The absence of Josh James and Jose Urquidy could alter the Houston Astros rotation.
As we count down toward the start of the regular season, the Houston Astros starting rotation could look a little different that we anticipated. Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke and Lance McCullers Jr. are expected to be the top three. However, projected No. 4 starter Jose Urquidy and possible No. 5 starter Josh James have yet to arrive at camp, putting their readiness in question.
James has been away due to a personal matter, which is evidently not related to COVID-19. However, Urquidy’s absence is more unexplained, as the team hasn’t given a specific reason or stated that it’s not related to the Coronavirus. The obvious assumption is that his absence is COVID-19 related, but we don’t know for sure.
Regardless, the fact that they’ve yet to show up is concerning. We don’t know how well they’ve trained during the shutdown, so there’s no way to know how much time they would need to get ready to pitch in the rotation. The team won’t even know that until they actually show up to camp.
Thus, the team is going to have to focus on having players ready to take those spots if needed. Manager Dusty Baker said he’s “still counting on them, but you have to go on as if they’re not here and get the guys ready who are here.”
Astros Plan B and C
James had been in a battle for the fifth starter spot with a few other guys, so those would be the candidates to replace him and Urquidy if they’re not ready. Austin Pruitt was probably neck and neck with James back in Spring Training, so he would presumably get one of those spots if he’s ready to go.
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Framber Valdez and Bryan Abreu were also in the mix, so they might be in competition for the fifth spot. Personally, I would prefer Abreu in the bullpen, especially considering Joe Smith has yet to report to camp due to health and safety concerns. Abreu could be a nice bridge to Ryan Pressly and Roberto Osuna.
Beyond those two, the team’s next option is uncertain. There’s no word on whether Brad Peacock would be ready to step into the rotation, as he’s seemed primed for the bullpen. They have some less experienced players in Cristian Javier and Brandon Bielak who would probably be next in line should additional rotation help be needed. Rogelio Armenteros likely won’t be ready to start the season.
How this plays out will get clearer as camp progresses. If James and Urquidy are able to report soon, they might still have time to get ready to start the season in the rotation. But if not, the Astros do have some options on hand, though there’s some uncertainty nonetheless.