Astros: Austin Pruitt to miss season after elbow surgery

Houston Astros pitcher Austin Pruitt will miss the remainder of the season following elbow surgery.

It looks like Austin Pruitt’s official debut for his hometown team will have to wait until 2021. The Houston native, who had yet to pitch for the Astros this season, underwent surgery on Wednesday to repair a hairline fracture in his right elbow. He’s expected to be ready for Spring Training next year.

Pruitt said he initially experienced elbow pain back in the spring, which stemmed from a bone bruise. After some rest, the pain seemed to go away, but soon returned. The procedure was to insert a screw into his elbow, which is expected to give it more strength and support.

The Astros acquired him in a trade with the Rays in January, sending minor league outfielder Cal Stevenson and pitcher Peyton Battenfield to Tampa Bay. Pruitt, who just turned 31, is originally from The Woodlands and played his college ball at the University of Houston.

In three seasons with the Rays, he compiled a 12-8 record and 4.87 ERA in 10 starts and 57 relief appearances. He was in competition with Josh James and Framber Valdez for the fifth starter spot back in Spring Training and he held his own, pitching to a 2.00 ERA in three Grapefruit League appearances.

He is not arbitration eligible until after the 2021 season, so the Astros will almost certainly bring him back next year. They can retain control over him through the 2024 season if they so choose, so he should be a relatively low-cost option for the pitching staff if the team continues to retain him.

The Outlook

Assuming Pruitt’s recovery goes well, he should enter Spring Training with a chance to compete for either a rotation spot or a long relief role, or both. His opportunities may depend on what moves GM James Click makes this offseason, but considering Click came from Tampa, one would assume he’d like Pruitt to have a role on the 2021 team if he’s healthy.

The Astros will have Zack Greinke, Framber Valdez, Lance McCullers Jr. and Cristian Javier penciled in to the rotation for next year, and we don’t know about Justin Verlander’s status at this point or if Click will want to make a rotation addition in the offseason. But with there being plenty of youth in this year’s bullpen and Brad Peacock set for free agency, Pruitt could have an inside track on a long relief spot next year.