Astros Notes: Pressly, Verlander, Javier

The Astros placed closer Ryan Pressly on the 15-day injured list this afternoon, retroactive to August 22, with neck spasms. Righty Seth Martinez was recalled to take the vacated active roster spot. Pressly has been unavailable for the past couple games dealing with stiffness in his neck, and the issue is apparently severe enough it’ll take him out of commission for at least a couple weeks. The club hasn’t provided a more specific timetable on his return.

Pressly has excelled again this season, continuing along as one of the sport’s top late-game relievers. Through 37 2/3 innings on the year, the right-hander owns a 3.11 ERA with an excellent 32.2% strikeout percentage and just a 6.3% walk rate. His 44.2% ground-ball rate is the lowest mark in his four full seasons in Houston, but the two-time All-Star has more than offset that with elite swing-and-miss stuff. He’s gotten a whiff on 17.1% of his pitches, the 13th-highest rate among 214 relievers with 30+ innings pitched.

More out of Houston:

  • Justin Verlander chatted with Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic earlier this week, discussing his progression back from the Tommy John surgery that wiped out virtually all of his 2020-21 seasons. The future Hall of Famer has put himself firmly in the conversation for a third career Cy Young award, posting an MLB-best 1.87 ERA over 23 starts. Verlander hasn’t looked at all fazed by his lack of innings over the prior two seasons, as he’s soaked up 149 frames (the 12th most in MLB). He’s already surpassed the 130-inning threshold to vest a player option in his deal that could keep him in Houston for $25MM next season. With how well he’s performed, however, he seems all but certain to forego that provision and retest the open market in search of an annual salary near or above the $43.333MM former teammate Max Scherzer landed from the Mets last offseason. Verlander noted he won’t be able to make a formal decision on the option until after he sees how he finishes the season, but he unsurprisingly tells Rosenthal that “if things continue to go the way they are and knock on wood, everything goes the way I think everybody would hope, then I would probably opt out. I’ve pitched pretty damn well.
  • There’s a bit of a shake-up alongside Verlander in the starting staff, as skipper Dusty Baker told reporters the club will move from the six-man rotation they’d been deploying to a five-man staff for now (via Danielle Lerner of the Houston Chronicle). Righty Cristian Javier will be the odd man out, at least temporarily. Baker indicated the team would skip the 25-year-old’s scheduled start this weekend, with Javier available out of the bullpen instead. It’s not out of the question they eventually go back to the six-man staff, but with off days scheduled for next Monday and Thursday, there’s room for the club to consolidate the rotation for the time being. Javier’s return to the bullpen certainly isn’t an indictment of his performance. Through 112 1/3 frames, he owns a sterling 2.88 ERA with a 32.4% strikeout rate. Still, with a top five of Verlander, Lance McCullers Jr.Framber ValdezLuis Garcia and José Urquidy, the Astros have enviable depth (although Garcia has struggled of late). Javier’s willingness to work as a multi-inning relief weapon as needed could forecast his potential role in the postseason, as he has far more recent bullpen experience than any of the other top rotation options on staff.

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