Injuries Mounting for Astros; Is It Time to Phone a Friend?

The Astros DL may have more talent than the team on the field at the moment.
The Astros DL may have more talent than the team on the field at the moment. Photo by Jack Gorman
On the day that Roberto Osuna was activated from his 75-game suspension for a domestic abuse charge, his return to baseball (and his activation with the Astros who traded for him at the MLB trading deadline) wasn't the big story. Considering that the Astros statement regarding Osuna's activation sounded more like a realization of a mistake than justification for a deal, any distraction from that PR nightmare may have felt like a blessing in disguise. Too bad that blessing came in the form of yet another injury.

The Astros lost the final game of their three-game World Series-rematch in LA 3-2 Sunday after winning the first two games. And it came with an additional cost. George Springer, who recently sat out a couple of games with shoulder soreness, returned to hit his nineteenth leadoff homer but abruptly left in the third inning after jamming his left hand into second based on a failed steal attempt. The Astros termed it "discomfort" to his left thumb, a term they've thrown around so much lately, they sound like the Texans when it comes to obfuscating the injury status of their players.

In addition, it was announced that Jose Altuve would return to Houston with continued knee "discomfort." Field reporter Julia Morales referred to it as a "setback" though the Astros were quick to say it wasn't a setback so much as a disappointment he wouldn't be back sooner. Huh?

Of course, this came one day after Lance McCullers, Jr. left his start in the fourth inning with right elbow...wait for it...discomfort. He and Altuve travelled back to Houston Sunday to see team doctors and be reevaluated. Both manager AJ Hinch and GM Jeff Lunhow said that McCullers may only miss on start but "you never know" and they would go with a four-man rotation for now.

If that weren't enough, reliever Chris Devenski joined some of his teammates on the disabled list with a hamstring problem (we are certain it caused him discomfort). That list includes everyone mentioned above plus Brian McCann, who is recovering from minor knee surgery, and Carlos Correa, who should complete his minor league rehab stint in Corpus Christi and be back with the major league club this week.

Despite all that, the Astros won four of five and maintain a four-game lead, now over the A's who have surged into second place in the AL West ahead of the flagging Mariners.

Even a best-case scenario doesn't have the team at full strength before the end of August. Springer's thumb injury looked more than a little painful for him and was reminiscent of Carlos Correa's torn ligament in July of last season that kept him out for six weeks. McCullers has yet to play a full, healthy season for the Astros. Altuve, as resilient as he has been, seems destined for at least one more stretch on the DL, and McCann probably won't be back for at least another couple weeks.

At this point, the goal should be to get everyone healthy come the playoffs, but at the rate they are dropping, they might be fielding a triple A team by end of August. That is, of course, an exaggeration, but despite having essentially the same record as last season, a few cracks are showing in that championship veneer, mostly due to injuries.

The Astros seemed caught at least a little off guard by the backlash to the Osuna trade. If they think it is tough now, try running him out there with half their team on the DL. They still have two months to get it together or fans may finish the season with discomfort of their own.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke