The Astros will have a difficult decision to make after the All-Star break, when they will need to find a fifth starter to join the current group. As The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan writes (subscription required), Houston has gotten by with only four starters lately, thanks to a schedule that has afforded the team some well-timed off days. Corbin Martin would ideally be the guy to step up, but his season was cut short by an elbow injury. As Kaplan notes, the Astros are widely expected to target starting pitching at the trade deadline, so whoever is chosen will only need to hold down the fort for the next few weeks. With the addition of a fifth starter, of course, someone will lose their roster spot, and that may just be Tony Kemp. Kemp has seen his role diminish of late, receiving only sparing playing time while fellow bench bats Myles Straw and Tyler White fill more essential spots. Notably, Kemp is out of options, meaning that he will need to clear waivers if the Astros would like to demote him while keeping him in the organization.
- It doesn’t look like Rangers designated hitter Hunter Pence will be ready to return to game action immediately following the All-Star break, according to TR Sullivan of MLB.com. As Sullivan notes, Pence, who is recovering from a right groin strain, has yet to get to back to running full speed. Pence hasn’t appeared in a game for the Rangers since the middle of June, when he landed on the injured list. A minor-league signing last winter, Pence has been a revelation for Texas, emerging as a force in the middle of the lineup. His efforts earned him a spot on the All-Star roster, though he won’t be able to participate thanks to the injury.
- After the break, the Angels expect to welcome Matt Harvey back to the starting rotation, according to Jeff Fletcher of the Southern California News Group. On Sunday, he made a start for Triple-A Salt Lake, striking out seven batters in 3 1/3 innings of work. An upper back strain has prevented the veteran from pitching in the Majors since late May. When he has pitched for the Halos, though, the results have not been good: he’s worked to an unsightly 7.50 ERA in 10 starts and has thus far failed to live up to the $11MM contract he received in the offseason. Of course, he’ll have the rest of the season to reverse that, and he certainly has the talent to boost the playoff-hopeful Angels into the Wild Card conversation.
- Mariners right-handed pitcher Dan Altavilla will avoid Tommy John surgery after receiving the results from an MRI, tweets Greg Johns of MLB.com. That MRI showed no damage to Altavilla’s UCL, though he did endure a flexor strain in his elbow. To be sure, there’s nothing encouraging about elbow injuries, but the silver lining is that Altavilla won’t need to undergo Tommy John. Altavilla landed on the injured list after he “felt something in his forearm” while pitching on Friday.