With Framber Valdez being added to the roster, the Astros were smart to hold out on adding Jake Odorizzi.
The pitching staff has wavered in stability from the rotation to the bullpen all season, and the recent struggles with high-leverage arms are wrecking the Houston Astros late into ball games. As Framber Valdez has finally made his return back to the roster, he replaces another left-hander in Kent Emanuel, who hits the 10-day injured list.
This leaves one lefty currently in the bullpen (Brooks Raley), but Blake Taylor is anticipated to return sooner rather than later. As many have fallen in love with Emanuel’s swagger and pitching, he might see the minor leagues when at full strength. This move leaves the Astros at a balanced 13 batters and 13 pitchers, but Jake Odorizzi is the probable starter for Saturday’s game, so where does he fit in?
We sound like a broken record about not having enough quality arms in high-leverage situations, so why cut out another option for Odorizzi? The right-hander won’t see the field on Friday, so it is a smart move to keep Odorizzi waiting, and then evaluate what happens during Friday’s battle.
The Astros have gone to a lopsided roster with 14 pitchers after the addition of Tyler Ivey and demotion of Robel Garcia before, but the right-hander was optioned after the game. Ivey took a start to give an extra rest day for arms and possibly evaluation of Lance McCullers Jr. (now on IL). There were multiple theories about how it benefitted the team, while also providing a major-league evaluation for the prospect.
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Where does the offense come in?
While holing out on Odorizzi looks like it only benefits the pitchers, it also benefits the hitters. More arms means more options, and while Taylor Jones could be the next player on the option block, why not test him more against major-league pitching? The organization could fall to 12 batters and bump to 14 pitchers, but it will all make more sense after tonight’s outlook on healthiness.
Michael Brantley (leg) and Yordan Alvarez (wrist) are still out of the lineup, and with the only replacements off the bench being Jones and Jason Castro, the Astros should replace a pitcher for Odorizzi’s return. Ryan Pressly’s stiff neck is getting better, and with Alvarez nearing a return, Brantley is still being evaluated for the injured list. Tomorrow will provide an update, but in my personal opinion, someone like Ralph Garza Jr. could be optioned, if no one falls to the IL. Three pitchers that would benefit from being optioned are Enoli Paredes, Brandon Bielak and Bryan Abreu, due to recent struggles.
Odorizzi knows many fans have shown their displeasure with his start to the 2021 season, but he is only two years removed from an All-Star season. There is a ceiling for him to reach, but injuries have gotten in the way, especially in 2020.
If Brantley does fall to the IL, Odorizzi should still replace a pitcher, and the Astros could recall Robel Garcia. There are multiple possibilities, but Abraham Toro has also been activated from the 7-day IL with the Sugar Land Skeeters. The switch-hitter should still get back in the swing of things before being an option.