ST. LOUIS -- The Astros welcomed Carlos Correa back to the field on Friday, just ahead of a three-game showdown against the first-place Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
The Astros, needing a roster spot for Correa, designated Kemp for assignment to clear that space. The move makes Kemp a candidate to be dealt before the July 31 Trade Deadline, as teams are given a seven-day window to trade, release or place a player designated for assignment on irrevocable outright waivers.
“He established himself as a real bona fide Major League player that could help us off the bench,” Houston manager AJ Hinch said on Friday. “He moved around the field. He was charismatic. He established himself as having a specific role on this team and in this organization. … His impression here and the things that he did here, both on and off the field, are going to be remembered.”
The lefty-swinging Kemp hit .227/.308/.417 with a career-high seven homers in 186 plate appearances this season. The 27-year-old brings some speed and defensive versatility -- he has experience at second base and all three outfield spots -- which could entice teams willing to take a shot on a player who could fit easily on a roster.
The timing of the move was also calculated. Had the Astros waited to remove Kemp from the roster next week when they needed a roster spot for a trade acquisition and/or fifth starter, they would not have had the same window during which to try and deal him. After 3 p.m. CT on Wednesday, players on a 40-man roster are not permitted to be dealt.
As for Correa, the 24-year-old finished 7-for-21 with three doubles and three walks during a six-game rehab stint with Triple-A Round Rock. He said nothing he faced during that stint -- diving plays, running the bases, or swinging through pitches -- triggered any discomfort around his ribs.
“All those [signs] told me that I’m ready,” Correa said. “I feel healthy. I can’t wait to get back out there. The timing felt great from the get-go, and I felt like I was swinging the bat well.”
At the time of Correa’s injury, he was slashing .295/.360/.547 with 11 home runs and 35 RBIs through 50 games.
Alvarez in the outfield?
Even with Correa back, the Astros’ lineup wasn’t entirely at full strength on Friday. Those pesky National League rules got in the way, forcing designated hitter Yordan Alvarez to the bench.
However, Hinch intends to get Alvarez involved during the series, and as more than just a pinch-hitter. The Astros are targeting Sunday as a day to get him a start in left field behind groundball-heavy starter Wade Miley. Alvarez, who is slashing .320/.397/.664 over 32 games, has made six appearances (five starts) in the outfield this season.
• Brad Peacock, who had to halt his throwing program two weeks ago after feeling continued right shoulder soreness during a rehab start, is expected to get back on the mound in the next few days. Hinch said Peacock could be cleared to throw a bullpen session as early as Sunday.
• Myles Straw took early work in the outfield at Busch Stadium on Friday afternoon in preparation for increased exposure out there over the next few months. Straw had focused most of his recent defensive attention at shortstop, as that’s where he had been needed while Correa was on the mend.