The Astros have suffered a notable blow to their ALCS roster, which was announced this morning and does not include ailing right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. His status for the ALCS was up in the air after he exited last round’s decisive Game 4 due to forearm discomfort and underwent a subsequent MRI. The team hasn’t made a formal announcement on McCullers’ injury just yet, so it’s not clear whether he might be able to return for a potential World Series push. Houston also dropped third catcher Garrett Stubbs for their showdown with the Red Sox.
Replacing McCullers and Stubbs on the ALCS roster are right-hander Jake Odorizzi and lefty Blake Taylor. Odorizzi will give the team an additional option in the rotation with McCullers sidelined, while Taylor gives manager Dusty Baker a second southpaw option in the bullpen. Here’s how the roster breaks down…
- Luis Garcia (Game 2 starter)
- Yimi Garcia
- Kendall Graveman
- Zack Greinke
- Cristian Javier
- Phil Maton
- Jake Odorizzi
- Ryan Pressly
- Ryne Stanek
- Jose Urquidy
The veteran Odorizzi had a rocky go of things in free agency last winter, as his eventual two-year deal with Houston fell a ways shy of expectations. Many teams opted to barely spend at all in free agency on the heels of a season without ticket revenues, and Odorizzi was one of several players who struggled to find a fit. His contract with the ’Stros was signed well into Spring Training, preventing the righty from getting full ramp-up to the season. Some rust was apparent early on, when Odorizzi gave up nine runs through eight innings total across his first three starts. He hit the injured list with a pronator strain, returned a month later, and looked much more like the version of Odorizzi we’ve generally come to expect.
From May 29 forward, Odorizzi pitched to a 3.72 ERA with a 19.8 percent strikeout rate and 7.7 percent walk rate. The results were generally solid, but Odorizzi averaged fewer than five innings per start as the team rather rigidly opted against letting him face opposing lineups a third time through the order. That led to some vocal frustration from Odorizzi when asked about a quick hook in a postgame press session late in the season, but the right-hander said a day later that things had been smoothed over after an open and candid talk with Baker, pitching coach Brent Strom and general manager James Click.
The exact role Odorizzi will have in the ALCS isn’t clear. He’s stayed in shape and prepared in the event that he’d be added to the roster after being omitted from the ALDS. He could be utilized as a long-relief option, but it’s also plausible that he’ll be called upon to make start in the middle of the series. Houston has only announced Valdez and Garcia as the Game 1 and Game 2 starters for now. Presumably, the Game 3 and Game 4 starters will be decided based on early usage for the staff in the first two games and the broader context of wins and losses in the early going.
Houston’s decision to omit McCullers also creates the possibility that he could be added back to the ALCS roster as an injury replacement, depending on how his forearm progresses. Had the Astros included him on the initial roster and then had to remove him once again, he’d have been rendered ineligible for the World Series, should Houston advance that far.