Players returning from the DL will force the Houston Astros into more roster moves.
The Houston Astros made several moves on April 1, setting the 25-man roster for Monday’s season opening game in New York. These moves are temporary though, as at least two and perhaps three players will return from the 15-day disabled list in mid-April, forcing the team to make further moves.
Lance McCullers and Evan Gattis will return from the DL on Saturday, April 9, and catcher Max Stassi‘s scheduled return date is Wednesday, April 13, although he could go back on the DL if he is not ready to play after his surgery. The Astros will have to cut a pitcher, a catcher, and one position player to bring the roster back to 25.
McCullers will likely return to the starting rotation. This move may bump Scott Feldman or Mike Fiers to the bullpen, and could mean Michael Feliz returning to Triple-A. If Feliz has opportunities during the first week of the season to prove he belongs, he may end up staying with the big club, but it seems likely that the 22-year-old who made his Major League debut on May 31, 2015, will be the one sent to Fresno.
If Stassi returns in April, another choice must be made, as the Astros are unlikely to carry three catchers. The options for Houston are to send Stassi back to Fresno, or waive, release, or trade Erik Kratz.
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Gattis will likely return to his role as designated hitter. Last season, he got off to a slow start, but the Astros gave him time and it paid off. It remains to be seen if he slumps again whether he will be afforded the same luxury this year, especially with so many young players ready for their chance to prove what they can do. Assuming Gattis is not traded, someone will be sent to Fresno: Tyler White, Matt Duffy, Jake Marisnick, or Preston Tucker could be demoted to make room. One would think that Marisnick and Tucker have a leg up due to their experience, with newcomers White and Duffy being the first demotions, unless they are hitting so well that Hinch and Luhnow can’t let them go.
A further consideration is the size of the pitching staff. At the moment, the Astros are going with 12 hurlers, something that could easily change. If Hinch decides he needs another pitcher, another of the White, Duffy, Marisnick, and Tucker group may be headed to Triple-A.
The bad news is, several who made the Opening Day team will soon lose their spot on the 25-man roster. The good news is having so much talent from which to choose is the best possible problem a manager and general manager can have.