The astros have contingencies if Justin Verlander misses the action

Verlander adds to Houston’s growing list of injuries, not all of which can necessarily be addressed when the club calls in limited reinforcements once MLB rosters expand on Thursday.

The Astros can only add one pitcher and one positional player when active rosters increase to 28 players with a 14 pitcher limit. Ahead of Sunday’s game, manager Dusty Baker said the team intended to “try to fill some holes,” but didn’t provide any details on which two players the Astros might call.

Utility Aledmys Díaz missed 11 games while on the injured list with a groin injury and will likely need a few minor league games before returning to the Astros. The same goes for Ryan Pressly, whose 15-day minimum stay in IL due to neck spasms is backdated to August 22, based on how sharp he is when his time is up.

The Astros’ most feared hitter, Yordan Alvarez, apparently has not one, but two troublesome hands. Outfielder Chas McCormick is still recovering from a dislocated finger. Their availability for Tuesday’s game against the Rangers at Arlington is unknown. Even if neither goes on the IL, the possibility of those ailments persisting — Alvarez’s in particular — could be concerning.

The severity of Verlander’s calf injury is unknown, pending MRI results, but Houston’s surplus of starting pitchers could apparently absorb the blow if he were to miss a round or two.

After Monday’s bye, the Astros play two games at Arlington and are out Thursday. On Friday, they begin a six-game streak that includes a three-game series against the Angels in Anaheim and another in Houston against the Rangers. Another day off separates that and a 17-game streak from September 9-25.

In order to keep starting pitchers sharp, the Astros were going to stay in a short-term five-man rotation, with Framber Valdez set to start Tuesday against the Rangers and Luis Garcia or Cristian Javier starting Wednesday.

Javier jumped his final turn and instead got the better of Lance McCullers Jr. in Friday’s loss to the Orioles, giving up a two-run homer in three relief innings. In a radio interview on SportsTalk 790 ahead of Sunday’s game, Astros general manager James Click said Javier “has certainly earned his place in the upcoming rotation”.

Prior to Verlander’s injury, Click said the Astros would consider layering another starter — likely Garcia — on top of Javier when he returns to the rotation next time around. If Verlander is unavailable, however, there will be no strange man. Javier can get his spot back without another starter needing to go to the bullpen.

This scenario would deprive Houston’s backup corps of an extra long man option, which is where roster expansion comes in. The Astros see top pitcher Hunter Brown as a starter, although he has made a mid-inning appearance for class AAA Sugar Land on Sunday night. Earlier this year, Click didn’t rule out promoting Brown to the major league bullpen, but that’s not where the Astros want him long-term.

The Astros plan to return to a six-man rotation later in September. Thus, calling up Brown (who is expected to be added to the 40-man roster first) may only be necessary if Verlander expects to be out in the long term.

Reliever Ronel Blanco, who was tapped for Sugar Land in May when rosters dwindled and has a 3.34 ERA in 35 innings at Triple-A this year, could flesh out a depleted Astros bullpen with a charging combination hard work and bad luck.

As far as positional players go, Taylor Jones or JJ Matijevic could give the Astros much-needed defensive and offensive versatility. Jones can play first base or left field and in August he reduced .301 / .457 / .479 to 73 at-bats for Sugar Land. Matijevic, an infielder, has a .246/.348/.439 slash line at bat from Aug. 57.

Blanco, Jones and Matijevic are already on the 40-man list which makes the calls effective.

The Astros will have other opportunities to adjust before October. Still, roster decisions made this week could hint at the prospects for the final month of the regular season.

“It’s a long race,” Baker said. “It’s a long marathon, and you’ll see in a marathon, it’s very rare for people to sprint to the finish line. Most of the time they limp. We try not to limp too much.

About Larry Noble

Check Also

ERIC publishes letter offering support and recommendations for SECURE 2.0

ERISA’s industry committee released a letter to Congress that detailed its recommendations and views on …