The Astros announced a pair of roster moves earlier today, recalling right-hander Shawn Dubin from Triple-A while optioning fellow righty Brandon Bielak to Triple-A. As noted by the Houston Chronicle’s Matt Kawahara, Dubin told reporters that he was joining the club as a reliever.
That comes as little surprise, considering comments from manager Dusty Baker in recent weeks indicating the club didn’t consider a six-man rotation sustainable given the hits the club has taken to its starting depth. This move appears to leave Bielak as the odd man out as Houston reverts to a five-man rotation. While Bielak had pitched to a roughly league average 4.37 ERA in 47 1/3 innings since his call-up to the big leagues at the beginning of May, the move comes as little surprise considering Bielak’s significant struggles since the calendar flipped to June.
Since the beginning of the month Bielak has been shelled for 13 runs (12 earned) in just 16 1/3 innings, leaving him with a 6.61 ERA and a whopping 1.107 OPS against over his past three starts. Struggles with command seem to be the root of Bielak’s troubles, as he’s allowed six walks, four home runs, and hit a batter over that timeframe while recording just nine strikeouts.
Bielak’s woes coincide with what has proved to be a difficult stretch for the Astros. Houston has posted a 4-9 record over the last thirteen games, leaving the club with a 39-33 record that places them third in the AL West, 5.5 games behind the Rangers for the division lead. As the club attempts to right the ship, they’ll trot out a starting five of Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, Hunter Brown, J.P. France, and Ronel Blanco.
Valdez, Javier, and Brown, of course, starting the season in the club’s rotation and have formed the backbone of a starting staff that ranks 2nd in the majors with a 3.30 ERA in spite of injuries to Luis Garcia, Lance McCullers Jr. and Jose Urquidy. France has played a major role in the rotation maintaining that solid performance, with a 3.42 ERA in 47 1/3 innings for the big league club since making his MLB debut earlier this season.
Blanco is perhaps even more surprising, as the 29-year-old entered the rotation at the beginning of June after struggling badly in his major league debut last season (7.11 ERA in seven appearances) and posting middling numbers as a member of the Houston bullpen earlier this year, with a 4.50 ERA in 12 innings. Since returning to the big leagues as a starter, though, Blanco has recorded two solid outings against solid offenses in Toronto and Anaheim, posting a 3.18 ERA in 11 1/3 innings of work. While Blanco’s 13% walk rate leaves reason for concern going forward, the Astros clearly feel secure enough with his performance to hand him the keys to a rotation spot over Bielak.
Replacing Bielak on the active roster is Dubin, whose first appearance with the big league club will constitute his big league debut. It’s been a long path to the majors for Dubin, who arrived in the Astros organization after they selected him in the 13th round of the 2018 draft. While he managed to post solid numbers in the minors from 2019 to 2021, Dubin has struggled in more recent seasons, with his 4.78 ERA in 58 1/3 innings at the Triple-A level in 2022 ballooning to a figure of 7.96 in 26 innings while repeating the level this season.
Despite those worrisome results, Dubin figures to be an asset to the club’s bullpen while he’s on the roster thanks to his ability to pitch multiple innings. Of his nine appearances at Triple-A this season, Dubin has recorded at least six outs in seven of them. He’ll likely provide long relief for a bullpen that has recently relief on Seth Martinez for multi-inning outings.