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Stage set for Astros' top prospect to break out

Club's pursuit of outfield help won't block Tucker in Houston
MLB.com

LAS VEGAS -- The Astros' pursuit of offense won't come at the hindrance of No. 1 prospect Kyle Tucker, club president of baseball operations and general manager Jeff Luhnow said Tuesday from baseball's Winter Meetings at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

Tucker, No. 5 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects, struggled in his big league debut last July, but will be in camp competing for a starting spot in the outfield alongside George Springer and Josh Reddick. That being said, the Astros are in the market for an outfielder or a designated hitter -- or perhaps a combination of both -- to bolster their offense in 2019.

LAS VEGAS -- The Astros' pursuit of offense won't come at the hindrance of No. 1 prospect Kyle Tucker, club president of baseball operations and general manager Jeff Luhnow said Tuesday from baseball's Winter Meetings at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

Tucker, No. 5 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects, struggled in his big league debut last July, but will be in camp competing for a starting spot in the outfield alongside George Springer and Josh Reddick. That being said, the Astros are in the market for an outfielder or a designated hitter -- or perhaps a combination of both -- to bolster their offense in 2019.

Top 30 Astros prospects

Luhnow wouldn't give specifics on the club's pursuit of an outfielder, but the Astros have been tied to free agent Michael Brantley, a left-handed hitter who would be a good fit. Luhnow said if Tucker is competing with a veteran for playing time, that's a good thing.

"If we have an extra outfielder halfway through the season, we'll figure out how to deal with it," he said. "At this point, if we have expectations of repeating as division champions and hopefully doing damage in the postseason, we don't want to necessarily count on a rookie to produce at the level we're going to need."

Video: HOU@BAL: Tucker slides to make a nice shoestring grab

Tucker, who was named the Astros' Minor League Player of the Year last season after hitting .332 with 27 doubles, 24 homers and 93 RBIs in 100 games at Triple-A, batted just .141 (9-for-64) with no homers after being called up in July. He'll be 22 when Spring Training starts in February and is determined to make a splash.

"I'm going to go as hard as possible and try to win that spot," said Tucker, who was at Mandalay Bay on Tuesday ahead of a video-game tournament he's participating in on Wednesday. "I'm not going make it a fourth-outfielder position for me, but become an everyday player and make an impact on the team this year."

Tucker said he's not playing close attention to any rumors about whom the Astros might be pursuing. He is more focused on putting himself in the best position to succeed but knows he'll have to learn and grow from his first taste of big league pitching.

"It's more of a mindset, not anything mechanical," Tucker said. "I feel fine at the plate. The more you see pitches, the more you feel comfortable. The more you play teams, you kind of figure out how they're going to pitch you and everything. You have to make that adjustment at any level, but it's just getting in there and playing and making them."

Video: HOU@COL: Tucker hits a clutch pinch-hit, 2-run triple

Luhnow remains committed to Tucker and hopes he has to make some tough decisions because the youngster has performed so well.

"Kyle has all the ability in the world, and he will do it, but when things come easy to you in the Minor Leagues, sometimes you just expect that in the big leagues," he said. "He'll be fine. I have a lot of confidence in him. I hope he's going to be a really good impact player, and hopefully it will be this year."

Luhnow said the Astros have offers on the table to free agents and have made some trade proposals, though there's a sense the team won't do anything significant before it leaves Las Vegas. The Astros are still in the hunt for a starting pitcher to join Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Collin McHugh -- all of whom are free agents after next season.

"We are looking at both short- and medium-term deals for pitchers," Luhnow said. "That being said, I think a year from now we'll know a lot more about [No. 6 prospect] Corbin Martin, we'll know a lot more about [No. 2 prospect] Forrest Whitley, and we'll have a better sense on [Josh] James and [Framber] Valdez and it could be we don't have an issue a year from now. If [Verlander, Cole and McHugh] were free agents right now, I'd be nervous about replacing them with those guys, but a year from now, I think we're going to have a lot better information."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros, Kyle Tucker

Astros fill out 40-man with 2 pitchers, catcher

MLB.com

The Astros added right-hander Rogelio Armenteros, catcher Garrett Stubbs and left-hander Bryan Abreu to their 40-man roster ahead of Tuesday's deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft.

Armenteros, 24, is Houston's No. 12 prospect per MLB Pipeline. He spent the 2018 season with Triple-A Fresno, posting a 3.74 ERA in 22 appearances (21 starts).

The Astros added right-hander Rogelio Armenteros, catcher Garrett Stubbs and left-hander Bryan Abreu to their 40-man roster ahead of Tuesday's deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft.

Armenteros, 24, is Houston's No. 12 prospect per MLB Pipeline. He spent the 2018 season with Triple-A Fresno, posting a 3.74 ERA in 22 appearances (21 starts).

Stubbs, 25, is the Astros' No. 15 prospect. He hit .310/.382/.455 in 84 games for Fresno last season.

Abreu, 21, posted a 1.49 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 14 appearances (seven starts) between Class A Tri-City and Class A Advanced Quad Cities, striking out 42 percent of the batters he faced.

The Rule 5 Draft takes place on Dec. 13 on the final day of the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. Players who signed with their current club at age 18 or younger and have played professionally for at least five years are eligible to be selected, as are those who signed at 19 or older and have at least four years of professional experience. Clubs pay $100,000 to select a player in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. If that player doesn't stay on the 25-man roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $50,000.

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.

Houston Astros

Bryce almost went to Astros at '18 Deadline

Prospects Bukauskas, Stubbs could have been part of potential swap
MLB.com

The coming weeks will determine whose uniform Bryce Harper wears next, but the superstar outfielder very nearly switched uniforms at last season's Trade Deadline.

In a story published Saturday for the The Athletic, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal revealed that the Astros had a deal in place for Harper leading up to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline before Nationals ownership rejected the move, per Major League sources. Houston, without Harper, was ultimately unable to defend its 2017 World Series title as it fell to the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series.

The coming weeks will determine whose uniform Bryce Harper wears next, but the superstar outfielder very nearly switched uniforms at last season's Trade Deadline.

In a story published Saturday for the The Athletic, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal revealed that the Astros had a deal in place for Harper leading up to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline before Nationals ownership rejected the move, per Major League sources. Houston, without Harper, was ultimately unable to defend its 2017 World Series title as it fell to the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series.

Rosenthal reports the proposed trade would have sent right-handed pitcher J.B. Bukauskas, the Astros' No. 8 prospect per MLB Pipeline, to Washington along with two other Minor League players for Harper. One of those two players could have been catcher Garrett Stubbs, Houston's No. 15 prospect, who was brought up in discussions between the two clubs.

That kind of haul would offer significantly more value to the Nationals than their current compensation if Harper rejects their qualifying offer and signs with another team: a pick after the fourth round of the 2019 MLB Draft, per the current rules in MLB's Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Nats' potential compensation is lower than 28 of the other 29 Major League clubs (with the Red Sox being the other exception), because they exceeded the $197 million competitive balance threshold (CBT) in '18.

Video: Bukauskas on his Fall League win over Peoria

The Nationals informed teams that Harper was available in the days leading up to the Deadline as their NL East hopes began to wane, but general manager Mike Rizzo informed the Washington Post on the morning of the Deadline via text that "Bryce is not going anywhere." Harper then rejected the Nats' 10-year, $300 million contract offer at the close of the regular season, per the Post.

The Astros called up top prospect Kyle Tucker on July 7 to fill an outfield spot, but he didn't perform well and was sent back down at the end of the month. He hit just .156 in 50 plate appearances in July with no homers, leaving Houston to turn to Tony Kemp and Marwin Gonzalez to share left field in the final two months of the season. The Astros' offense compiled a .733 OPS after the All-Star break, which ranked 15th among all MLB clubs and ahead of only the Cubs among the 10 teams who made the postseason.

Bukauskas, 22, missed the first three months of 2018 due to a slipped disc, but he returned to compile a 2.14 ERA in 59 combined Minor League innings while ascending to Double-A Corpus Christi. Stubbs hit .310 and posted an .836 OPS across 84 games for Triple-A Fresno last season.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

Washington Nationals, Houston Astros, Bryce Harper

AFL a redemption opportunity for Whitley

MLB.com

Forrest Whitley wanted to pitch in October this year. The 17th overall pick in the 2016 Draft had a stunningly successful 2017 season, averaging 13.9 strikeouts per nine innings while joining Zack Greinke, Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw and Dylan Bundy as the only prep first-round arms this century to advance to Double-A in their first full pro season.

But Whitley's encore in 2018 didn't unfold as he hoped. The Astros right-hander missed the start of the season after getting hit with a 50-game suspension in February for violating the Minor League drug program, then he got sidelined twice after he returned to the mound with minor oblique and lat injuries. All told, he made just eight starts and worked just 26 1/3 innings.

Forrest Whitley wanted to pitch in October this year. The 17th overall pick in the 2016 Draft had a stunningly successful 2017 season, averaging 13.9 strikeouts per nine innings while joining Zack Greinke, Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw and Dylan Bundy as the only prep first-round arms this century to advance to Double-A in their first full pro season.

But Whitley's encore in 2018 didn't unfold as he hoped. The Astros right-hander missed the start of the season after getting hit with a 50-game suspension in February for violating the Minor League drug program, then he got sidelined twice after he returned to the mound with minor oblique and lat injuries. All told, he made just eight starts and worked just 26 1/3 innings.

Arizona Fall League overviews for all 30 teams

So Whitley is soaking up more innings in October. Instead of contributing to another postseason run in Houston, however, he's getting some much-needed work with the Arizona Fall League's Scottsdale Scorpions. Rather than dwelling on what might have been, he's focusing on the opportunity he has to impress the Astros.

"I know the history of this league, I know all the great players who have come here and the pretty wild percentage of players who come here that end up playing in the big leagues," Whitley said. "And I know all of the lineups in this league are outstanding lineups, so it's going to be a really good test. I was excited if I were able to do well here, then maybe that would help me out next year going into camp, hopefully getting a roster spot."

The top-rated pitcher on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list and ranked No. 8 overall, Whitley has lived up to that billing in the Fall League. He struck out the first seven batters he faced in his first start for Scottsdale, and he has fanned 19 in 12 innings while limiting opponents to a .163 average.

Whitley, 21, has little left to prove before he's ready for Houston. He can miss bats with four pitches: a mid-90s fastball with natural cut, a pair of power breaking balls in a 12-to-6 curveball and a late-biting slider, and a changeup with fade and depth. His biggest need is to refine his command, and he also needs to stay healthy and out of trouble.

While his second full pro season didn't go nearly as smooth as his first, Whitley said he tried to learn from it.

"There was a lot of adversity, but I felt like I handled it pretty well, mentally," he said. "Just get back to where I needed to be, get healthy, just continue to pitch well. A couple of things were self-inflicted, but a lot were not, so just kind of take it for what it was and just move on.

"At the end of the day, it was my fault and I'm going to have to accept that. But you've got to focus on what's important here, and that's obviously my career. It helped me out in the long run just knowing you've got to stay focused, you have to tunnel vision on one thing and right now, that's getting to the big leagues."

Astros hitters in the Fall League

Ronnie Dawson, OF
Known most for his power when the Astros made him a second-round pick from Ohio State in 2016, Dawson has lost weight and significantly improved his speed since turning pro. He hit .258/.333/.428 with 16 homers and 35 steals this year between high Class A and Double-A.

Drew Ferguson, OF
An AFL replacement for Myles Straw, who made Houston's postseason roster, Ferguson was a 19th-round choice out of Belmont in 2015 and has average tools across the board. He battled a wrist injury in 2018 and batted .304/.432/.443, mostly in Triple-A.

Abraham Toro-Hernandez, RHP
A product of the Astros' extensive scouting of Oklahoma junior colleges, Hernandez was a 2016 fifth-rounder out of Seminole State JC. He's a switch-hitter with solid raw power and plus arm strength, and he hit .247/.345/.435 with 16 homers between Class A Advanced and Double-A.

Astros pitchers in the Fall League

J.B. Bukauskas, RHP
The 15th overall pick in the 2017 Draft out of North Carolina, Bukauskas was hampered by back issues related to a Spring Training car accident for much of his first full pro season. He did post a 2.14 ERA, .199 opponent average and 71 strikeouts in 59 innings at five levels, showing a mid-90s fastball and a mid-80s slider that are plus-plus offerings at their best.

Erasmo Pinales, RHP
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, Pinales has some of the best pure stuff in the system: a fastball that reaches 97 mph with running and rising action, a short slider and hard curveball that are plus pitches at times and a solid changeup. He's still figuring out command and control, which is why he had a 5.17 ERA while striking out 72 in 55 2/3 relief innings in Double-A.

Trent Thornton, RHP
A Tar Heels teammate of Bukauskas in 2015, when he was a fifth-round selection, Thornton has a funky delivery that adds deception to an arsenal that includes a 93-95-mph fastball and solid curveball and slider. He compiled a 4.42 ERA with a 122/31 K/BB ratio in 124 1/3 Triple-A innings.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Houston Astros

Astros' Bukauskas displays dominant stuff in AFL

MLB.com

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Forrest Whitley, baseball's best pitching prospect, has been the talk of the Arizona Fall League in the early season. But he's not the only Astros first-rounder who looks ready to make an impact at the big league level in the near future.

Fellow right-hander J.B. Bukauskas, the 15th overall pick in 2017 out of North Carolina, also has dominant stuff. He put it on display Thursday afternoon, throwing four shutout innings to lead the Scottsdale Scorpions to an 8-0 victory over the Peoria Javelinas.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Forrest Whitley, baseball's best pitching prospect, has been the talk of the Arizona Fall League in the early season. But he's not the only Astros first-rounder who looks ready to make an impact at the big league level in the near future.

Fellow right-hander J.B. Bukauskas, the 15th overall pick in 2017 out of North Carolina, also has dominant stuff. He put it on display Thursday afternoon, throwing four shutout innings to lead the Scottsdale Scorpions to an 8-0 victory over the Peoria Javelinas.

Gameday

Bukauskas, the Astros' No. 8 prospect allowed only two hits (one a double lost in the sun) and one walk while striking out four. He was efficient, throwing 36 of 58 pitches for strikes. In two AFL outings, he has permitted just one run while fanning nine in seven innings.

Against the Javelinas, Bukauskas worked at 94-96 mph and hit 98 mph with his fastball. His mid-80s slider lived up to its reputation as a wipeout pitch, and he also mixed in a few promising changeups with depth and a couple of cutters.

"I think the slider was probably my best pitch today," Bukauskas said. "The other night I really didn't have it with me. The changeup, I threw a couple good ones. I'm still working on developing that. I threw a couple of good cutter reps too that I was really happy with ...

"The slider is kind of my go-to. I think it has been for a while. If I have a good feel for it on the day, I'm going to lean pretty heavily on it."

Bukauskas also dominated during his first full pro season, posting a 2.14 ERA with 71 strikeouts and a .199 opponent average in 59 innings. But it didn't unfold as planned, because he got in an automobile accident during Spring Training that left him with a slipped disc in his back and limited him to three appearances in the first three months of the season. He wound up pitching at five different levels and said he jumped at the chance to get more work in during the Fall League.

"It was pretty frustrating but once I got going in the second half, I was pretty happy with the way things were going," Bukauskas said. "It limited me a lot. Getting to come out here and face this great competition has been awesome. I'm really fortunate I got the opportunity and just want to make the most of it right now."

The Scorpions took control of the game with six runs in the second inning, stringing together five singles, a walk and a hit batter against right-hander Jeremy Walker (Braves). Desmond Lindsay (Mets), Alfredo Rodriguez (Reds) and Darick Hall (Phillies) all contributed singles during the frame en route to two-hit days. Hall drove in three runs, two on an RBI single in the second and another on a sacrifice fly in the eighth.

Lucius Fox (Rays) collected two of the Javelinas' seven hits, dropping his batting average slightly to .407. Fox ranks first in the league in runs (eight), second in hits (11), third in steals (five) and fifth in batting.

Scottsdale improved to 5-3, tied with the Mesa Solar Sox atop the East Division. Peoria dropped to 5-3, sharing the best record in the Fall League with those two clubs and holding a one-game lead over the Surprise Saguaros in the West.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Houston Astros

Pipeline names Astros' Prospects of the Year

MLB.com

HOUSTON -- Their backgrounds couldn't be more different. Their ceilings are just as high.

HOUSTON -- Their backgrounds couldn't be more different. Their ceilings are just as high.

:: Complete prospect coverage ::

Outfielder Kyle Tucker, taken No. 5 overall in the MLB Draft by the Astros in 2015, was the prospect everybody knew about heading into 2018 at 21 years old. Pitcher Josh James, taken by the Astros in the 34th round in 2014, wasn't exactly a household name as he entered his 25-year-old season this year.

Every Astros fan knows both Tucker and James very well after they made their big league debuts this season after tremendous Minor League seasons. They were named, respectively, the Astros' Hitting and Pitching Prospects of the Year, as chosen by the MLB Pipeline staff.

Hitting and Pitching Prospects of the Year were chosen for each club across the Majors. To receive consideration, players must have spent at least half the year in the Minors and appeared on the team's Top 30 Prospects list.

Tucker hit .332/.400/.590 with 27 doubles, three triples, 24 home runs and 93 RBIs at Triple-A before finishing the year in the big leagues. His .989 OPS was the best in Triple-A this year, 14th in all of the Minor Leagues. He was the second-youngest player at Triple-A this year.

Video: CWS@HOU: Tucker singles to notch first MLB hit

"He dominated the Minor Leagues," Astros manager AJ Hinch said.

Hinch said Tucker will have a chance to win a spot on the Astros' Opening Day roster next year at 22 years old.

"I think he's got to come up with a 'B' swing that will allow it to be more adjustable to different styles of pitches and different ways that guys attack them. We talked a little about his mechanics, about what he's learned, the different pitches he's seen in the big leagues. I told him to come win the job next year as an outfielder."

James started the year at Double-A Corpus Christi, moved to Triple-A and finished in the big leagues. In the Minor Leagues, he went 6-4 with a 3.23 ERA and 171 strikeouts in 114 1/3 innings pitched. He was fourth in the Minors in strikeouts. He became the lowest-drafted pitcher in Astros history to make a start in the big leagues for Houston.

Video: SEA@HOU: James strikes out 7 in 1st career win

The Astros thought so much of James and his arsenal that they added him to the playoff roster for the American League Division Series against the Indians.

"It's probably the rocket through the organization, both in terms of being where he was and going on a playoff roster, but also his name is now starting to be recognized around," Astros president of business operations and general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "His stuff is elite, so when you have a pitcher with that kind of stuff, you want to use it, especially in a situation where you're facing some really good hitters."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros, Josh James, Kyle Tucker

Correa sits out finale to rest for ALDS

Astros making postseason roster decisions; prospect Tucker hoping to compete for starting job in 2019
MLB.com

BALTIMORE -- The Astros saw enough positive signs out of shortstop Carlos Correa in Saturday's Game 1 win over the Orioles that he wasn't in the lineup for Sunday afternoon's regular-season finale, a 4-0 loss. Correa, who's been dealing with a sore back for months, doubled and homered on Saturday, both to the opposite field.

Correa, the American League's starting shortstop in the All-Star Game last year, hit .239 this year with 15 homers and 65 RBIs in 402 at-bats, including .180 (24-for-133) with two homers and 16 RBIs in 37 games after being activated from the disabled list on Aug. 10. He missed six weeks with a sore back and struggled to find his swing.

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BALTIMORE -- The Astros saw enough positive signs out of shortstop Carlos Correa in Saturday's Game 1 win over the Orioles that he wasn't in the lineup for Sunday afternoon's regular-season finale, a 4-0 loss. Correa, who's been dealing with a sore back for months, doubled and homered on Saturday, both to the opposite field.

Correa, the American League's starting shortstop in the All-Star Game last year, hit .239 this year with 15 homers and 65 RBIs in 402 at-bats, including .180 (24-for-133) with two homers and 16 RBIs in 37 games after being activated from the disabled list on Aug. 10. He missed six weeks with a sore back and struggled to find his swing.

View Full Game Coverage

"We thought hard about what to do with him [on Sunday]," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "We don't have to play three days in a row until a potential ALCS, and so there's the thought to just wait. He was going to have a long break anyway [after the regular season], so why risk anything? He had a great day [Saturday], made great progress moving and just cap the season."

:: ALDS schedule and results ::

Hinch doesn't know how any of his players will respond to the four-day layoff between Sunday's finale and Game 1 of the ALDS on Friday against the Indians, specifically Correa.

"He's going to be the starting shortstop. He's going to factor in and be important," Hinch said. "We hope when the big lights turn on, the rhythm and things he needs to be successful, he'll have. I think he will. Yesterday was a really good sign of two really good swings, made a couple of difficult plays on defense. I don't think we can forget he's a really good player. And really good players step up when you need them the most, and we're going to need that starting Friday."

Decisions, decisions
The Astros won't unveil their ALDS roster until Friday morning, but some decisions have already been made. Hinch said pitchers Dean Deetz and Reymin Guduan and outfielder Kyle Tucker were told they could go home following Sunday's game. Meanwhile, pitchers Framber Valdez and Cionel Perez will be sent to the team's Spring Training facility in West Palm Beach, Fla., to work out and stay fresh in case there's an injury.

That leaves Houston with 31 players vying for the 25-man roster. The Astros will carry 14 position players and 11 pitchers (four starters, seven relievers) against the Indians.

Video: HOU@SEA: Stassi launches a towering 3-run homer

In addition to determining which relief pitchers to carry, Hinch said the club is still weighing the idea of carrying a third catcher (Max Stassi along with Martin Maldonado and Brian McCann) or speedy pinch-runner Myles Straw.

"It's a tough one," Hinch said. "Whatever we do, the other situation's going to come up, right? We want the extra runner. You want the extra catcher. There are two different strategies -- one being, would you hit or run for your catcher earlier in the game if you have three? Martin's defense stands out as something that I always want to keep in the game if he's the starting catcher.

"On the flipside of it, a guy like Myles Straw is an upgrade as a pinch-runner to virtually everybody on the field. I wouldn't run for everybody on the field, but there's not a situation where he's not faster than the guy who's on base. … If you could tell me that extra step or that extra two or three steps would come into play, it'd be an easier decision. But we'll debate that back and forth the next couple of days."

Prospect watch

Tucker, the No. 8 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline, had a rocky Major League debut in 2018, hitting .145 with no homers and four RBIs. Tucker put up monster numbers at Triple-A Fresno before making his big league debut on July 7 and had a chance to win a starting outfield job. He was called back up in September, but he hasn't played much.

Video: HOU@BAL: Tucker slides to make a nice shoestring grab

"When I talked to him, I congratulated him on his year because I don't want numbers in the big leagues to sour his pride of the kind of season he had," Hinch said. "He dominated the Minor Leagues. He came up here a couple of different times -- the first time had a real opportunity, and this last time was more of a tip of the cap to him for having a successful season.

"I think he's learned a lot. I think he's got to come up with a 'B' swing that will allow it to be more adjustable to different styles of pitches and different ways that guys attack them. We talked a little about his mechanics, about what he's learned, the different pitches he's seen in the big leagues. I told him to come win the job next year as an outfielder. Right now, I don't know what it's going to look like, but if the opportunity is there, he's going to be in the mix to compete to make our team next spring."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros, Carlos Correa, Kyle Tucker

Astros part ways with 4 Minor League coaches

MLB.com

HOUSTON -- Rodney Linares, who guided Fresno to a division title in his first season managing at Triple-A this year, is one of four Minor League coaches who won't return to the Astros next season, president of baseball operations and general manager Jeff Luhnow said Tuesday.

Houston is also parting ways with former All-Star third baseman Morgan Ensberg, who led Class A Buies Creek to a Carolina League title, Fresno hitting coach Darryl Robinson and Corpus Christi developmental coach Mycal Jones.

HOUSTON -- Rodney Linares, who guided Fresno to a division title in his first season managing at Triple-A this year, is one of four Minor League coaches who won't return to the Astros next season, president of baseball operations and general manager Jeff Luhnow said Tuesday.

Houston is also parting ways with former All-Star third baseman Morgan Ensberg, who led Class A Buies Creek to a Carolina League title, Fresno hitting coach Darryl Robinson and Corpus Christi developmental coach Mycal Jones.

Linares just completed his 21st year with the Astros, including 12 as a manager. He guided the Grizzlies to an 82-57 record this year and a first-place finish in the Pacific Coast League's Northern Division. He managed the three previous years at Corpus Christi, winning Texas League Manager of the Year honors in 2015, and he'd previously managed at Class A Lancaster and Lexington, as well as Rookie-league Greeneville.

Linares is the son of Julio Linares, the Astros' senior advisor for Latin American Development, who has been with the organization since 1973 and has spent more than 60 years in baseball.

"Rodney has been instrumental in developing many of our past, current and future Major League players over his significant tenure with the Astros organization, and we thank him for his contributions," Luhnow said.

Ensberg, an All-Star with the Astros in 2005, led Buies Creek to the Carolina League championship this season in his second year as manager (he managed at Tri-City last year). He'd held a variety of Minor League positions with the Astros following his retirement as a player in '08.

Robinson had been with the Astros for 10 years, including the past two as the hitting coach at Fresno. Jones spent one year as a player in Houston's Minor League system after playing seven years in Atlanta's system and one year of independent ball.

The Astros' next Triple-A manager will be for the Round Rock Express, which will hold a news conference on Thursday to announce its affiliation with the Astros beginning in 2019. Round Rock is owned by the family of Astros president Reid Ryan and has been the Rangers' Triple-A affiliate the past eight seasons. It is also a former Houston Double-A and Triple-A club.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros

Astros may name new Triple-A affiliate this week

Organization cuts ties with Fresno after four seasons
MLB.com

HOUSTON -- The Astros have broken ties with their Triple-A affiliate, the Fresno Grizzlies, after four seasons, which clears the way for the club to pursue an agreement with the Round Rock Express, which has been the Triple-A affiliate of the Rangers the past eight years.

An announcement on the Astros' Triple-A future could be made later this week. Club officials aren't able to comment on any pending agreements, but Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan, whose family owns the Round Rock Express, said the Astros are going to "survey the market."

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HOUSTON -- The Astros have broken ties with their Triple-A affiliate, the Fresno Grizzlies, after four seasons, which clears the way for the club to pursue an agreement with the Round Rock Express, which has been the Triple-A affiliate of the Rangers the past eight years.

An announcement on the Astros' Triple-A future could be made later this week. Club officials aren't able to comment on any pending agreements, but Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan, whose family owns the Round Rock Express, said the Astros are going to "survey the market."

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The Express and Astros were affiliated with each other from 2000-10, including five seasons as a Double-A team ('00-04). The Express became the Triple-A affiliate of the Rangers in '11, while the Astros' Triple-A affiliation bounced between Oklahoma City and Fresno.

"We really appreciate what [the Fresno Grizzlies], their ownership, management, city leaders and fans have done for the Houston Astros," Ryan said. "They have just treated us great the last four years, but we want to look around because we think there's opportunities to put our Triple-A affiliate closer to Houston, Texas."

Tweet from @astros: Thank you to the @FresnoGrizzlies for being part of the family for the past four seasons! https://t.co/bryIw8UDFK

Moving their Triple-A operation to Round Rock, which is outside Austin, would put the Astros 170 miles away from their top Minor League affiliate. That would allow players to move more easily between Triple-A and Houston during the season than Fresno, which required a long flight. The Astros' Double-A affiliate, the Corpus Christi Hooks, is also in Texas.

"We had a 10-year history between Round Rock and the Astros," Ryan said. "We're going to see what's out there, and they're at the top of our list, and hopefully we'll have an announcement later this week."

Tucker returns to Astros 
With Fresno having been eliminated by Memphis in four games in the best-of-five Pacific Coast League Championship Series on Saturday, the Astros on Sunday recalled outfielder Kyle Tucker from Triple-A in what is likely their final Minor League callup in September. Houston has 34 players on its active roster.

Tucker, the No. 8 overall prospect per MLB Pipeline, won't play much until the Astros have clinched the American League West title, manager AJ Hinch said. Tucker is making his third appearance on the Astros' big league roster after hitting .332 with 27 doubles, three triples, 24 homers, 93 RBIs and 20 steals in 100 games at Triple-A this year. He has batted .154 (8-for-52) with three RBIs with the Astros.

"Calling Tucker up now is more of a reward for the season he's had," Hinch said. "It's been incredible in the Minor Leagues. We want him to continue to get a little bit of experience. If it's in short spurts now, great. If I can get him some at-bats in the next couple of weeks, that's great for us as a team and great for him as a player. He's part of our future, and once the [Triple-A] season ended, it was a pretty easy decision to bring him back."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros, Kyle Tucker

Astros give speedy Straw his first call to bigs

Club's No. 14 prospect adds basestealing threat to bench
Special to MLB.com

HOUSTON -- Myles Straw had a stressful night at the plate on Friday, going 0-for-5 for Triple-A Fresno. The emotion quickly turned into excitement when the speedy outfielder was told after the game that he was joining the Astros. On Saturday the club selected the 24-year-old to the Major League roster.

"World Series champs, and they're looking to repeat," said Straw, who has 70 stolen bases this season between Double-A and Triple-A. "I'm ready to get out there, whether it's steal a base, play defense, whatever the case may be."

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HOUSTON -- Myles Straw had a stressful night at the plate on Friday, going 0-for-5 for Triple-A Fresno. The emotion quickly turned into excitement when the speedy outfielder was told after the game that he was joining the Astros. On Saturday the club selected the 24-year-old to the Major League roster.

"World Series champs, and they're looking to repeat," said Straw, who has 70 stolen bases this season between Double-A and Triple-A. "I'm ready to get out there, whether it's steal a base, play defense, whatever the case may be."

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It's Straw's baserunning potential that got him called up to the Major Leagues for the first time prior to Houston's game at Minute Maid Park against Arizona.

"Speed is the most obvious thing that he adds," Astros manager AJ Hinch said of Straw, who is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Astros' No. 14 prospect. "When you get into the type of race we're in, playoff-caliber baseball, any small advantage would be a big advantage.

"He's an elite baserunner. His instincts are good, he's a good outfielder. We're not going to ask a ton out him, playing-wise. As I told him, he's in a very interesting situation, because every time he goes into the game in the foreseeable future, it's going to be either as a tying run, go-ahead run or tack-on run.

"We're asking him to take his best skill set, which is basestealing, and apply it to the Major League level."

Straw had 35 stolen bases at both the Double-A and Triple-A level this season. In high school, Straw ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash.

A slap, contact hitter with little power, Straw batted .291 with a .734 OPS in the Minors this season. He was selected by Houston in the 12th round of the 2015 Draft out of St. Johns River State Junior College.

Straw arrived in the Houston clubhouse around 2:30 p.m. and was immediately greeted by Alex Bregman, followed by Justin Verlander, Will Harris and Joe Smith, before other teammates approached him at his locker.

"Going back to last year, AJ told me I kind of had a shot [to make the Majors] for the playoffs," Straw said. "That motivated me. That's what got me here."

To make room on the 40-man roster, the club transferred right-hander Jandel Gustave to the 60-day disabled list.

Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com based in Houston.

Houston Astros, Myles Straw

Astros call up Davis, Deetz to bolster roster

MLB.com

HOUSTON -- With infielder Marwin Gonzalez nursing a sore oblique and reliever Hector Rondon day to day after a line drive hit him on his throwing hand Monday, the Astros called up infielder J.D. Davis and right-hander Dean Deetz from Triple-A Fresno on Tuesday.

"Both Deetz and Davis were on the list for us to consider after the Triple-A season had concluded," manager AJ Hinch said. "The two injuries [Monday] made us feel like we needed a little bit more depth -- Davis on the infield and Deetz in the bullpen."

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HOUSTON -- With infielder Marwin Gonzalez nursing a sore oblique and reliever Hector Rondon day to day after a line drive hit him on his throwing hand Monday, the Astros called up infielder J.D. Davis and right-hander Dean Deetz from Triple-A Fresno on Tuesday.

"Both Deetz and Davis were on the list for us to consider after the Triple-A season had concluded," manager AJ Hinch said. "The two injuries [Monday] made us feel like we needed a little bit more depth -- Davis on the infield and Deetz in the bullpen."

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Deetz, 24, appeared in 27 games across three Minor League levels this year, striking out 50 in 34 innings in 21 appearances for Fresno. He is ranked as the club's No. 18 prospect by MLB Pipeline. Davis, in his fourth stint with Houston this year, played in 30 games for the Astros prior to Tuesday's promotion.

"It's pretty awesome," Deetz said. "The beginning of the season was kind of rough for me, but I overcame it and to make it here is pretty special."

Deetz was added to the 40-man roster in November after going 7-6 with a 4.25 ERA in 25 games at Double-A Corpus Christi, two months before receiving an 80-game suspension without pay for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance, in violation of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

At the time of his suspension, Deetz released a statement through the Major League Baseball Players Association saying he unknowingly took the substance and had appealed the suspension. His stance hadn't changed nearly eight months later.

"It was tough," he said. "I wasn't ready for it at all. I got a call literally three or four days after I got put on the 40. I went from being really excited to the toughest news I ever heard. My family helped me get through it, just working in extended [spring] through my suspension and working with everyone helped me get through it."

Hinch said Deetz could serve a variety of roles in September, but he's not eligible for the postseason roster.

"He's done a little bit of everything in his Minor League season, having gone up to 43 pitches and three ups [from the bench to mound], which is a rarity for a bullpen-type guy, especially a back-end type pitcher in the Minor Leagues," Hinch said. "I think he can provide a little bit of length, little bit of matchup quality. He can get lefties or righties out. He has a pretty good arm, good slider, swing-and-miss [stuff]. We don't know how he's going to adapt to the big leagues."

Deetz said Fresno manager Rodney Linares interrogated him after Monday's game in Salt Lake City about what hotel room he was in because there had been a noise complaint.

"I was like, 'Uh, not me,'" Deetz said. "Then, I figured out he was pulling my chain a little bit. He told me I was going to the big leagues, and it was pretty special."

Worth nothing
Right-hander Charlie Morton, who was placed on the disabled list on Wednesday with right shoulder discomfort, threw in the bullpen prior to Tuesday's game. If he responds well, he'll start Saturday's game against the Red Sox. If he's not ready, rookie and No. 6 prospect Josh James will make his second MLB start.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros, J.D. Davis, Dean Deetz

Astros tab James for MLB debut vs. Halos

Hinch eager to see right-hander with 'high-end stuff' in action
Special to MLB.com

HOUSTON -- Powerful right-hander Josh James, ranked as the Astros' No. 6 prospect by MLB Pipeline, will make his Major League debut with a start against the Angels on Saturday night, manager AJ Hinch confirmed on Friday.

"He's just performed his way to the big leagues," Hinch said. "He's punching out everybody in the Minors. The next test for him is going to be at this level. He's conquered everything else. He's the best available, and has outperformed a lot of pitchers along the way to climb his way to the top of the list."

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HOUSTON -- Powerful right-hander Josh James, ranked as the Astros' No. 6 prospect by MLB Pipeline, will make his Major League debut with a start against the Angels on Saturday night, manager AJ Hinch confirmed on Friday.

"He's just performed his way to the big leagues," Hinch said. "He's punching out everybody in the Minors. The next test for him is going to be at this level. He's conquered everything else. He's the best available, and has outperformed a lot of pitchers along the way to climb his way to the top of the list."

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James is taking Charlie Morton's turn in the rotation. Morton, who was placed on the 10-day disabled list earlier this week with right shoulder discomfort, is expected to miss just one start. Because Saturday is when Major League rosters can expand from 25 to 40, the Astros will not have to make a corresponding move.

The 25-year-old James was a 34th-round pick in the 2014 MLB Draft out of Western Oklahoma State College. Over parts of five seasons in the Astros' system, James has steadily increased his velocity as he worked his way up through the ranks.

"He's another success story, a lower-round Draft pick," Hinch said. "Development has done wonders with him, and he has done wonders for himself to get this opportunity."

In 114 1/3 innings this season with Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Fresno, James is 6-4 with a 3.23 ERA -- with 171 strikeouts and only 79 hits allowed.

"I'm excited to meet him," Hinch said. "I've never met him. I've never seen him in person. But our people to a man will tell you that stuff is real. It's high-end stuff, and he's performed his way to this opportunity. His stuff is creeping up to where he's now in the mid to upper 90s."

According to Hinch, other Astros to be activated as part of Saturday's roster expansion include catcher Brian McCann and outfielder Jake Marisnick. Each is currently on the 10-day DL. Meanwhile, left-handed reliever and No. 4 prospect Cionel Perez will be recalled from Fresno.

McCann got to know James earlier this month, as part of the veteran catcher's Minor League rehab assignment following knee surgery in July. As a result, Hinch plans to start McCann behind the plate for James' debut on Saturday.

"McCann actually caught him on his rehab stint, so there's going to be some familiarity tomorrow," Hinch said.

Hinch confident in Correa
Shortstop Carlos Correa remained in the cleanup spot in the Astros' lineup on Friday night vs. the Angels, despite an uncharacteristic cold stretch in August.

Video: HOU@LAA: 'I am Groot' drives in 2 runs with a single

Since being activated on Aug. 10 after missing nearly six weeks with a lower back injury, Correa entered Friday hitting just .162 with one home run in 77 plate appearances. However, Hinch said he isn't planning to take any drastic measures with the former All-Star, such as moving him down in the lineup.

"He can work through this," Hinch said of Correa. "Every hitter has done it. I think talent wins in the end. If I need to tweak a thing or two or give him a day off, I will. But rushing to that ... might change the function of our team, and it may not change it for the better. I don't know that that's necessarily the answer."

Hinch said he wasn't aware of any lingering physical issues with Correa, adding that he's confident the slump is poised to end.

"Carlos is relentless in his work, and in the fundamentals of hitting," Hinch said. "The hits are coming. They're going to come in bunches. He's certainly somebody that we're going to rely on down the stretch to put up some numbers."

Ben DuBose is a contributor to MLB.com based in Houston.

Houston Astros

Astros win 5th straight in Valdez's first start

Lefty improves to 2-0 in 2 games; Houston sweeps Angels
Special to MLB.com

ANAHEIM -- Just like his first career relief appearance five days earlier, Framber Valdez was victorious in his first career start on Sunday to finish a sweep of the Angels with a 3-1 Astros win. It allowed the Astros to maintain a 1 1/2-game lead in the American League West over the Athletics, who also won Sunday.

The 24-year-old southpaw held the Angels to one run and two hits over five innings, striking out three and walking three in the Players' Weekend finale. Valdez's ERA in the Majors now sits at 0.96, and his record sits at 2-0 through two appearances.

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ANAHEIM -- Just like his first career relief appearance five days earlier, Framber Valdez was victorious in his first career start on Sunday to finish a sweep of the Angels with a 3-1 Astros win. It allowed the Astros to maintain a 1 1/2-game lead in the American League West over the Athletics, who also won Sunday.

The 24-year-old southpaw held the Angels to one run and two hits over five innings, striking out three and walking three in the Players' Weekend finale. Valdez's ERA in the Majors now sits at 0.96, and his record sits at 2-0 through two appearances.

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:: Players' Weekend presented by Valspar Stain ::

"His ball really moves, somewhat uncontrollable for him, hard to catch for [Max] Stassi, hard to hit for their guys," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "Some really funny swings in some hitters' counts, and I think maybe two balls hit hard the whole day. Had a little trouble with the leadoff walk in a couple innings, which can come with some nerves."

Shop for Players' Weekend gear

Valdez and the Astros got all the offense they needed in a three-run third inning, scoring on a bases-loaded single from Carlos Correa (I Am Groot) and another RBI single from Marwin Gonzalez (MarGo).

Video: HOU@LAA: 'I am Groot' drives in 2 runs with a single

Valdez, who posted a 4.11 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 103 Minor League innings this season, cruised through the first four innings, with no Angel reaching second base. After an abbreviated rally in the fifth netted the Angels a run against Valdez, the Astros' bullpen took over.

Brad Peacock (P), Hector Rondon (Rondy) and Roberto Osuna combined for five strikeouts and two hits allowed across four shutout innings, with Osuna getting his 11th save (second with Houston).

Video: HOU@LAA: Osuna strikes out Ohtani for the save

Valdez featured a lively fastball throughout his start, something he needed due to a curveball that Hinch said wasn't getting called for a strike on Sunday. Per Statcast™, Valdez maxed out at 95.8 mph in an at-bat against Albert Pujols.

"I felt great pitching. I felt more confident than before," Valdez said. "Definitely felt faster with the fastball today. Also felt like I'm more used to the Major League ball, so that really helped me as well."

Most notably, Valdez -- the Astros' No. 11 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline -- faced Angels superstar Mike Trout (Kiiiiid) and came away triumphant both times, inducing a groundout to end the first inning and striking him out swinging to open the fourth. Given that Trout entered the game with a 1.111 OPS against left-handers, two outs was no mean feat. Trout finished 0-for-4 in only the fifth game he's struck out three times this season.

"I know we got a couple calls our way, and then had some really good finish pitches up in the zone," Hinch said. "You go down in the zone to him, you're asking for it. So if you can elevate at a time where he's a little bit defensive. We did something different to him almost every at-bat to get to the put-away pitch."

Video: HOU@LAA: 'Margo' plates 'A-Breg' with an RBI single

SOUND SMART
With his single in the third inning in the middle of the Astros' three-run rally, Alex Bregman (A-Breg) extended his MLB-leading road on-base streak to 45 games. That ranks second in Astros history, behind only Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell's 51-game run across the 1998-99 seasons. More >>

Video: HOU@LAA: 'A-Breg' continues his road on-base streak

HE SAID IT
"He's never been more excited to get in a game and strike out." -- Hinch, on George Springer making his first appearance since Aug. 19 due to left quad soreness. Springer is expected to be in the lineup for the Astros' game on Monday.

Video: HOU@LAA: Hinch discusses timely hitting in 3-1 win

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
It looked like Jose Altuve (Tuve) had stolen his team-leading 16th base of the season against Angels reliever Blake Parker (B-Easy) in the eighth inning, but the Angels challenged the safe call at second. The call was overturned, erasing a runner in scoring position with the second out of the frame.

Video: HOU@LAA: Rivera nabs Altuve after overturned call

UP NEXT
Locked in a tight AL West race, the first-place Astros open a three-game series against the Athletics on Monday (7:10 p.m. CT) at Minute Maid Park, with Gerrit Cole on the mound opposite left-hander Brett Anderson. Cole, who is three strikeouts behind teammate Justin Verlander for the AL lead, is 2-0 with a 2.92 ERA in four starts against Oakland this year.

Jack Baer is a contributor to MLB.com based in Southern California.

Houston Astros, Framber Valdez

Astros prospect Valdez gets inaugural callup

MLB.com

SEATTLE -- The Astros are swapping out left-handed pitchers and have called up Framber Valdez, their 11th-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline, from Triple-A Fresno to take the roster spot of Cionel Perez, who was optioned to Fresno following Monday's loss to the Mariners.

Valdez will be making his first appearance on a Major League roster after going 6-5 with a 4.11 ERA in 22 games (14 starts) this year, with all but two appearances coming with Double-A Corpus Christi. The 24-year-old threw 5 2/3 innings on Aug. 14 for Fresno in his most recent appearance, so he would be ready to pitch multiple innings Tuesday in a game the Astros are patching together with relievers (Brad Peacock is starting).

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SEATTLE -- The Astros are swapping out left-handed pitchers and have called up Framber Valdez, their 11th-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline, from Triple-A Fresno to take the roster spot of Cionel Perez, who was optioned to Fresno following Monday's loss to the Mariners.

Valdez will be making his first appearance on a Major League roster after going 6-5 with a 4.11 ERA in 22 games (14 starts) this year, with all but two appearances coming with Double-A Corpus Christi. The 24-year-old threw 5 2/3 innings on Aug. 14 for Fresno in his most recent appearance, so he would be ready to pitch multiple innings Tuesday in a game the Astros are patching together with relievers (Brad Peacock is starting).

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The Astros signed Valdez out of the Dominican Republic in 2015 when he was 21 years old.

Perez, Houston's No. 4-ranked prospect, has appeared in six games over two stints with the Astros this year, allowing three runs in seven innings. He's spent most of the season in the Minors, going 6-1 with a 1.98 ERA in 16 games (11 starts) for Corpus Christi. Perez has also appeared in one game for Fresno.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros

Marisnick placed on DL; Tucker recalled

Springer could return during upcoming road trip
MLB.com

HOUSTON -- The Astros placed Jake Marisnick on the 10-day disabled list on Saturday, after the center fielder pulled up abruptly with a left groin injury in the seventh inning of Friday's 5-2 loss to the Mariners at Minute Maid Park.

As George Springer's reliable defensive backup, Marisnick slashed a double to left field and felt the groin issue when sprinting out of the batter's box en route to second base.

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HOUSTON -- The Astros placed Jake Marisnick on the 10-day disabled list on Saturday, after the center fielder pulled up abruptly with a left groin injury in the seventh inning of Friday's 5-2 loss to the Mariners at Minute Maid Park.

As George Springer's reliable defensive backup, Marisnick slashed a double to left field and felt the groin issue when sprinting out of the batter's box en route to second base.

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"It's kind of just something that grabbed me a little bit," Marisnick said after Friday's game. "It's more something that scares you [more] than it's painful. With where we're at, they felt it was better to get me out of there than pressing."

The Astros recalled Kyle Tucker, the club's No. 2 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline, to replace Marisnick on the 25-man active roster and aid an injured outfield.

"Rather than wait a couple days, which you wish you could always do, we decided to make a move," Astros manager AJ Hinch said.

The Astros have two off-days over the next 10 days (Monday and Thursday), so instead of keeping Marisnick active during games he wouldn't play because of the injury, the Astros brought back Tucker, who will be in Sunday's lineup. Hinch said he's unsure if Marisnick's stint will be a minimum of 10 days.

"So if it is minor and it's only a short time [on the DL], at least we have a full team for the time that Jake's out," Hinch said. "Tuck comes back. He had gone down and played pretty well in Triple-A. He will be in there tomorrow."

After his ballyhooed Major League debut on July 7, Tucker made all of his outfield appearances in left field and batted just .156 during a 16-game stint. Tucker, however, is raking in Triple-A since Aug. 1. Tucker is 13-for-34 (.382) with a 1.093 OPS in eight games since his demotion to Fresno on Aug. 1.

Watch: MiLB Video

While Tucker's addition adds a left fielder, the Astros are likely to go with the combo of Tony Kemp and Derek Fisher in center field. Fisher was recalled from Fresno to replace Springer (left thumb sprain) when he was placed on the 10-day DL on Monday.

Worth noting
• Springer took swings in a batting cage on Saturday, Hinch said. Springer has now hit in a batting cage twice and the Astros plan to be more aggressive with his batting practice Monday and/or Tuesday. The club is targeting the end of next week for his return. Springer is eligible to return from the DL on Thursday, the Astros' off-day before a nine-game road trip to Oakland, Seattle and Anaheim.

Christian Boutwell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston.

Houston Astros, Jake Marisnick, Kyle Tucker