We're less than two weeks away from the expected opening of the 2020 regular season. It will take a little longer for some of the players. Designated Hitter Yordan Alvarez, the reigning American League Rookie of the Year, was put on the 10-day Injured List Monday along with starting pitcher Jose Urquidy and three others.
Strom: Back at work
(c) Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle
The Astros will not release exactly what is wrong with Alvarez or Urquidy but it's known Alvarez struggled with knee pain during the Florida spring training period and missed significant time. Urquidy, a hero of last year's postseason, was not known to be injured but arm soreness is always a possibility with pitchers.
Sidelining Alvarez opens the door temporarily for Kyle Tucker to make the regular lineup alongside Josh Reddick, George Springer and Michael Brantley in a crowded outfield. All but Springer are lefthanded hitters.
Joining Alvarez and Urquidy on the IL are pitchers Cionel Perez, Ralph Garza and Shawn Dubin. The Injured List may be handled differently during this shortened season as teams begin with a 30-man roster that is whittled down to 26 by mid-August. All teams plan to have a "taxi squad" to fill in for injuries and potential COVID issues.
Pitcher Josh James arrived in camp after taking time off for the birth of his second child, Sophia, who was born on Thursday. James may or may not still be in the running for a starter's role rather than return to the bullpen for another year. Given the need for starters to build up their arm strength for multiple innings, I would say his chances to start the year in the rotation are dim. If Urquidy and James are out of the picture, that leaves the last two rotation spots more likely in the hands of Austin Pruitt, acquired in the winter from the Rays, and top prospect Forrest Whitley although versatile Brad Peacock can be another option.
Zack Greinke arrived in camp this past week but nobody doubts his conditioning as he joins Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander and recovered Lance McCullers at the top of the Houston rotation.
The pitchers have had some training setbacks of late, including missing one day last week because of slow COVID testing results then missed the weekend when Pitching Coach Brett Strom was exposed to the virus and thus the whole staff also risked being exposed and needed testing, showcasing the need for most meetings to be done in blocks rather than once as an entire squadron.
Infielder Aledmys Diaz announced that he will wear a mask while playing, the first on the team to declare this. With what these players make, they ought to be able to afford top-of-the-line protection rather than some of the cloth items seen in photos for Astros practices.
With all the concern over health precautions, it seems odd that the Astros have agreed to play a two-game exhibition series in Kansas City for Monday the 20th and Tuesday the 21st. I guess the players have to face the crisis sometime but I just think two more flights and one more group of potential virus carriers added to an already risky season might look to be a very bad decision if any key people were to get sick.
Finally, Major League Baseball released their 2021 schedule even before the 2020 season got underway which would seem to be a way of deflecting attention away from the potential abomination season that could be the 2020 campaign.
- Bob Hulsey