Astros, Valdez (finger fracture) weigh options

March 4th, 2021

Astros manager Dusty Baker said injured pitcher was still being examined by doctors Thursday to determine whether he will need surgery and offered no timetable for how long the left-hander will be sidelined. The Astros announced Wednesday that Valdez had a fractured left ring finger.

“We don’t have any more news, just trying to make a decision on what we’re going to do, and what the group and him are going to do,” Baker said.

Valdez, one of Houston’s top starters, was injured in the first inning of Tuesday’s game against the Mets in Port St. Lucie, Fla., when he fielded a comebacker off the bat of Francisco Lindor. He stayed in the game and wound up throwing 24 pitches in two innings of work. Baker said the swelling in Valdez’s finger must subside before the next move can be determined.

“It’s always tough,” Baker said. “If you’re going to play this game, you’re going to have your first injury. You can count on it. You just try to help him through this and try to make the proper decisions. There’s some other guys here that have talked to him that have been through hand injuries. … He has a great supporting cast here.”

Valdez, 27, was a breakout performer for the Astros last year, going 5-3 with a 3.57 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 11 games (10 starts) with 16 walks and 63 hits allowed in the regular season. Combined with the playoffs, he threw 94 2/3 innings in 2020, which was the most of any pitcher in the big leagues.

Baker said Valdez was “a little bewildered.”

“It’s a real big deal,” he said. “He was just coming into his own. You saw how he pitched last year and the progress he made and how he pitched down the stretch. It’s a tremendous blow, but … hopefully somebody in our system can come through like Framber did for us last year. We didn’t know what we were counting on last year. We were pleasantly surprised, and like I tell you every spring -- I’m looking for a surprise person. Now I’m looking for some more.”

Three players sidelined
Right-hander Luis Garcia, one of the young pitchers who could benefit if Valdez is out for an extended period of time, is among three of the club’s pitching prospects who are being held out of workouts for several days due to health and safety protocols, Baker said. Bryan Abreu and Ronel Blanco are also sidelined.

Garcia hadn’t pitched above Class A ball before appearing in five games for the Astros in 2020, posting a 2.92 ERA. That included five scoreless innings at Oakland in his only regular-season start Sept. 9. Garcia threw two scoreless innings to start Game 5 of last year’s American League Championship Series against the Rays.

Abreu, ranked by MLB Pipeline as Houston’s No. 3 prospect, came into the season out of shape last year and pitched poorly, allowing 10 of the 20 batters he faced to reach. That came on the heels of an impressive debut in 2019 in which he struck out 13 batters in 8 2/3 innings and earned a spot on the ALCS roster.

Blanco posted a 4.96 ERA in 32 games (two starts) while pitching across three levels in ’19, including 19 games at Triple-A Round Rock.