ARLINGTON -- The days of lengthy rosters and stuffed clubhouses in September are a thing of the past in baseball. Instead of being able to expand rosters to include every player on the 40-man roster as in years past, the Astros will only be able to add two spots on Sept. 1, going from 26 to 28 players.
The Astros have two players who could return from the injured list next week: starting pitcher José Urquidy and outfielder Chas McCormick. Urquidy (shoulder) is scheduled to throw his second, and perhaps final, rehab start at Triple-A Sugar Land on Sunday, and McCormick (hand) can be activated Friday.
It’s not usual for teams to add a third catcher, although that is something the Astros could still do. They’re currently carrying nine relief pitchers and could reduce that number by one if they needed another spot. Garrett Stubbs, who started five games for the Astros earlier this year at catcher, is at Triple-A.
Astros manager Dusty Baker wishes he could expand the roster by more, but he said having as many as 15 extra players was too much.
“You’re either outmanned or you outman them,” he said. “I’d like to see them take it to five or six. That way you could fill other positions -- get a third catcher, another pitcher or two, an outfielder, maybe an infielder -- to spell some of your players. Also, to see what they can do [with] some crunch time. We’ll see. We’ve gone from one drastic measure on this to another.”
Then there’s Marwin Gonzalez, whom the Astros signed to a Minor League contract on Friday and sent to work out at the team’s facility in West Palm Beach, Fla. He figures to get a look in September, as well, and brings versatility -- he can play all four infield spots and left field -- and is a popular player in the Houston clubhouse.
To be eligible for the playoff roster, a player must be on the 40-man roster by Aug. 31. A player who’s not on the 40-man roster could be added to the playoff roster to replace an injured player, if that players’ minimum stay on the IL has expired. If Gonzalez has a good September with the big league club, he could be added to the playoff roster to replace, say, Justin Verlander, who’s out for the season.
Gonzalez, 32, is a veteran of 10 Major League seasons, including the first seven with the Astros (2012-18). He had a breakout season in ’17, slashing .303/.377/.530 with 23 homers and 90 RBIs for the Astros and is best known for slugging a game-tying home run off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the 2017 World Series -- a game the Astros won at Dodger Stadium to even the series. Houston won the World Series in seven games.
Peña activated from injured list
Shortstop Jeremy Peña, the Astros’ No. 4-ranked prospect, per MLB Pipeline, completed his injury rehab assignment in Florida and has been assigned to Triple-A Sugar Land. Peña was out of action for a few months after undergoing surgery on his left wrist on April 21.