Jose Urquidy injury update could change Astros' pitching plans

The Astros received encouraging news on one of their injured starters.

 Houston Astros starting pitcher Jose Urquidy
Houston Astros starting pitcher Jose Urquidy / Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Astros starting rotation has been a question mark all offseason. Things got off to a rocky start when it was determined that Astros ace Justin Verlander would begin the 2024 season on the injured list.

While Verlander isn't expected to be out long, the Astros will certainly miss having the former Cy Young Award-winner on the mound for Opening Day. Houston will also be without Lance McCullers Jr. and Luis Garcia. The duo is expected to return later this season, but Houston fans can expect both pitchers to open 2024 on the 60-day IL.

Adding more uncertainty to the Astros rotation was Jose Urquidy's forearm strain. The right-hander was removed from a minor-league game last week after throwing just 43 pitches. But it appears as though the Astros have avoided a worst-case scenario. Urquidy's MRI showed no structural damage to his UCL and he's expected to begin throwing in the next 10-15 days.

Jose Urquidy injury update could change Astros' pitching plans

While Urquidy will open the year on the IL, it appears that he'll be back sooner than expected. That's got to be welcome news for Astros GM Dana Brown, who said earlier this week that the team was not actively pursuing another starting pitcher.

The Astros were linked to reigning NL Cy Young Award-winner Blake Snell over this past weekend, but the sides were unable to come to an agreement. Snell's price tag was likely to push Houston into the next tier of the Competitive Balance Tax, and that was something the Astros' ownership wanted to avoid. Snell eventually signed a two-year, $62 million contract with the San Francisco Giants.

If Urquidy is able to bounce back quickly, and gather a rehab start or two shortly after the season begins, it's conceivable that the 28-year-old could return to Houston's rotation sometime during the month of April. The Astros starting rotation currently consists of Framber Valdez, Hunter Brown, Ronel Blanco, Christian Javier, and J.P. France.

Urquidy's eventual return will likely push France to the bullpen or perhaps even Triple-A. With the front-loaded schedule the Astros face to begin the season, getting Urquidy back sooner than expected is a major boost to the Astros hopes of retaining their AL West crown in 2024. Houston has just one off during the first three weeks of the season.

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