June 26, 2022



Jake Odorizzi stretchered off field; what injury means for Astros rotation

3 min read

There’s no word yet on the seriousness of Jake Odorizzi’s injury, but the fact that, after collapsing with a leg injury while turning to run and cover first base on a ground ball, he stayed on the ground for nearly 10 minutes and had to be put on a stretcher to be taken off the field, it’s safe to say the righthander is going to be out for a while.

That’s a shame for a 33-year-old pitcher with a $1 million bonus in his contract for pitching at least 110 innings this season, and then another $1 million for every 10 innings pitched after that up to 160 innings. It also leaves a hole in the Astros’ plan to emply a six-man rotation while ace Justin Verlander continues his remarkable comeback from Tommy John surgery.

No matter what they do, it’s unlikely the Astros will be able to plug in someone to pitch as well as Odorizzi had the past three weeks. On the season, Odorizzi, who will have an MRI on Tuesday to reveal the severity of the injury, is 3-2 with a 3.13 ERA, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. 

In his last four starts, including Monday’s loss in Boston when he suffered the scary injury as Yuli Gurriel was fielding a ground ball for the final out of the fifth inning, Odorizzi has given up just two earned runs for an ERA of 0.79. He had a streak of 19 straight scoreless innings during that three-week stretch.

The Astros have some starting pitching depth, so they do have options. First, they could just scrap the six-man rotation and stick with a five-man grouping of Verlander, Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy, Luis Garcia and Cristian Javier. However, the Astros had said they wanted to continue with the six-man rotation a bit longer to continue giving Verlander an extra day to recover as he returns from an 18-month layoff post-surgery. Verlander pitched on his normal four days’ rest in his last start in which he threw a season-high 107 pitches, but Astros pitching coach Josh Miller told the Houston Chronicle’s Chandler Rome before Monday’s game that they planned to give Verlander an extra day of rest before his next start.

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If that’s still the plan, the Astros will need an extra starter for Sunday’s home game against the Rangers, the day of Odorizzi’s next scheduled start.

Brandon Bielak probably makes the most sense for that spot. The 26-year-old, who has a 5.38 ERA in 40 big league appearances, including six starts, over the past two seasons, is off to a good start at Class AAA Sugar Land and already is on the team’s 40-man roster, so a correlating move, besides putting Odorizzi on the injured list wouldn’t have to be made. He’s 2-1 with a 2.36 ERA with 28 strikeouts and 13 walks over 26.2 innings for the Space Cowboys this season.

The more intriguing option is 2019 fifth-round pick Hunter Brown, who most consider as the Astros’ top pitching prospect. The hard-throwing righthander has a 2.76 ERA and 41 strikeouts with 17 walks in 29.1 innings. Brown isn’t currently on the Astros’ 40-man roster.

After this stretch of 16 games in 16 days ends next week, the schedule lightens up with one day off a week until the end of June, which would allow the Astros to give Verlander an extra day of rest here and there without needing a sixth starting pitcher.

The Astros also are eagerly awaiting the return of Lance McCullers, but that’s still a ways off as he continues to rehab from a flexor strain. He just started throwing from 90 feet this month and the next step is to throw off the mound.

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