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After brief Triple-A stint, Valdez rejoins bullpen

@brianmctaggart
April 21, 2019

HOUSTON -- Left-hander Framber Valdez rejoined the Astros on Sunday after getting called up from Triple-A Round Rock, where he was on what manager AJ Hinch described as a de facto rehab assignment, even though he wasn’t hurt. Lefty Reymin Guduan was optioned to Round Rock. Valdez, who was on

HOUSTON -- Left-hander Framber Valdez rejoined the Astros on Sunday after getting called up from Triple-A Round Rock, where he was on what manager AJ Hinch described as a de facto rehab assignment, even though he wasn’t hurt. Lefty Reymin Guduan was optioned to Round Rock.

Valdez, who was on the Opening Day roster as the only lefty in the bullpen, pitched three times for the Express, allowing one run and striking out six in four innings. The plan was for Valdez to get three or four outings in Round Rock, but that was disrupted by rain. Valdez entered spring as a starter and ended up winning a bullpen spot.

“We wanted him to get three or four outings in order for me to feel comfortable getting him back in the mix,” Hinch said. “He had sat for a number of days prior to the day we optioned him out. … We had it in pencil to bring Valdez back today and leading into the next homestand and next stretch of games where we play a lot of games in a row.”

The Astros are committed to Valdez, the club's No. 11 prospect per MLB Pipeline, as a reliever for now. He can give them length in the bullpen and could throw as many as 50 pitches if he’s needed to start in a pinch.

“We could quickly make that transition,” Hinch said. “Right now, we felt like it was important for him to be viewed as a reliever.”

Altuve gets day off, others to come

The Astros are early in a stretch during which they play 26 games in 27 days, which means Hinch is going to be diligent about giving his core starting position players -- Yuli Gurriel, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, George Springer and Michael Brantley -- rest, or having them at designated hitter on occasion. Altuve was out of the lineup Sunday against Texas and Springer was at DH.

Hinch said Bregman and Springer could both have off-days soon.

“It’s going to happen more and more, simply because I’m committed to making sure guys get the rest,” Hinch said. “It’s something I’m committed to. It’s a long season and I’m not going to let the gas tank get empty before I take them out.”

UMPS CARE auction underway

Major League Baseball umpires will offer up more than 400 items that include autographed sports memorabilia, VIP experiences and ticket packages during their 11th Annual UMPS CARE Charities online auction. The auction is currently underway at MLB.com/UmpsCare and closes at 9 p.m. CT on Monday.

Some of the items up for bid include signed baseballs, jerseys and bats, opportunities to watch batting practice from the field at many MLB ballparks, hotel stays with game tickets, opportunities to have lunch with a Major League Baseball umpire, more than 50 suites or ticket blocks from Minor League Baseball clubs for fans to watch the future stars of Major League Baseball and great UMPS CARE Charities logo apparel to show your support.

“The online auction is one of the biggest fundraising initiatives for UMPS CARE Charities and has grown tremendously since our first auction in 2009,” said Gary Darling, who served as an MLB umpire for nearly three decades and now serves as board president for UMPS CARE Charities. “The auction has something for everyone, from autographed memorabilia to once-in-a-lifetime experiences, so we encourage fans to tell all of their friends and family to check out the available items on MLB.com and bid generously to help support a great cause.”

All proceeds from the online auction support UMPS CARE Charities youth programs, which connect children and families in the communities in which the umpires work. UMPS CARE provides once-in-a-lifetime Major League Baseball experiences for critically ill kids, at-risk youth and military families, Build-A-Bear Workshop experiences for children battling serious illnesses at more than 15 pediatric hospitals in the United States and Canada, college scholarships for deserving young adults who were adopted as children and financial assistance for families in the baseball community in need.

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