone who has been to the IL twice this season.
What They Will Do – It might be tough for the Astros to go to a six-man rotation when there are some days off in September. Pitching on the seventh day might make them seem rusty. A better guess is they might slide Urquidy into Luis Garcia‘s spot as that youngster will be pitching way beyond the number of innings he has ever had to pitch in a season. Or they might just decide to go tandem him up with Garcia or one of the other starters that they might hold to 4 or 5 innings in a start.
What Should They Do – Again, what do you think they should do with Urquidy, when/if he returns?