Taylor 'ready to go'; Díaz's regimen paying off

May 31st, 2021

HOUSTON -- While the Astros’ pitching staff slowly gets healthier with the addition of three starters in the past four games, the club also welcomed back a key relief pitcher Monday when lefty Blake Taylor was activated from the injured list. Taylor had missed six weeks with a sprained right ankle.

“The ankle is great,” Taylor said. “It was the first time ever doing something to my lower body. It was a little interesting not having felt what I was feeling before. There’s a lot of guys in the clubhouse who went through similar situations in their careers ... I got a lot of good feedback from them, and I asked them questions [on] how they felt during the process, and I felt pretty similar, if not better, at the same point.”

Taylor, one of 10 Astros pitchers to make their Major League debuts last year, appeared in seven games in April, allowing four earned runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings. He made three rehab appearances at Triple-A Sugar Land, allowing two runs in three innings. Taylor said he used the process to not only rehab his ankle but also refine his arsenal.

“I was trying to be more consistent in the zone with my arm-side fastball and get a better shape of my slider with more consistency,” he said. “I thought I did a good job working on that and incorporating the changeup down there. Hopefully, I can get that in a game soon. I feel good about my stuff, feel good about my ankle. I’m ready to go.”

Healthy Díaz paying dividends

Prior to this season, Aledmys Díaz had spent as much time on the injured list as he had as an active player during his first two seasons in Houston. Díaz has managed to avoid the IL this year, which is a credit to the work he put in during the offseason in the weight room. He lost 11 pounds to be more durable and move around the field better.

With the Astros suffering so many injuries in the past week -- outfielder Michael Brantley (right hamstring tightness) is on the injured list, designated hitter Yordan Alvarez (right wrist soreness) has been out since Tuesday, and first baseman Yuli Gurriel (left middle finger inflammation) has been out since Friday -- Díaz started his fifth consecutive game Monday (at three different positions).

“I feel recovery-wise, I’m way better,” he said. “I have played a lot of games in a row, and I think losing some weight has helped me a lot.”

Díaz works out every day at shortstop and also does some extra work during batting practice at whatever position he’s playing that day. He’s started five games at third base this year, five in left field, six at second base, four at first base, two at shortstop, right field and DH.

McCormick taking it all in

Brantley’s injury has opened the door for rookie outfielder Chas McCormick to get his first extended playing time in the big leagues. He started six of the previous seven games in left field entering Monday. That included starts against Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers and Yu Darvish of the Padres -- two pitchers McCormick watched coming up.

“It’s been awesome,” said. “Obviously, since I got a chance to play this week, and we played the top three teams in the league [Dodgers, Padres, Red Sox], facing Kershaw was unreal in a packed stadium, facing Darvish and [Blake] Snell has been pretty surreal. I've been watching those guys since I was a teenager and now stepping in the box against them is cool.”

McCormick, 26, entered Monday with 17 RBIs in 55 at-bats and narrowly missed a grand slam home run Friday when Padres right fielder Wil Myers caught his fly ball at the top of the wall. He’d like to get his batting average (.200) up and hopes getting more consistent playing time will help.

“I think I still have a long way to go,” he said. “As the games have been going on, I’ve been working better at-bats. When you work better at-bats, that’s how you get your average up. In RBI situations, I've been doing great. I’ve been taking every advantage when I have runners in scoring position.”