Despite winning three times in their first four games, the Houston Astros are facing a pitching crisis. The club has lost several pitchers to injury in recent days, none more important than reigning Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, . It's possible Verlander's season is over.
Monday night manager Dusty Baker announced setup men Ryan Pressly and Chris Devenski are dealing with elbow soreness and will be down for an undetermined length of time. Here are Houston's injured hurlers:
- RHP Rogelio Armenteros (elbow surgery)
- RHP Chris Devenski (elbow soreness)
- RHP Brad Peacock (shoulder soreness)
- RHP Ryan Pressly (elbow soreness)
- RHP Austin Pruitt (elbow inflammation)
- RHP Jose Urquidy (undisclosed)
- RHP Justin Verlander (forearm strain)
That does not include righty Joe Smith, who opted out of the season, and youngster Francis Martes, who is serving a performance-enhancing drug suspension. Roberto Osuna, who did not throw off a mound in summer camp until last week, and Joe Biagini are the only pitchers in the bullpen with a full year of service time.
"It's all around baseball. It's everywhere," Baker told reporters, including MLB.com's Brian McTaggart, when asked about the pitching injuries. "I'm hoping we learned a lesson by this. It couldn't be helped because of the coronavirus, but I'm just hoping we don't see any more injuries around the league, especially on our team."
To help cover for their injuries and provide bullpen experience, the Astros are set to sign veteran closer Fernando Rodney away from the independent Sugar Land Skeeters, reports McTaggart. New Astros general manager James Click was part of the Rays front office when Rodney revived his career with Tampa Bay in 2012 and 2013.
Once the Rodney deal is finalized, Baker's bullpen figures to look something like this until Pressly and/or Devenski return:
- Closer: RHP Roberto Osuna
- Setup: RHP Joe Biagini, RHP Fernando Rodney, RHP Cy Sneed
- Middle: RHP Bryan Abreu, RHP Enoli Paredes, LHP Blake Taylor
- Long: RHP Brandon Bailey, RHP Brandon Bielak, RHP Cristian Javier, RHP Nivaldo Rodriguez
The Astros have not yet announced who will start in Verlander's place Wednesday and it's possible they will go with a bullpen game. Bielak threw 3 1/3 innings in his MLB debut Monday and that presumably takes him out of the mix. Bailey and Javier were minor league starters who can provide length.
Even with all the injuries, Houston's bullpen owns a 2.55 ERA in 17 2/3 innings through four games. They've struck out 20 and walked only two in those 17 2/3 innings. Clearly though, the sooner the Astros get some of their horses back, the better their chances to repeat as AL West champs.
Rodney, now 43, will be the oldest active major leaguer once his deal is final. He threw a scoreless inning in his only appearance with Sugar Land. Last season Rodney threw 33 1/3 innings with a 4.05 ERA with the Nationals after coming over in a trade with the Athletics. The Astros will be his 12th different MLB team.