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Houston Astros News: Joe Smith placed on Restricted List

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 09: Joe Smith #38 of the Houston Astros pitches against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 9, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 09: Joe Smith #38 of the Houston Astros pitches against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 9, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images) /
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The Houston Astros have placed reliever Joe Smith on the Restricted List.

Houston reliever Joe Smith has yet to report to camp over concerns about his family’s health and safety. As they await his decision, the Astros have placed Smith on the Restricted List for roster management purposes. This will leave the team without one of its top relief arms.

The 36-year-old Smith is a veteran of 13 major league seasons. He is the active leader in games pitched and owns a career 2.98 ERA. The side-arming right-hander re-signed with the Astros on a two-year, $8 million deal this past offseason, though it remains to be seen whether he’ll play the first season of that deal.

If Smith does opt out, it’ll be interesting to see whether he’s officially considered an “at risk” player. Players who are deemed “at risk” can still receive salary and service time if they choose to sit out this season, while other players who simply choose to opt out will forfeit those benefits.

Smith’s mother is suffering from Huntington’s disease, a fatal neurological disorder that has no cure, which means Smith himself has a 50-50 chance of coming down with it. With that in mind, it’s easy to understand why Smith would want to play it safe.

At this point, I would be surprised if Smith plays this year, though he has yet to make a final decision. At the very least, he looks to miss the start of the season. The Astros will miss having him in the bullpen, but they’ll certainly respect his decision, which has to be a difficult one. We’re looking forward to seeing him back out there whenever he’s ready.

Moving Forward

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Smith’s absence will dramatically affect the bullpen, as he had been expected to get some key outs and serve as a bridge to the game-ending tandem of Ryan Pressly and Roberto Osuna. Without him in the bullpen, the picture gets rather murky beyond those two top arms.

Rookie Bryan Abreu is one candidate to step into a key role, as he looked good in a limited showing late last season. A bounceback from Chris Devenski, who’s coming off two consecutive disappointing seasons, would be a huge boost to the bullpen.

Beyond that, it’s anybody’s guess. Brad Peacock, who’s also looking to bounce back, is dealing with right shoulder inflammation. Left-hander Blake Taylor, who’s also a rookie, could step up for some key outs. If he can turn things around from a disastrous Astros debut, Joe Biagini could be relied on as well.

But the bottom line here is the Astros don’t have much pitching depth, and going without Smith is a tough blow to their bullpen. We’ll see if someone steps up in this shortened season to take on a more prominent role for manager Dusty Baker.

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