Astros: 3 different outlooks with a short-handed bullpen

Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports /

The Houston Astros activated Lance McCullers Jr. and Jason Castro on Tuesday, before McCullers’ anticipated start with Jake Odorizzi piggybacking him. As a corresponding move, the organization optioned Nivaldo Rodriguez and Garrett Stubbs to Triple-A Sugar Land.

While we know the six-man rotation will begin next Monday against the Baltimore Orioles, Odorizzi will be taking his arm back to the rotation. A 20-game stretch without off days begins on Tuesday, and while this move leaves only seven possible relievers, there are a few concepts worth discussing with this move.

While the bullpen falls short-handed, why not add another pitcher to the 26-man roster?

Cristian Javier Rests Like A Starter

With their being seven possible starters at hand, Cristian Javier got the short-end of the stick, as he was bumped to the bullpen. The right-hander faced some struggles with endurance to start the season, that led to a sort stint at the alternate training site.

Since then, Javier started seven games with a 3.38 ERA, but home runs (seven) were hurting his outings. The right-hander tossed 40 total innings with his shortest appearance being 4.2 innings, but with his role of piggybacking starters, Javier has been resting like one too. Recently, manager Dusty Baker announced that they will need to stop this move in order to keep him as an option more consistently. In three relief appearances thus far, Javier has tossed a total of 11 innings while only allowing three runs.

A Depleted Bullpen

The bullpen has been the biggest talking point all season. If there were more high-leverage arms, we would’ve seen different outcomes and wins. The issues circling go-to arms is being addressed internally with minor-league options along with no trades at the moment.

General manager James Click has said that the luxury tax threshold isn’t something that will be a major factor down the line, but with seven or six (depending Javier’s rest) at your disposal, how will they factor in unsubstantial starts? If a starter doesn’t get past six innings, the use of relief arms will jump, and with Javier resting, who do you go to?

These are our questions about a bullpen that hasn’t proven much longevity for a contender. It is evident that it is the weakest link, so we could probably see the bench subtract and the bullpen add down the stretch to have options. Another disadvantage is if Astros’ pitchers are caught with foreign substances, which would leave another hole in the staff.

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Unreliable Bench

Having a surplus of starters is a great look, but at the same cost, the bullpen has gone dry. To make matters worse, the position players on the bench aren’t providing much leeway. Chas McCormick has stood out the most in the outfield, as a durable fourth outfielder, who can play all three positions. We have seen Yordan Alvarez test the waters as well, but in the infield, Aledmys Diaz is still on the injured list and will be for multiple weeks.

With Taylor Jones and Robel Garcia on the 40-man roster and active at the moment, the two haven’t shown their best production this season. Jones’ has played left field and first base this season, which has helped with recent injuries, but the right-hander is hitting .154/.190/.179 in 39 at bats. Garcia has been slightly boosting his numbers with a .154/.190/.179 clip over 30 at bats.

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Sure, a small sample size is in play, but these two aren’t bringing the same production that Diaz provided. These next 20 games have only two series against above .500 teams, but with limited options in relief and struggles on the bench, it would behoove the Astros to take advantage of these weaker teams.

In a different turn of news, mystery pitcher Austin Pruitt has been sent to the Fayetteville Woodpeckers for a rehab assignment.