The Houston Astros went all in on Jake Odorizzi, after Framber Valdez’s finger injury, but the right-hander will not be ready for Opening Day. While his first spring training start as an Astro will be on Wednesday, Odorizzi won’t have enough starts to be fully ramped up for the season.
With that in mind, the team will have to rely on minor league talent like they have done before, as seen in the bullpen and the rotation in 2020. The pitchers in line to fill the back-end of the rotation are Luis Garcia, Brandon Bielak and possibly Bryan Abreu.
Who will fill the fifth spot for the Astros with Odorizzi not ready?
While Cristian Javier is scheduled to go four innings on Tuesday in a ‘B’ game, he is most likely to be the fourth starter, as he will be ready to go five innings come April. Once Odorizzi is game ready, then Javier will most likely bump down to the fifth starter, and Odorizzi will slip into the third spot. At that point in the season, it will probably not matter as much and come down to when his replacement was scheduled to pitch.
With Bielak having the most experience as a starter, he could possibly be the go-to fifth starter to open the season. While he might only have one start, the right-hander has one major league season behind him, where he started strong but fell off due to hitters catching on to his pitching.
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Garcia and Abreu have been a duo of possible starters for the future, but if the team moves forward with Garcia first, then Abreu will most likely make his ’21 debut down the stretch. Garcia has postseason experience, and while he hasn’t been dominant in large inning outings, the right-hander would be best suited as a long-reliever, capping out at three innings if needed.
When Odorizzi returns, one of these three pitchers will most likely be optioned to the minor leagues, but that doesn’t mean they are done helping the major league club this season. Bielak, Garcia and Abreu have all done their part over the past two season to fill holes in the rotation and the bullpen, when pitchers fall to injury. Looking at the bigger picture, all three could be candidates for long relievers, as Andre Scrubb and Pedro Baez currently don’t have timetables on a return.
While the right-hander eyes the first home stand to make his ’21 regular season debut, we could see Odorizzi on April 8 at the earliest against the Oakland A’s. Looking at a complete rotation, the organization could be rolling out Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers Jr., Odorizzi, Jose Urquidy and Cristian Javier, while they wait for Valdez’s finger progress to normalcy.
Odorizzi will make his ’21 spring training debut on Wednesday against the Washington Nationals at 5:05 p.m. We have not been given a lot of information on the right-hander’s outing, but three innings makes the most sense, if the staff looks to optimize Odorizzi without pushing his limits.