The Astros announced Friday that they’ve activated designated hitter Yordan Alvarez from the injured list. Righty Nivaldo Rodriguez was optioned to the team’s alternate training site to make space on the 28-man roster. This will mark the 2020 debut for Alvarez, last year’s American League Rookie of the Year. The 23-year-old has yet to suit up for the ’Stros after also missing all of Summer Camp.
Alvarez burst onto the scene in 2019, appearing in 87 games down the stretch and overpowering opposing pitchers with a gaudy .313/.412/.655 batting line, 27 home runs and 26 doubles in just 369 trips to the plate. He served primarily as a designated hitter, which is likely to be his primary role with the club moving forward, but Alvarez does experience at first base and in left field. Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle tweets, however, that Astros skipper Dusty Baker said this week that Alvarez won’t be playing the outfield when he returns. That could make it tough to get Alvarez and Michael Brantley in the lineup early, as Brantley has been hobbled by a quadriceps issue and working as the Houston DH recently.
The return of Alvarez is a boon for an Astros roster that has been ravaged by injury and underperformance throughout the season. Justin Verlander is sidelined for a yet-to-be-determined chunk of time owing to a forearm strain, and closer Roberto Osuna is dealing with a UCL injury that could necessitate Tommy John surgery. Pitchers Jose Urquidy, Brad Peacock, Austin Pruitt, Rogelio Armenteros, Joe Biagini and Cionel Perez are all on the injured list as well, and star center fielder George Springer has been slowed by a wrist strain over the past week.
The result is an Astros club that currently sits third in the AL West at 8-10. Houston’s collective .238/.330/.403 batting line translates to a 106 wRC+ that ranks ninth among big league teams. The pitching staff ranks 11th in ERA (4.09) but 20th in FIP (4.46) and 25th in xFIP (4.77). The Astros trail the division-leading Athletics (13-6) by four and a half games and the second-place Rangers (8-9) by half a game.