Arrighetti arrives to help aid ailing rotation

April 10th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Brian McTaggart’s Astros Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

HOUSTON -- There was little doubt that Astros top pitching prospect would make his Major League debut at some point this season. And with Framber Valdez becoming Houston's fifth starting pitcher to land on the injured list Tuesday, Arrighetti’s debut will come in only the 13th game of the season.

Astros manager Joe Espada announced following Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to the Royals that Arrighetti -- the team’s No. 3 prospect per MLB Pipeline -- would start Wednesday in Kansas City. Arrighetti pitched in two games at Triple-A Sugar Land, posting a 2.16 ERA and a 1.68 WHIP in 8 1/3 innings. He struck out 10 batters and walked seven in that stretch.

The Astros summoned Blair Henley from Triple-A to pitch Monday’s series finale at Texas in place of Valdez, but the arrival of Arrighetti means he’ll take Valdez’s spot in the rotation for at least the next two or three starts. The rest of the rotation will be pushed back a day, with Hunter Brown now starting Thursday against the Royals, J.P. France starting Friday’s series opener against the Rangers and Ronel Blanco following Saturday.

That will give those three starters an extra day of rest during a stretch in which the Astros are playing 20 games in 21 days to begin the season.

“We’re going through our pitching here in the last week, so we wanted to make sure we protect some of those guys,” Espada told reporters Tuesday. “Having Arrighetti here [Wednesday] will allow us to push everyone back a day and protect some of our young starters. We’re going to need them for a long season.”

Arrighetti, a sixth-round pick by the Astros in 2021 out of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, grew up in the Houston area as an Astros fan. He posted a 4.40 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings in 124 2/3 Minor League innings last year between Double-A Corpus Christi (60 2/3 innings) and Sugar Land (64 innings).

Arrighetti began last season with an 11.05 ERA in his first four outings at Corpus Christi and quickly righted the ship, posting a 0.67 ERA in five outings in May en route to being named the team’s Minor League Pitcher of the Month. He settled in from there and earned a midseason promotion to Triple-A. The turnaround was credited to a small change in his mechanics and controlling his emotions on the mound a bit more.

Arrighetti impressed the coaching staff this spring while pitching in two Grapefruit League games. He worked two scoreless innings against the Tigers on Feb. 26 and threw three innings March 8 against the Phillies, giving up five runs (four earned) and five hits.

“I faced a World Series-caliber lineup and I definitely got tested in a big way that I hadn’t been before,” he said on March 17. “I just learned that mistakes get hit a lot harder against those kinds of guys. I had some people on the ropes in that game that I really should have executed better, and maybe things go a little bit better. The big takeaway from the [Phillies game] is I need to control runners a little bit better.”

Arrighetti also started for Houston in the Spring Breakout game March 17 against the Cardinals' top prospects and threw two hitless innings, sending down six of the seven batters. He touched 95.4 mph with his fastball, walked a batter and hit a batter.

It’s still unclear the extent of Valdez’s injury or how long he will be out, but the Astros could get Justin Verlander back off the injured list by the end of the month. He is scheduled to throw his second of two Minor League rehab starts this weekend.

Despite the injuries to Valdez, Verlander (right shoulder), José Urquidy (right forearm), Lance McCullers Jr. (right forearm surgery) and Luis Garcia (Tommy John surgery), Houston’s starters have a 3.03 ERA (the sixth lowest in the Majors) through 12 games. Arrighetti will be the club's seventh starting pitcher in 13 games.