How should the Astros proceed with the starting rotation?
Well, the lat strain bug has bitten the League and it eventually spread to the Astros.
Let me list some names for you: Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Sonny Gray. These are just three high-profile examples of pitchers who have been befallen by a lat strain this year. You can now add an Astros pitcher to that list.
Yesterday morning, the Astros announced that Charlie Morton, the team’s number three starter, suffered a lat strain and he will be out for indefinite amount of time. That’s not a positive development for a first-place club, but it’s not a death blow.
It shouldn’t be anyway.
In turn, the Astros have welcomed their displaced starter of 14 hours, Mike Fiers, back into the starting rotation. He’s actually starting Tuesday in Minnesota against Jose Berrios so this should be an interesting game to watch.
Regardless, the Astros suddenly have a pitching depth issue as two-fifth’s of their projected rotation take up residence on the disabled list. Morton will likley be out till some point in July, which is the earliest speculated return timeframe. And Collin McHugh recently threw for the first time since April, and he may return at some point this summer. Either way, though, there is no definitive return date that the Astros can bank on going forward.
This creates a quandary for the Astros.
On one hand, should the front office pursue a trade to acquire additional pitching depth sometime within the next two months? Names like Jose Quintana, Sonny Gray and Gerrit Cole have been tossed around like a bean ball during hacky-sack game on your local college campus. And the price will be high. Please understand that the price will be detrimental to the club no matter whom Houston targets in negotiations.
Or should the team gamble on the young, yet talented, Francis Martes and David Paulino? This could be the more likely option as the Astros have spoken fondly about these two young men. However, Martes likely needs more time in Fresno as his high-mark during a game is 5.2 innings pitched, which happened to be his latest start. Paulino has made just three starts due to an earlier injury, but the results have been positive. Both pitchers can make a difference this season, however, it would not be surprising to see the Astros take their time with them.
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The Astros have the best record in baseball so they can afford a little bit more time to see how the starting rotation situation unfolds. As long as Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers continue their winning ways, then the team will likely gauge its best options all the way up to the trade deadline. Essentially, there is no reason, right now, to be hasty in any decision.
**Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Reference**