The Houston Astros are replacing Josh James with Brandon Bielak in the starting rotation.
As it turns out, Zack Greinke will not be facing his former team on Thursday as had been expected. The Houston Astros are adjusting their starting rotation by pushing Greinke’s start back to Friday and giving rookie Brandon Bielak his first career start in the series finale at Arizona, bumping the struggling Josh James to the bullpen.
Greinke will instead open the three-game series in Oakland. Framber Valdez will start on Saturday and Cristian Javier will go on Sunday. This means James has lost his spot in the starting rotation, as manager Dusty Baker wants his experience in the bullpen. Lance McCullers Jr. would be the presumed starter for Monday’s home opener against the Giants.
This isn’t an entirely unexpected development for the hard-throwing James, who’s struggled to throw strikes in his first two outings. He’s walked 11 batters in six innings of work, allowing seven runs with four hits and a couple of homers. He’s also hit a batter and thrown a pair of wild pitches, so it’s understandable that the team would want to remove him after only two starts.
If he can get his control back to a respectable level, he could be a real asset in relief. The Astros are essentially down to Ryan Pressly, who’s been dealing with a cut on his finger, and a bunch of rookies in their bullpen. The unit has performed surprisingly well on the whole, but having some more experience out there and a lively arm like James’ couldn’t hurt.
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Another Impressive Rookie
The 24-year-old Bielak already has the distinction of earning the win in each of his first two Major League appearances. He gave up one earned run in 3.1 innings of relief in his debut on July 27 and followed that up with two scoreless frames against the Angels on Friday. Now he’ll get to make the first of what we all hope to be many starts in the show.
The Notre Dame product was Houston’s 11th round draft pick in 2017 and has risen rather quickly. He pitched to a combined 4.22 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A in 2019 with solid peripherals. He’s ranked as the team’s No. 13 prospect, with the scouting report noting that his stuff isn’t overly impressive but that he finds success by limiting mistakes and keeping hitters off balance.
Bielak will become the second rookie the Astros have used in the starting rotation in the first two weeks of this season, and their bullpen situation is even more precarious. Still, Javier has been impressive in his first two turns, so hopefully Bielak will follow suit. If he does, the team might have themselves a couple of guys to pencil into the rotation in 2021.