How six-man rotation affects Astros’ future 26-man roster

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Major-league rosters decrease to 26 players May 2 with two returning players from the injured list affecting the Houston Astros‘ plans. With 33 games scheduled in 34 days, the club is moving to a six-man rotation, according to multiple reports.

Last season, the Astros ran with an eight-man bullpen along with a six-man rotation, dropping a bat from the bench. Jose Altuve’s return from the shelf hasn’t been announced, and while the platoon of Aledmys Diaz and Niko Goodrum isn’t ideal, there isn’t another 40-man rostered infielder that can fill the void.

J.J. Matijevic would be the first position player sent down in response to Altuve’s return, and with the 14-pitcher maximum in effect for May, the Astros can carry 12 position players. Comparing to the 2021 season, the Astros would likely take the path of 14 pitchers and 12 position players, if Altuve is not activated on or by May 2.

The Astros are moving to a six-man rotation, but how will the club fare with a seven-man bullpen?

As velocity woes linger, Pedro Báez’s low-leverage work remains infrequent. The Astros’ three games with the Toronto Blue Jays were all decided by one run, leaving Báez cold for almost a week.

There isn’t much trust left in Báez, while his future with the club could be over May 2. Major-league teams might not target the right-hander on waivers either, having to pay nearly $5.75 million for a fastball down 5 mph.

The Astros could hold on to Báez, too, until Lance McCullers Jr. and Taylor Jones need a 40-man spot, although not ideal to a contending staff. If Báez remains rostered by May 2, the Astros will look similar to now, minus an optionable arm.

Parker Mushinski, Ronel Blanco and Bryan Abreu are possibilities to return to Triple-A. With Ryan Pressly pitching live Monday, his return from the injured list in immanent, dropping one of three names previously stated.

This leaves the Astros down a reliever with rosters decreasing, and beyond Justin Verlander, the other four starters hurled at least one suboptimal start over the last two weeks. Manager Dusty Baker worked the bullpen early, leaving Hector Neris, Phil Maton and Ryne Stanek unavailable Sunday.

High-leverage jobs were burned consistently against the Blue Jays, and while the Astros battle the Texas Rangers, deeper outings from starters are expected down a bullpen arm.

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Looking into the next month, the Astros will have a regular four-man bench, but with starters getting settled, more relievers among the seven-arm bullpen will be slated in high-leverage roles, leaving Báez’s even less likely.