Odorizzi faces hitters; Mr. October hired

May 12th, 2021

HOUSTON -- Astros right-hander is in line to return to the rotation by the end of the month after throwing 35 pitches in a live batting practice session Wednesday at Minute Maid Park. Odorizzi, who’s been out since April 24 with a right pronator muscle strain, will need a pair of Minor League rehab assignments, likely at Triple-A Sugar Land.

“Today went really well and I was very happy with it,” Odorizzi said. “It was good to see hitters again. I felt good, I felt controlled. I got exactly what I needed to get out of today and get past that speed bump. It was a big milestone facing hitters in a semi-game environment.”

Odorizzi was signed to a two-year deal in early March after the Astros lost starter Framber Valdez to a broken finger. Odorizzi made three starts, posting a 10.13 ERA, before feeling some tightness in his forearm while starting a game against the Angels.

Astros manager Dusty Baker said Odorizzi’s velocity on Wednesday was close to where it is normally.

Odorizzi said he could have pitched longer, but he’s taking a conservative method so he could approach the session with good effort.

“We knew it was something minor and really wanted to make sure it was fully good to go before we did what we did today,” he said. “We knew four months of being healthy and pitching is better than [coming back] a week earlier.”

Odorizzi said he’ll need to build up his pitch count back to 95-100 pitches. His first Minor League outing could come Monday.

“For me, it’s a brand new season and go from there,” he said. “It didn’t exactly go as I wanted it to from the start, but that’s how it goes sometimes. It’s a long season and I get a restart, pretty much.”

Baker committed to Straw despite McCormick start

Baker gave rookie Chas McCormick a rare start in center field Wednesday against the Angels but said he remains committed to struggling starter Myles Straw, who is slashing .207/.293/.259 and is 2-for-19 in his last six games.

“They’ve both struggled some,” Baker said. “Straw’s a more accomplished center fielder. Chad was mostly a corner man. The job is Straw’s to lose. McCormick is playing today, but don’t read anything into it other than a day off. It’s hard to judge a man on 100 at-bats. We’ll see going forward.”

Straw had started every game in center field this season except for one, when McCormick started April 21 at Colorado. McCormick logged most of his playing time in the Minor Leagues in right field (131 games) and left (85 games), with 54 career games in center.

“I feel pretty comfortable,” he said. “I’ve been taking a lot reps lately especially since Straw’s been playing a bunch of games in a row. I’ve been getting ready to play center field because I knew he was going to have an off day pretty soon.”

Jackson joining Astros as advisor to Crane

The Astros announced Wednesday that Hall of Fame slugger Reggie Jackson has been hired by the club as a special advisor to owner Jim Crane. The team said he’ll focus on the team’s charitable efforts, including The Astros Foundation and The Astros Golf Foundation, in addition to serving as an ambassador for various Jim Crane business initiatives, including select baseball-related matters.

Jackson, who served as an advisor to the Yankees for much of his post-playing career, and Crane have been friends for years, and Jackson spent several days at Spring Training with the Astros this year. The release said Jackson will lend his support to the Astros' community efforts at both the Astros Youth Academy and the Chevron Center for Education and Golf at Memorial Park Golf Course, home of the Houston Open. In addition to baseball, softball and golf instruction, both facilities provide educational programs for children and teens.

Jackson will also provide counsel to all Crane Capital companies and to The Astros Foundation on various diversity and inclusion initiatives.

“Reggie and I have been longtime friends and I am proud of his longstanding commitment to the game,” Crane said in a statement. “His desire to continue to give back to the community and help grow our game will be a great asset to our efforts moving forward.”

Worth noting

Baker went back to wearing a protective face mask in Tuesday’s game after managing Monday’s game without one. The Astros reached the 85 percent vaccination threshold Monday, which meant players and coaches didn’t need to wear masks in the dugout, but Baker said he changed his mind after Yankees coach Phil Nevin contracted the coronavirus despite being vaccinated.