Astros: 3 players that could be optioned for Lance McCullers Jr.

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

The Houston Astros‘ rotation has a good problem that everyone knows about now. They have seven possible options to start a game, and with Lance McCullers Jr. starting his rehab assignment on Thursday, it is fair to spot the next player to be optioned for his return.

A slated return hasn’t been announced for McCullers, but even with the possibility of a second start with Triple-A Sugar Land, the right-hander could still be back in two weeks. If he only throws one start with the Skeeters, McCullers could be back in time to pitch against the Texas Rangers next Tuesday, which is slated for Jake Odorizzi.

Based on talent and also Joe Smith being on the 10-day injured list, it could be a given on who is optioned, but we have seen the roster shake out different ways thus far this season. A starter will most likely fall to the bullpen too, if the team sticks to the traditional five-man roster.

With Lance McCullers Jr. returning, here are three players that could be optioned.

Brandon Bielak

While just making his way back to the roster, Brandon Bielak might be the odd man out. Although showing value as a starter and long reliever, the Astros are brining back a starting pitcher and will have to bump another one to the bullpen to become a long reliever.

The question stands: why carry three long relievers? This could help keep the usage of multiple relievers down in a game, but it also eliminates options for every other day pitchers. On the other hand, Bielak hasn’t provided much leverage as of late, and if the Astros are wanting to boost his ability, might as well have him workout in Triple-A.

Nivaldo Rodriguez

The bullpen has a few arms that aren’t seeing much work, and that is in part to the dominance from starters, but it also stands a different case for Nivaldo Rodriguez. The right-hander was recalled with bullpen arms gassed to end a homestand, and while on the road, optioning and recalling can take longer to get arms in motion.

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Rodriguez hasn’t pitched much since he was called up, but him being optioned for McCullers makes the most sense based on pitching value. The right-hander is still not an everyday bullpen arm for the Astros, and Andre Scrubb would make more sense to be up. Scrubb owns a higher ceiling, and at the moment, the right-hander working on command in the minor leagues is more helpful in his progressions.

Enoli Paredes

Although turning around a rough start in 2020 to becoming a reliable reliever, Enoli Paredes was rushed to the show. The right-hander has battled command issues before and after his injury this year, and with Kent Emanuel to the IL, he made his quick return from Triple-A.

Paredes didn’t get his full time to work on command, and with Scrubb in a different boat, the right-handers could flip spots. McCullers returning would bump down the weakest link, but if the Astros are looking to benefit both parties, Paredes could work on his command against minor-league talent.

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Without Aledmys Diaz, the roster stands a little less deep on the bench. The outfield is getting deeper with Yordan Alvarez testing the waters in left-field, but with Taylor Jones and Robel Garcia showing inconsistencies, the Astros shouldn’t shorten their bench to add McCullers.