Valverde Closer To Return; Hawkins Expendable?

With the news Friday that Jose Valverde pitched in a simulated game, pain-free, the Astros should be getting their closer back soon. He's set to begin a minor-league rehab assignment next week.

That means that LaTroy Howkins, who has been terrific for Houston this year, will return to a non-closer role for the Astros. He's certainly excelled in the role, with a 2.38 ERA, seven saves and 22 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings.

With the Astros looking up at everyone, even the Pirates, in the NL Central, does it make sense for Houston to hold onto Hawkins if a contender comes calling? Hawkins makes $3.5MM this season, and if the Astros can turn him into a prospect or two, it is hard to imagine that they won't.

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