Injured Astros stars Jose Altuve and George Springer are close to returning to game action. Altuve’s on track to begin a rehab assignment this weekend, according to manager A.J. Hinch, and Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle reports Springer may do the same. Ditto for right-hander Collin McHugh. Meanwhile, catcher Max Stassi will begin a rehab assignment Thursday, per Rome (links: 1, 2).
The 29-year-old Altuve originally went to the IL on May 11 with a left hamstring strain – an injury which is no longer an issue. However, shortly after Altuve embarked on a rehab assignment May 25, the Astros shut him down following a setback in his surgically repaired right leg. The normally durable Altuve has now missed the Astros’ past 30 games, and he didn’t perform up to his usual standards before landing on the IL. Across 164 plate appearances, the six-time All-Star has slashed a still-solid .243/.329/.472 (117 wRC+) with nine home runs – though that pales in comparison to his output from 2014-18 – and has stolen just one base after swiping no fewer than 17 in any season since 2012.
Springer, also 29, put himself in the early season AL MVP conversation before suffering a Grade 2 left hamstring strain May 25. Prior to that injury, Springer hit .308/.389/.643 (172 wRC+) with 17 homers in 216 trips to the plate.
McHugh went to the IL with elbow discomfort May 21, continuing a brutal contract season for the normally effective hurler. After thriving out of the Astros’ bullpen in 2018, the 31-year-old McHugh began this season in their rotation and logged a 6.37 ERA/5.19 FIP in 41 innings, though he did post 9.22 K/9 against 3.07 BB/9. The Astros then shifted McHugh back to their bullpen, and he made two appearances in relief before going to the IL.
Perhaps Houston will give McHugh another crack at starting eventually, considering it hasn’t been able to establish a fifth starter behind Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Wade Miley and Brad Peacock. McHugh’s immediate successor, Corbin Martin, was even worse before the team sent him back to Triple-A Round Rock on June 4. The Astros replaced Martin with Framber Valdez, who shut down the Orioles over seven innings in his first start June 8. He’ll take the ball again Saturday against Toronto.
The light-hitting, defensively adept Stassi has been out since May 26 with a left knee injury. The Astros called up prospect Garrett Stubbs to take Stassi’s spot, though starter Robinson Chirinos has gotten almost all of the work.
Even with their myriad injuries, including to franchise shortstop Carlos Correa, the Astros have continued to roll. At 46-23, they boast the majors’ top record. Of course, their already formidable roster will look far more imposing once their reinforcements return. That’s a frightening thought for the rest of the league.