Astros call up pitchers Brandon Bielak, Nivaldo Rodriguez

The Houston Astros have called up pitchers Brandon Bielak and Nivaldo Rodriguez.

Everyone knows that nobody can fill Justin Verlander’s shoes, and apparently the Houston Astros do too. To help their ailing pitching staff, the team called up two pitchers in right-handers Brandon Bielak and Nivaldo Rodriguez while placing Verlander on the Injured List and optioning infielder Taylor Jones off the roster.

Verlander will be on the shelf for at least a few weeks, if not the remainder of the season. Manager Dusty Baker declined to name a starter to pitch against the Dodgers on Wednesday, which would have been Verlander’s next turn. He does have some options, though he also hinted at the possibility of a bullpen game.

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With Bielak and Rodriguez joining the club, the Astros now have 16 pitchers and 14 position players on their roster, and they’ll certainly need the extra arm if they’re going with a bullpen game. Baker is still trying to sort out who he can trust to pitch the high-leverage relief innings, so adding a couple extra candidates isn’t a bad idea.

The Lowdown

The Astros drafted Bielak, 24, in the 11th round in 2017 out of Notre Dame. He worked his way through the minors quickly, reaching Triple-A in 2019 and pitching to a 4.41 ERA in 14 starts and one relief appearance there. He’s the franchise’s 12th-ranked prospect and doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but is just a solid all-around pitcher who can keep hitters off balance.

Rodriguez, 23, snuck into the prospect rankings as the team’s No. 29 prospect. The Astros signed him out of Venezuela in 2016, but he’s never even pitched at the Double-A level before this season. He did post a 2.40 ERA between two Class-A levels last year and possesses a low-to-mid-90s fastball and an excellent curveball, probably looking at a future as a reliever.

Of the 16 pitchers currently on the active roster, half are rookies. Some of the veterans (namely Zack Greinke, Chris Devenski and Joe Biagini) haven’t looked too sharp in the early stages of this season, so we’re really going to see which of these rookies have a future in the major leagues.