It wasn't bad enough that the Astros had lost four straight and their starting pitching was behaving like it needed to be home early given the lack of innings they are putting up, but the team announced Wednesday that five players including Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado and Robel Garcia are being placed on the IL due to the league's health and safety protocols.
GM James Click said in a conference call Wednesday afternoon that their return would be contingent upon further testing of the players.
The Astros players and staff received their first doses of COVID-19 vaccines two weeks ago. Moderna requires a second shot 28 days following the first and Pfizer requires 21 days between shots. So, all the players are still in that in-between period making them subject to baseball's restrictions.
There is no word on if someone tested positive or if this was due to contract tracing. Teams are not allowed to divulge that information. It is also unclear how long the stint on the IL will last, though typically it is less than standard length of time for a more traditional injury. No doubt the Astros will ramp up their testing of the entire staff and that, along with any immunity they have built up thanks to the first dose of vaccine, could get them back within days rather than weeks.
In a press release, the team announced the players placed on the IL along with those who would take their place on the major league roster. Those include infielders Taylor Jones and Abraham Toro as well as catcher Garrett Stubbs, all of whom were recalled from the Astros alternate training site. In addition, outfielder Ronnie Dawson and infielder Alex De Goti will be added to the roster.
The timing is less than ideal for a team that had been struggling to score runs at Minute Maid Park after a very hot start on the road. Altuve is hitting .318 with 11 runs on 14 hits. Alvarez has 8 RBI to go with an .283 average. Bregman might be the one to benefit the most from the time off, having struggled a bit lately with sore legs. And Maldonado has been awful with only 3 hits in 33 at bats including 16 strikeouts.
This will give Toro, who challenged for a spot on the major league roster this spring, a chance to prove his worth and give both Jason Castro and Stubbs more opportunities behind the plate given Maldonado's struggles. Still, you don't want to have to replace three of your best players in the middle of a losing streak.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.