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Hey guys, it’s Ari Alexander with the Astros, who are starting to gain some distance on .500 as Dusty Baker likes to say. They’re still banged up but reinforcements seem to be coming.
THESE ARE MY REGRESSIONS
Astros starter J.P. France had two sparkling starts in the beginning of his MLB career, then came home to Minute Maid Park where he was promptly lit up by the Chicago Cubs.
France is an interesting long-term play for the Astros because there are some obvious plusses and minuses. The plus for France is his demeanor and stuff. After adding a cutter, he has various pitches to get outs and had a high strikeout rate. You saw that in his first start vs. the Mariners. With a different game plan, France thrived pitching to contact against the weaker White Sox lineup.
The negative is his command, where France has high walk numbers in the minors. He was able to avoid the issue in his first couple starts, but a leadoff walk in the first inning led to his tendency to nibble at the corners of the zone, which led to some mistake pitches - three of which were hit for homers. There’s a happy medium between the dominant pitcher who had a 0.77 ERA in his first two starts and the guy who got lit up Wednesday, and if France can keep going out and pitching solidly until Jose Urquidy returns, he could set himself up for a long career as a back end rotation starter.
REINFORCEMENTS ON THE WAY
Jose Altuve has played through his minor league rehab assignment healthy, and is likely to return sooner than later. Altuve has several games under his belt in both Triple-A Sugar Land and Double-A Corpus Christi, wearing all sorts of absurd uniform combinations, plus getting plenty of at bats and time at second base.
On Thursday, Dusty Baker said Altuve will workout at Minute Maid Park, which will test how prepared he is to step back into the big league club. Altuve has healed quickly after his broken thumb, and will return pre-June, which was always best case scenario.
His return will knock Mauricio Dubon back to his regular role of versatile fill-in and will result in the demotion of one of Houston’s bench players.
Corey Julks, David Hensley and Cesar Salazar are the likely candidates with Julks playing the best, and Salazar offering the least positional versatility. If I had to guess, Salazar gets sent down for Altuve.
Dusty Baker also intimated Michael Brantley feels better and the inflammation has gone down. He still hasn’t re-started baseball activities, but hopefully should soon and re-work his way back to the team. The timeline there is undetermined.
Lance McCullers, Jr. has been throwing bullpens and is likely close to a rehab assignment, with a return date sometime in June.
The Astros face the worst team in baseball in a weekend home series. Six of Houston’s next nine games are versus the Oakland Athletics, who are awful.