Bud Norris will come off the disabled list tomorrow and the Astros will finish out the first half of the season with a 6-man starting rotation. Norris pitched at AAA Oklahoma City on Saturday and felt no ill-effects from a sprained left knee and a nagging hip flexor. Bud’s replacement, Dallas Keuchel, has been outstanding since being called up and will stay in the rotation until the All-Star break. Keuchel gets the assignment tonight against the Padres.
Keuchel has strengthened the rotation since making his big league debut June 17 at Arlington against the Rangers. The left-hander from the University of Arkansas left that game with a lead but the bullpen was unable to hold on. In his second outing Keuchel left nothing to chance, pitching the Astros first complete game of the season in a 8-1 win over the Indians.
Earlier in the season the Astros had used a rotation of only four starting pitchers when Kyle Weiland went on the disabled list, calling up Jordan Lyles on occasions that a fifth starter was needed. The emergence of Keuchel and Lucas Harrell gives the Astros the luxury of going with six starters. I think this strategy serves the team well in the long run by giving a little extra rest to some guys who have pitched in a lot of high pressure ball games early this season.
Harrell threw the Astros second complete game of the season last night against the Padres, shutting them out on six hits and four walks. The extra rest could be a good thing for the young guys who are not accustomed to going the distance. Norris may also benefit. He went 0-3 in his last four starts prior being placed on the D.L. When Norris is activated tomorrow, a corresponding roster move will need to be made. David Carpenter and Xavier Cedeno are candidates if the Astros decide to demote a pitcher. If Jose Altuve is ready to get back into the lineup, Scott Moore could be sent back to AAA. Moore is making his Astros debut tonight at 2B.
After the All-Star break the Astros are expected to go back to a five-man rotation. Keuchel will likely be sent down so he can continue to get his starts during the break. If the Astros bring Keuchel back to Houston after the break, Jordan Lyles could be optioned to AAA. Having six quality starters and trying to decide who to keep is a dilemma the Astros will gladly embrace.