HOUSTON – The Astros received a bit of mixed news Saturday when it was revealed All-Star outfielder George Springer suffered a Grade 2 strain of his left hamstring, an injury that will sideline him for at least a couple of weeks, but not as devastating as the team initially feared.
Springer, who was placed on the 10-day injured list prior to Saturday’s game, suffered the injury while making a long run into foul territory to chase a Xander Bogaerts foul ball in the eighth inning of Friday’s 4-3 win over the Red Sox. There is no firm timetable for a recovery, but it’s safe to say Springer will be out a few weeks.
“It could have been worse based on how he was feeling last night,” president of baseball operations and general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “He’s obviously having a career year and has been our best player and we need him back, but I think the rest will be good and we’ll get him back out there as soon as we can. We have good doctors, good medical care and he’ll take care of himself.
“It’s unfortunate we’re going to miss him here for a couple of weeks, but hopefully it won’t be too long and when we get him back, hopefully we’ll still be in first place.”
Springer was having an MVP-caliber season, hitting .308 and, entering Saturday, leading the American League in homers (17), RBIs (43) and total bases (119), while ranking second in runs (41) and third in OPS (1.032).
With Springer out, let’s answer some questions surrounding his injury:
Q: How long will he be out?
A: The Astros generally don’t like to place timetables on injuries, but a Grade 2 strain is a partial tear of the muscle. Jose Altuve suffered a Grade 1 hamstring strain May 10 and will be going out on a Minor League rehab assignment on Sunday, which is more than two weeks after his injury. The Astros will play it as cautiously with Springer as they are with Altuve, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him out for at least a month.
“We’re probably looking at a couple of weeks-plus,” Luhnow said. “I’ve had plenty of these in the past that have lasted a month.”
Q: Why did the Astros call up Derek Fisher and not prospect Yordan Alvarez?
A: We all know Alvarez is clearly ready to be tested at the Major League level after dominating Triple-A pitching all season. The Astros won't admit it publicly, but they’re waiting until after the Super Two deadline (sometime in June) to bring him up, postponing his arbitration clock by a year. It makes sense. Besides, Fisher will be serving in more of a fourth-outfielder role with Michael Brantley, Josh Reddick and a resurgent Jake Marisnick getting most of the outfield starts over Tony Kemp and Fisher. Also, Fisher is likely to get sent back down when Altuve is activated from the IL, which could be Tuesday.
“Fisher’s had a good year,” Luhnow said. “We had really four players who had played outfield [in Triple-A] with [Myles] Straw, Fisher, [Kyle] Tucker and Alvarez. You could make a good argument for any one of those four players to be up here to fill this spot, but we really felt like Fisher, given his ability to play center field and his speed and the fact he’s been hitting well for a while now and can steal a base, it’s a good combination for us.”
Q: Will Marisnick play more?
A: Marisnick, a superb defensive outfielder, is having one of his best seasons, hitting .284 with six homers and 13 RBIs entering Saturday. He wasn’t in the lineup Saturday because he’s dealing with a sore leg, but he had played in 19 of the Astros previous 20 games and figures to get most of the starts in center field with Springer out. Kemp started in center Saturday, and Brantley and Reddick are everyday corner outfielders. Fisher can play center, too.
Q: Who will hit leadoff in Springer’s absence.
Springer batted leadoff in 47 of the Astros’ first 52 games and his absence leaves a huge void at the top of the lineup. Aledmys Diaz led off Saturday and will continue to factor in that spot, along with Altuve when he returns. Reddick has been leading off against right-handed starters. Astros manager AJ Hinch will try to keep Alex Bregman in the No. 2 spot, Brantley in the No. 3 slot and Correa in the cleanup spot.