The All-Star break provides a four day vacation for a struggling Astros team – and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The Astros have lost ten of their last eleven games and continue to do a nosedive in the standings. A few days off gives the players a chance to rest up a bit and enjoy some time away from the losing.
Injuries have been a contributing factor to the Astros recent decline. Outfielder Justin Maxwell and reliever Wilton Lopez are both expected to return immediately following the break. Maxwell elected to forgo surgery to remove loose bodies from his ankle and has been rehabbing in the minor leagues. It remains to be seen whether or not that was the proper course of action.
Maxwell originally said:
"We’ll get it taken care of and I’ll be able to play the last half of the season, instead of trying to play through a nagging injury and having surgery in August and wasting time."
But after it was explained to Maxwell that the surgery would be more invasive than first thought and would require an eight week recovery period the outfielder changed his tune. Maxwell has played three games at AAA Oklahoma City over the last three days and will join the AA Corpus Christi team in Tulsa during the AAA All-Star break. If all goes well Justin will return to the Astros to start the second half. Call me crazy, but I’m not convinced that he will be 100% (especially on defense) and the Astros could certainly use an upgrade for Jordan Schafer in CF.
Lopez has been out of action for a month with a sprained right elbow. Wilton was activated from the disabled list today after pitching in a couple of games at OKC. The rehab stint was short and not very sweet. Lopez was hit hard by AAA batters, allowing a pair of longballs among four hits in just two innings of work. Again, it seems like we may be rushing things a little bit here. To make room for Lopez on the roster David Carpenter was optioned. Fernando Rodriguez remains with the big club but that could change soon.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Astros in the second half. Owners of the worst road record in baseball at 9-32, the Astros start the second half with a ten-game West Coast road trip. Houston will then play ten more games against N.L. Central opponents without the benefit of a day off. That’s twenty games in twenty days before an off day on August 2nd.
Skipper Brad Mills has already announced his starting rotation for the second half. Wandy Rodriguez will be first up. Lucas Harrell and Bud Norris will pitch next against the Giants, then J.A. Happ and Jordan Lyles will pitch the first two games in San Diego. Mills has drawn harsh criticism due to the team’s recent struggles. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him fired if the road trip takes a turn for the worse.