How the Astros Will Line Up
As far as the starting rotation goes, let’s assume (and pray) everyone is healthy. They’ll have Verlander, Zack Greinke, McCullers and Framber Valdez as their likely first four. Dusty Baker has expressed a willingness to use Cristian Javier in relief, which would be a great boost to the bullpen and would work fine in the three-game Wild Card round.
But if the team advances and needs a fifth starter, the choice will come down to Javier and Jose Urquidy. Brandon Bielak isn’t going to be trusted, and though Luis Garcia has impressed, he’s only had two major league outings. I would rather save him for a multi-inning relief role and let Javier or Urquidy take the ball to start a game.
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In a normal series with off days, both Urquidy and Javier could be utilized in relief, but now one of them will be needed in the rotation. On top of that, the key relievers like Blake Taylor, Ryan Pressly, Enoli Paredes, Andre Scrubb and Brooks Raley are going to be used like crazy. Baker can’t really trust anyone else, and there’s an argument that Taylor is the only one who can really be trusted anyway.
I’d rather not think about what happens if Verlander or McCullers isn’t ready for some reason. Verlander hasn’t pitched since Opening Day and McCullers has struggled all season. If Baker can’t use one or both of them, the Astros would have to use both Javier and Urquidy in the rotation, and maybe even Garcia too.
So, in other words, the team’s bullpen won’t be as deep as it otherwise would, and with no off days, depth is more important than ever. It won’t matter much in the Wild Card round, but if the Astros advance any further, their pitching depth is going to be severely tested and possibly exploited.