The Houston Astros might’ve seen a perfect five innings from Jose Urquidy in a 3-0 win over the Washington Nationals, but they also received a request from non-roster invite Steve Cishek to be released. The two headlines naturally coincide within the same time frame, but as the organization couldn’t fit Cichek at the major league level, he asked to be released from his minor league contract instead of sitting at the alternative training site.
The newly free agent looked to be the last man in for the Astros, as the team could’ve dealt with his guaranteed money affecting the luxury tax threshold at the end of the season. Cishek had a bounce back spring after giving up three straight home runs in his first outing, but his move to the roster would have led to a DFA or a trade of a current player. By the looks of it, someone like Framber Valdez or Forrest Whitley will stay on the 40-man, so maybe even better news in Valdez’s progression.
While Steve Cishek departed, Jose Urquidy was perfect for the Astros.
The Astros bats were alive, as Jose Altuve led off with a home run like former Astros’ centerfielder George Springer used to. While the offense was adding run support, Urquidy was dominating a mixture of the Cardinals’ regulars and prospects.
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Through five perfect innings, the right-hander fanned five batters and is starting to look like a middle of the rotation starter for the Astros. Urquidy had been a two-way pitcher in 2019, but after a few struggles with COVID-19 tests in 2020, the right-hander was dealing late into the season and the playoffs.
Although dumping the ball off to Brandon Bielak to finish the game, Urquidy feels “ready to play a big role for the team this season.” While being one of the many pitchers to step up and grow at a progressed rate, all you can do is back the hard working right-hander, as he looks to be a solid middle of the rotation arm moving forward.
Bielak would go on and have an effective night, as well. The right-hander went four scoreless innings with two walks, two hits and three strikeouts. While Cishek is out of the picture, Bielak is a candidate to make the bullpen on the Opening Day roster, while Pedro Baez will not be ready and possibly having a delayed start from Andre Scrubb.
The Astros are back on the field on Saturday against the Miami Marlins at 5:05 p.m. in West Palm Beach with Opening Day starter Zack Greinke on the mound. The right-hander is making his last spring appearance before the start of the season.
The team also reported that utility man Aledmys Diaz is battling hamstring tightness, while he was scheduled to play today. The right-hander had left the facilities before the game had started. The staff announced a few more roster cuts, as the Astros optioned Taylor Jones and reassigned Korey Lee and Michael Papierski to the minor leagues.