Astros Notes: Alvarez, Urquidy put on IL, James returns

NORTH PORT, FLORIDA - MARCH 10: Josh James #39 of the Houston Astros delivers a pitch against the Atlanta Braves during a Grapefruit League spring training game on March 10, 2020 in North Port, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
NORTH PORT, FLORIDA - MARCH 10: Josh James #39 of the Houston Astros delivers a pitch against the Atlanta Braves during a Grapefruit League spring training game on March 10, 2020 in North Port, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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The Houston Astros placed Yordan Alvarez and Jose Urquidy on the Injured List as Josh James reports to camp.

We got a good amount of Houston Astros news on Monday in addition to the report that they’ll be playing some exhibition games in Kansas City next week. Yordan Alvarez and Jose Urquidy are among five players the team placed on the 10-day Injured List while pitcher Josh James reported to camp for the first time this summer.

In addition to Alvarez and Urquidy, the Astros also placed pitchers Cionel Perez, Shawn Dubin and Ralph Garza on the IL. All five players are on the team’s player pool for this season, but Dubin and Garza are not currently on the 40-man roster and thus unlikely to play anyway except in case of emergency. Perez has fallen down the pecking order as well.

Alvarez and Urquidy, however, are big losses. The Astros have not given a specific reason for either player’s absence, with manger Dusty Baker only stating they have “a condition that prevents them from reporting to the field.” That explanation leads to suspicion that their absences are COVID-19 related, but we have no way of knowing for sure.

Regardless, it looks like the team will indeed be starting the season without both of them. There are several players who could pick up Alvarez’s at-bats, and there will be an opening in the starting rotation without Urquidy. If James is ready to step into the rotation, Austin Pruitt may be the most likely candidate for the rotation’s final spot.

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The Astros previously had not disclosed the reason for James’ absence, but we now know it was because he stayed home for the birth of his second child. His daughter, Sophia, was born on July 9, so congratulations are in order for the new and again father.

James said he’s been throwing at home and is built up to throw 75-80 pitches at this point and thinks he can be ready to make the rotation. If he really is that stretched out, it sounds like he may have a shot. If he can throw a couple times in camp and be effective, he could end up as the team’s No. 4 starter.

We’ll await the coaching staff’s evaluation of him to confirm that, however. If Baker and pitching coach Brent Strom think he’s ready, then he’s ready. For the time being, it’s just good that the Astros have another experienced arm in camp to help their rather thin rotation depth.

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