The Astros have placed Justin Verlander on 10-day injured list due to a forearm strain and selected the contract of right-hander Brandon Bielak, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart tweets. Houston has also optioned infielder Taylor Jones to alternate camp and recalled right-hander Nivaldo Rodriguez.
Verlander yesterday publicly denied a report that he’s expected to miss the rest of the 2020 season with the injury, tweeting that he is hopeful rest will heal the current issue and allow him to return. For now, Verlander won’t throw for at least two weeks and will be re-evaluated after that shutdown. In his absence, a once-formidable rotation now looks vulnerable. Lance McCullers Jr. was sharp in his return effort from Tommy John surgery, and veteran Zack Greinke is remains a high-end option. But the options beyond that pair include Framber Valdez, Josh James and several other largely unproven names (Bielak among them).
Bielak, 24, was the Astros’ 11th-round pick back in 2017 and currently ranks in the top half to top third of the team’s 30 best prospects. He split the 2019 season between Double-A and Triple-A, pitching to a combined 4.22 ERA with 8.8 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9 and a 46 percent ground-ball rate. Both MLB.com and FanGraphs label him as a potential fourth/fifth starter in their reports on him, noting that he lacks a true plus pitch but has average across-the-board offerings, a durable frame and history of throwing strikes.
Rodriguez, 23, might not have gotten the call in a normal season, as he’s never pitched above A-ball. However, the Astros are more limited in their choices, so he’ll jump straight to the big leagues on the heels of last year’s 2.40 ERA, 9.8 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 105 frames between Class-A and Class-A Advanced.