How was your week

Posted: March 6, 2021 by Sports Time Radio in sports

We’re still waiting the final word, but it looks like the Houston Astros may have suffered the first significant injury of spring training.

In his first start of spring training Framber Valdez was hit with a comebacker and ended up fracturing his left ring finger. Oddly Valdez pitched another inning before coming out of the game, but this injury could be more serious than thought. As of now the only recommended treatment for Valdez is to have surgery. If this is Valdez only option there’s actually a chance he could miss the entire season with this injury.

If this is the case it would be a huge blow to an Astros starting rotation that was already going to be without Justin Verlander for the entire 2021 season.

Valdez appeared in 11 regular season games last season with 10 of those being starts. He pitched 70 2/3rds innings going 5-3 with a 3.57 ERA while striking out 76 batters. Then in the post season Valdez really stepped up for the Astros. He made 4 appearances; 3 of which where starts. He pitched 24 innings over three post season series. He went 3-1 with an ERA of 1.88 while striking out 26 batters.

There where some who thought that with Verlander out this season Valdez would turn out to be the Astros top starting pitcher, but as of now his status is in limbo and to be safe the Astros are going to look for a way to replace him in case they lose him for the season.

How could the Astros fill Valdez’s rotation spot? Well they have quite a few internal options if that’s the way they want to go. Brandon Bielak, Luis Garcia and Bryan Abreu may get the first look, but none of them have a ton of experience at the big league level. Tyler Ivey and Nivaldo Rodriquez are both on the Astros 40 man roster, but neither has pitched full time above the Double-A level. Rodriguez did pitch 8 innings of relief for the Astros last season, but Ivey has yet to pitch in the major leagues. The Astros did add former Boston Red Sox pitcher Hector Velazquez this off season, but he’s always been used as more of a fill in starter. The Astros aren’t known for bringing in non-roster invitees like Velazquez, but with the injury to Valdez it’s a route they might have to look at.

Now I’m sure that there where a few people who thought that the Astros would turn to Austin Pruitt or Josh James. While that would make this decision much easier for the Astros unfortunately both of those pitchers will start the season on the IL. Pruitt had elbow surgery in September of last year and isn’t expected to be ready for opening day. James had hip surgery in October of last season and his recovery time was expected to be six to eight months; so the earliest he could be back is possibly April, but then he’ll have to get ready to pitch.

What you have to wonder is if it’s time for the Astros to take a look at their top pitching prospect Forrest Whitley as a candidate for this spot in the starting rotation.

Whitley isn’t looked at as the top prospect he was at one point in time, but he’s just 23 years old; so he’s still very young. Whitley only has 8 appearances at the Triple-A level and has never pitched in the major leagues, but sooner or later the Astros are going to have to find out what they have in Whitley and if he can show in spring training that he could fill in for Valdez maybe this could be his spot.

Now it also makes sense that the Astros have looked outside their organization for a starter to fill Valdez’s role. It’s been reported that the Astros reached out to Jake Odorizzi after Valdez was injured and since he’s the top starting pitcher left on the free agent market this makes all the sense in the world, but the Astros aren’t the only team that has been in touch with Odorizzi.

So far only the Toronto Blue Jays name has come up as contacting Odorizzi, but apparently there are other teams that have also reached out to him. As of now there have been no reported contract offers for Odorizzi, but if Valdez is going to end up missing the entire 2021 season it might be smart for the Astros to get and offer on the table and try to get the veteran starter into their spring training camp.

What do you see the Astros doing to fil this spot in their starting rotation? Do you think they’ll stay within their organization? Or do you think they’ll sign Odorizzi to fill that role?

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You can also find me on Twitter @Burketime

  1. That’s a tough “break” for the Astros but I think they have enough depth to still be considered a serious contender for the AL West this season.


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