The Houston Astros recalled RHP Vincent Velasquez on Thursday and optioned reliever Josh Fields to Triple-A. Velasquez had been down in Corpus Christi since August 1st as a way to limit his innings in preparation for a playoff push.
The hard-throwing righty had been a starter all season but was moved to the bullpen by Houston in July. This appears to be the role that he will fill for the big club down the stretch. Along with limiting Velasquez’s work in the middle of the season, the Astros also wanted the youngster to get used to warming up a little quicker. This is something the 23-year-old has never been asked to do as a starter.
The Astros bullpen has been taxed over the last week and the need for a long reliever was exposed. This explains sending down one of the many short relievers on the roster. However, the choice to send Fields down was a bit of a surprise. Fields are clearly one of the better bullpen weapons that Houston has at its disposal. But his heavy usage over the last week (pitching four times in last five games) along with his remaining option played a factor in his being sent down. Now, the Astros can force him to rest for ten days before coming back fresh for the playoff push.
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It was known that Velasquez and fellow right-hander Lance McCullers would be back up for the Astros in 2015, but it was not clear when. Now, with McCullers scheduled to start Sunday against the Dodgers and Velasquez recalled to join the pen, we have our answer.
Houston now has a deep rotation with options for the remainder of the 2015 season and a power arm that can eat some innings out of the pen. They are positioned nicely as they try to fend off a push from the Angels and Rangers in the American League West. Whatever capacity Velasquez is used in, he is sure to play a key role in how the Astros 2015 season turns out.
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