Astros: 3 possible ways to improve Jake Odorizzi’s outings

The Houston Astros dismantled the Boston Red Sox again on Wednesday, as they posted eight runs to Boston’s three. While taking another series from the Red Sox, the Astros have found themselves with two advantages in the series thus far: the ability to rest Yordan Alvarez and Michael Brantley’s legs late into the game while sacrificing their bats and the decrease in bullpen usage.

While entering the series against one of the best teams in the American League, Houston has still found a way to silence Boston. But even with Jake Odorizzi tossing a respectable game, the right-hander struggles the first time through the order. With Lance McCullers Jr.’s return brewing, what is in store for Odorizzi?

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While Jake Odorizzi struggles, here are three possibilities to benefit his outings.

In three outings since returning from the injured list, Odorizzi has tossed a total of 13.1 innings allowing seven earned runs on 10 hits with eight strikeouts to four walks. This isn’t the best of the right-hander and isn’t close to his 2019 form, but with a dominant performance the second and third time through the order, there are options worth exploring.

The opener

The opener technique isn’t accustomed to in the history of the Astros, and with a traditional manager in Dusty Baker, the team might not turn to this idea. While general manager James Click and even Odorizzi come from Tampa Bay, the two have seen the opener in action under a franchise based on the advancements of analytics.

Ryne Stanek is also an alumnus of the Rays, where he was an effective opener. The right-hander has seen a decrease in high-leverage production over time but could help out his teammate from 2017. With McCullers in line for a rehab start, Odorizzi’s starter time could be slipping away. The end goal is to win, and if Stanek can fan the start of the lineup, it could eliminate this reoccurring weakness from Odorizzi’s starts.

Have Cristian Javier eat innings

It is always hard to witness the long reliever out pitch the starter, even though their offense backed up the win. Cristian Javier tossed four scoreless innings on one hit with three punch outs out of the bullpen. The right-hander was placed there with the return of starting pitching, but it is not helping Odorizzi’s case.

Odorizzi does make a nice dollar ($9 million in 2021) for a pitcher nearing a bullpen stint, but with Javier’s effectiveness coming in three to four inning stints, the Astros could make a one-two punch with these two. Although McCullers return would bump the rotation to six, Baker could fall from his traditional ideals and look to a six-man rotation for the next month with less off days in the future. This could throw the pitcher’s rest days out of wack, but it is worth the thought.

Add Odorizzi to the bullpen

Adding Odorizzi to the bullpen looks weird and hard with the money he is guaranteed, but it is about eating your pride and moving forward with the idea of winning ball games. Having Odorizzi and Javier in the bullpen would leave four to five guaranteed effective innings to piggyback starters and not burn through short-inning arms.

This move wouldn’t come for over a week or two, if it does at all. McCullers doesn’t have a return date set in stone or whether he will go a second rehab start. The case stands that the Astros do have seven starting options to choose from, and pending injury, this team could silence bats all the way to October.

The Astros are back on the field on Thursday at 6:10 p.m. with Zack Greinke on the bump matching up with left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez.