Odorizzi reportedly drew interest from several teams beyond only the Mets, but he didn’t end up finding a new club until early March, when he signed a two-year deal with the Astros worth $23.5MM in guaranteed money. The long wait didn’t sit well with the right-hander, who described his free agent stint as “the single most frustrating time I’ve had in baseball. At certain points you think you are going to be a member of a certain team and then it falls through or whatever maybe and it’s like, ’All right, now what?’ And it’s March and I am still sitting at the house. It’s like, ’What the hell is going on right now?’ ”
Friday’s coronavirus-related updates from the majors:
- The Astros placed second baseman Jose Altuve, third baseman Alex Bregman, designated hitter Yordan Alvarez, catcher Martin Maldonado and infielder Robel Garcia on the COVID injured list Wednesday. They’re unlikely to return for the team’s five-game road trip, manager Dusty Baker told Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle and other reporters. The Astros begin a three-game series in Seattle on Friday, and they’re scheduled to play in Colorado next Tuesday and Wednesday.
- The White Sox announced that they have reinstated right-hander Dylan Cease from the COVID IL and optioned righty Zack Burdi to their alternate site. Cease was only on the list for two days, but he’s already set to return after “a series of negative tests,” the team stated. He’ll make his third start of the season Saturday against the Red Sox. Cease logged a 3.86 ERA with nine strikeouts and six walks over 9 1/3 innings in his first two appearances.
- Twins manager Rocco Baldelli revealed that he received a false positive test on Thursday, Betsy Helfand of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets. He isolated in his office and was then cleared after three or four more tests. The Twins aren’t out of the woods yet, though, as Baldelli said (via Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com) that they’ve had “further COVID-related issues in the clubhouse” on Friday. He couldn’t offer further details.
- The Phillies with go without three members of manager Joe Girardi’s staff because of COVID protocols, according to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. Hitting coach Joe Dillon, third base coach Dusty Wathan and bullpen coach Dave Lundquist are all away from the team. First base coach Paco Figueroa will move across the diamond to third, and coaching assistant Bobby Meacham will take over at first, Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
The Astros’ offense is taking a sizable hit, as the team announced Wednesday that designated hitter Yordan Alvarez, third baseman Alex Bregman, second baseman Jose Altuve, catcher Martin Maldonado and infielder Robel Garcia are all going to the injured list. The team made the moves due to health and safety protocols, according to Astros general manager James Click, who doesn’t expect their game against the Tigers on Wednesday to be postponed, Mark Berman of Fox 26 tweets.
Houston’s losing four regulars in Alvarez, Bregman, Altuve and Maldonado. The first three have been vital members of the Astros’ offense for multiple seasons, and all three have gotten off to strong starts this year. Maldonado isn’t nearly as effective at the plate, though the Astros like his defense enough that they had been finalizing a one-year extension with him as of Tuesday.
With such a large chunk of their position player group down, the Astros are bringing up infielders Abraham Toro, Alex De Goti and Taylor Jones, catcher Garrett Stubbs, and outfielder Ronnie Dawson. De Goti and Dawson weren’t on the Astros’ 40-man roster, so their contracts had to be selected.
Alex Rodriguez may finally secure an ownership role in North American sports, but it won’t be with a baseball team. After making an attempt to purchase the Mets last year, Rodriguez has teamed with billionaire Marc Lore. They are finalizing a deal to purchase the Minnesota Timberwolves, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. If completed, Rodriguez and Lore would take over in 2023.
The Timberwolves have struggled to build a consistent contender in the NBA since a successful run with fiery big man Kevin Garnett ended. Even then, functional GM Kevin McHale, coach Flip Saunders, and Garnett lost seven consecutive first round series. They finally broke through in 2003-04 for the franchise’s first playoff series win. They’d fall in the Western Conference Finals in what turned out to be the final playoff run of the Garnett era, however. Minnesota has just one playoff appearance in their history outside of that eight-year run, despite a roster currently built around the first overall pick of the 2015 draft Karl-Anthony Towns. You can find out more by heading to Hoops Rumors where Arthur Hill has the latest details. Now, back to baseball…
- Jake Odorizzi is set to make his debut for the Houston Astros on Tuesday versus Detroit, per MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. Cristian Javier will head to the club’s alternate site to make room, tweets McTaggart. Javier should be back with the big league club before too long, but the Astros wanted to give him some extra time between appearances. Javier, 24, figures to be a significant part of the Astros’ rotation this season, but the 24-year-old wasn’t totally healthy at the start of the year. Regardless, he’s been sharp in two starts thus far, including getting a win with five scoreless innings against Oakland on Thursday.
- Zac Gallen could also return as early as Tuesday, per the Athletic’s Zach Buchanan (via Twitter). Manager Torey Lovullo wouldn’t commit, but it certainly sounds like Gallen will be back soon. The Diamondback rotation has struggled without Gallen leading the way. Now that Ketel Marte has landed on the injured list, Gallen’s return could provide a much-needed lift for the Snakes.
- Anibal Sanchez cut his fingers just 13 pitches into a bullpen showcase today, per Jon Heyman of the MLB Network (via Twitter). It had seemed like Sanchez would be ready to sign soon, but he’ll now need 10 days for his finger to heal. The Phillies, Nationals, and Marlins have all been tied to Sanchez at one point or another this winter.
The latest coronavirus-related situations from around baseball…
- Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez isn’t available today due to COVID protocols, manager Alex Cora told reporters (including Julian McWilliams of the Boston Globe). Martinez isn’t feeling well and could be back in the lineup as early as tomorrow, though the team is being cautious until Martinez gets his test results back. UPDATE: Martinez has been placed on the COVID IL, per Pete Abraham of the Boston Glove (via Twitter). Michael Chavis has been recalled to take his roster spot for the time being.
- The Blue Jays placed Lourdes Gurriel Jr. on the COVID-19 injured list, per Scott Mitchell of TSN Sports (via Twitter). Santiago Espinal was activated to take his roster spot. Gurriel left Friday’s game after feeling vaccine-related symptoms, so he’s not likely to be out for too long.
- Ryan Borucki, meanwhile, makes a quick return from the COVID IL. Ty Tice has been optioned. Tice made one appearance, tossing a pair of scoreless innings.
- The Astros shifted Pedro Baez from the COVID-19 injury list to the regular 10-day injured list. Baez is suffering from right shoulder soreness, as manager Dusty Baker told MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart and other reporters that Baez “was trying to do too much too soon” in his preparations to return from the COVID list. Baez was placed on the COVID list in early March, so he missed a good chunk of Spring Training while sidelined. Since being put on the normal IL required Baez to be returned to the 40-man roster, the Astros had to move Austin Pruitt to the 60-day injured list in a corresponding move.
- The Yankees reinstated both Gio Urshela and Rougned Odor from the COVID-19 injury list, the team announced. In corresponding moves, infielder Tyler Wade was optioned to the alternate training site, and first baseman Mike Ford had been optioned to the alternate site after last night’s game. It was only a brief absence for Urshela, who ended up missing just last night’s game due to some side effects after receiving a vaccine. Odor himself was only in COVID protocols due to standard intake and testing procedure after he was acquired in a trade from the Rangers earlier this week.
- Cubs first base/catching coach Craig Driver has tested positive for the coronavirus and has returned to Chicago, the team told reporters (including The Chicago Tribune’s Meghan Montemurro). Contact tracing and testing revealed no other positive results within the team’s traveling party over the last three days. Driver is in his second season on the Cubs’ coaching staff, after spending the previous two seasons as the Phillies’ receiving coach and bullpen catcher.
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Astros southpaw Framber Valdez hasn’t pitched in the majors this season on account of a broken finger, though he did return to throwing from flat ground Thursday, per Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle. While general manager James Click called Thursday’s session a “tremendous step forward” for Valdez, there still isn’t a clear timetable for a potential 2021 debut. Valdez broke out last season with 70 2/3 innings of 3.57 ERA/3.23 SIERA ball, an elite 60 percent groundball rate, and terrific strikeout and walk percentages of 26.4 and 5.6, respectively.
- Astros reliever Enoli Paredes left their game Thursday with a trainer, Rome tweets. The righty exited after throwing just three strikes out of 13 pitches and walking the only two batters he faced. Control has been a problem in all three appearances this year for Paredes, who has walked six hitters in 1 1/3 innings. Paredes also put up a below-average walk rate of 12.2 percent in his rookie year in 2020, but he still notched a 3.05 ERA (with a much less inspiring 4.63 SIERA) over 20 2/3 frames. [UPDATE: Paredes “did something to his side,” manager Dusty Baker said (via Rome). The Astros should know more Friday.]
Anibal Sanchez continues to prepare himself for the 2021 season. This upcoming Saturday in Miami, he will throw a bullpen session for a few teams, per Jon Heyman of the MLB Network (via Twitter). The Phillies were linked to Sanchez this winter, while the Nationals have more recently expressed an interest in bringing the 37-year-old back to DC for a third season. Given the level of comfort between the two sides, the Nats certainly make for a logical match. Their need is clear enough with Patrick Corbin and Jon Lester on the injured list as part of the COVID-19 protocols. The team has not revealed whether either player tested positive or if they are currently out because of contact tracing protocols. Either way, the organization lacks rotation depth. It’s worth mentioning that one of the reasons that Sanchez didn’t sign one of the Major League offers he received this winter was because of concern about COVID, however. Even so, given the need for pitching around the game and Sanchez’s 15-year career as a Major League starter, a signing shortly after Saturday’s bullpen certainly seems on the table. Let’s check in elsewhere around the game…
- There are few issues more central to the Astros’ future than Carlos Correa’s impending free agency. The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan addresses some of the complexities facing the Astros’ future at short. If Correa were to leave in free agency, prospect Jeremy Pena “is an excellent defender and he’s improved enough offensively in the last two years that he has everyday player potential,” writes Kaplan. Pena has not yet appeared above High-A, so his performance this season will provide a key data point. Given the plethora of shortstops about to hit the open market, however, the Astros could considering trying to snag one of them as a one-year stopgap as the Twins did this winter with Andrelton Simmons and the Blue Jays did with Marcus Semien. Banking on one of those players being available at that price point is risky, however. Still, now that Francisco Lindor has tied his long-term future to the Mets, there may be even more uncertainty for those shortstops behind him in the pecking order. To dig in further, definitely check out Kaplan’s full piece here.
- Thinking about that future shortstop market, one has to wonder if the Yankees might be a prime player in next year’s shortstop market. Questions persist about Gleyber Torres’ ability to stick defensively at shortstop, per Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. The Yankees chose to bring back DJ LeMahieu this winter, thereby blocking Torres’ most natural position and locking him into shortstop. That said, there are always ways to re-assemble a roster, especially with a player as malleable as LeMahieu. Still, keep an eye on the 24-year-old Torres this season. If he’s not able to pick up his defensive play, the Yankees might find themselves in a position to exploit a robust shortstop market next winter.
The Athletics were outscored by a 35-9 margin over the course of a four-game sweep at the hands of the Astros, and some injury concerns only further worsened Oakland’s nightmare of a series. Chad Pinder will receive an MRI after suffering a left knee sprain while making a jumping catch at the wall in the first inning of today’s game. Pinder made an awkward landing while completing the play, and though he finished the inning, he was replaced by a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the frame.
- Astros manager Dusty Baker updated reporters (including MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart) on Michael Brantley’s status, after the outfielder was hit in the left wrist by a pitch during Saturday’s game. X-rays were negative on Brantley’s wrist, so “when he’s coming back, it just depends on his body and how he heals,” Baker said. “We dodged a major bullet by him having no fractures or broken wrists or anything like that. I’m sure his bone is bruised and whenever you have a bone bruise, different people heal at different time intervals.” It isn’t out of the question that Brantley could play on Tuesday, Baker said, but “we’ve just got to wait and see on a daily basis without rushing him back.”
- X-rays were negative on Michael Brantley’s right wrist after the Astros slugger was hit by a pitch from Oakland’s Cole Irvin today. Brantley remained in the game to play left field in the bottom half of the inning, but was replaced by pinch-hitter Chas McCormick the next inning when it was Brantley’s next turn at the plate. Manager Dusty Baker told MLB.com’s Alyson Footer and other reporters that the team initially feared a much worse injury: “I went out to talk to Michael, he couldn’t feel his fingers….He’ll probably be sore for a couple days. He couldn’t turn the bat head over so he’s day to day until then.” McCormick was playing in just his second career big league game today, though on a Houston club that was already lacking in outfield depth, McCormick looks to be the top fill-in option if Brantley has to miss a significant amount of time.