Major-league rosters will be limited to 26 players May 2, as the Houston Astros will likely drop two arms from the bullpen. Those two could be the right-handers with minor-league options — Ronel Blanco and Bryan Abreu.
Blanco was added to the 40-man roster at the start of the regular season, while his month in the show will be an evaluation in mostly low-leverage situations. For Abreu, the case is different, as the 24-year-old is flashing an increase in velocity in his two appearances.
With bullpen arms eyeing limited roster spots for May, which Astros’ relievers could be removed from the active roster?
Although giving up a game-tying home run in the sixth inning Tuesday, Abreu’s average fastball velocity sits north of 97.0 mph, nearly 2.0 mph higher than the 2021 season. The sample size is small, but Abreu is showing consistency in his fastball velocity, topping out at 100.8 mph Tuesday night.
Pedro Báez, who is sitting around 89 mph on his fastball, is a candidate to be designated for assignment with his inability to find his command following an injury in 2021. The right-hander is making $5.75 million this season, burning a bullpen spot that would be bolstered by a hurler that didn’t lose nearly six mph on his fastball.
Lance McCullers Jr. was spotted throwing Tuesday at Chase Field, according to multiple reports. The right-hander is eyeing a return from an injury, sustained in mid-October of last season. With a five-man rotation in the works, McCullers’ inevitable return would bump a reliever like Abreu to the minor leagues.
Blanco looks to be the first pitcher off the roster in early May, but as April continues on, spot starts from Peter Solomon and Brandon Bielak are viable possibilities if regular starters aren’t stretched out. These two could replace active optionable relievers, following major-league appearances.
There are over two weeks until the Astros need to make a decision, but as Abreu makes a case to stay, minor-league pitchers — Solomon, Bielak and Josh James — are available for early evaluations with expanded rosters.
Yuli Gurriel returned to the lineup Tuesday, after being activated from the paternity list Monday. Yordan Alvarez, including multiple staff members, were not in Houston’s dugout Tuesday due to illness circling the clubhouse, manager Dusty Baker told reporters.