Astros righty Brad Peacock entered camp as a candidate to take home a rotation spot, but he’s had a recurrence of the nerve issue in his neck that plagued him last year, tweets Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle. Peacock is throwing from 90 feet, but his overall program has been slowed down for the time being, lessening his chances of seizing a starting job.
Peacock, 32, has been a solid arm for the Astros in both the rotation and bullpen across the past four seasons, pitching to a combined 3.48 ERA with 10.7 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9 in 320 1/3 innings of work. He’s posted a better ERA and much higher strikeout rate when working in short relief than out of the rotation, but Peacock’s 3.62 ERA and 3.72 FIP in 218 2/3 innings as a starter certainly suggests that he could be a capable back-end starter.
At present it seems to be more a question of just what his body will allow him to handle. Peacock missed significant time with shoulder and neck troubles late in the 2019 season, making only six regular-season appearances after June 27. After a month-long stint on the injured list, he returned for three appearances before quickly being placed back on the IL for close to another month. He did toss 5 2/3 innings between the ALCS and the World Series, though he walked four batters in that time.
The Houston rotation looks more vulnerable than it has in quite some time. Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke will pair to create a formidable one-two punch, and the return of Lance McCullers Jr., who had Tommy John surgery in 2018, should be a boost if he can recapture his form. Right-hander Jose Urquidy is the front-runner to nab the fourth spot, and with Peacock slowed down, newcomer Austin Pruitt could be the favorite to land the final spot to open the year. Houston has plenty of other options with starting experience — Josh James, Framber Valdez and Rogelio Armenteros among them — so the back of that group could yet change composition.
For Peacock personally, it’s a rough start to a pivotal year. The right-hander will cross the six-year threshold in terms of Major League service time in 2020, meaning he’ll be a free agent at season’s end. If he’s able to quickly put these issues behind him, Peacock could yet build a strong free-agent case, but it’s a somewhat ominous start to the new season in light of last year’s health troubles.