Alvarez battling knee issues; sick Altuve sits

March 3rd, 2020

JUPITER, Fla. -- Lingering knee issues for Astros designated hitter caused him to be removed from the lineup for Tuesday’s game against the Cardinals. Manager Dusty Baker said the slugger was a “a little sore,” and the team didn’t want to take a chance of him missing extended time.

“We decided not to play him in the outfield. We decided not to DH him,” Baker said. “Just give him a couple of days to get over some soreness. He’s OK.”

Baker said both knees have been bothering Alvarez, the 2019 American League Rookie of the Year, who battled knee issues last year. Alvarez said he worked on his agility more last season with hopes of playing in the outfield more in 2020. He was scheduled to make his second start of the season in the outfield on Tuesday.

“I’ve heard he’s had [knee problems] for a long time,” Baker said. “He’s working on it. The trainer just thought it was precautionary that he skip a couple of days.”

The Astros need Alvarez’s thunderous bat in the lineup, even if it means keeping him off his feet to keep his knees healthy. Alvarez, who slugged 27 homers and drove in 78 runs in 87 games last year, appeared in 10 games in left field while starting 74 at designated hitter following his June 9 debut. The Astros have plenty of outfield depth with Michael Brantley, George Springer, Josh Reddick, Kyle Tucker and Myles Straw.

“We’ve got to take care of him first,” Baker said. “I know he wants to play and we want him to play, but it won’t do any good if he’s sore and he can’t play outfield or DH. We just have to adjust accordingly.”

Altuve on sick leave

All-Star second baseman was also scheduled to play Tuesday against the Cardinals but was told to stay home because of an illness, Baker said. Third baseman battled a similar illness last week, and Baker hopes it stops there.

“It’s been going around a little bit,” he said. “We told him to stay home and get past that contagious period.”

Altuve will be re-evaulated Wednesday, Baker said. The six-time All-Star has appeared in four Grapefruit League games this spring, going 2-for-9 with a double and an RBI.

“You want to nip it in the bud before it walks through camp,” Baker said. “I’ve seen it walk through camp. If it’s going to be in camp, you want it to be early in camp so they can start the season off fresh. So you trade workload versus getting well and you always lean towards getting well.”

Bum thumb sidelines Maldonado

Nursing a sore left thumb that was the result of a recent foul tip, veteran catcher was scratched prior to Tuesday’s 6-3 loss to the Cardinals and replaced by Dustin Garneau, who caught Justin Verlander’s Grapefruit League debut.

Astros manager Dusty Baker said Maldonado’s thumb ailment was nothing serious and that the team simply was exercising precaution.

“We decided to sit him today and take care of that, but he’s OK,” Baker said. “I guess he had some problem with it last year. As most catchers do, he had problems with his hand, but he’ll be alright.”

After the Astros dealt for Maldonado at the Trade Deadline in 2018 and ’19, he signed a two-year, $7 million deal with Houston in December to be the team’s starter. Maldonado hit .213/.293/.378 with 12 home runs in ’19, over 105 games split between Houston, the Cubs and the Royals. He started 12 postseason games for the Astros over the past two seasons, six each in ’18 and '19, and entered as a late-inning replacement in two others.

Up next

Zack Greinke will make his second start of the spring when the Astros face the Marlins at 12:05 p.m. CT on Wednesday at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Austin Pruitt, Roberto Osuna and Ryan Pressly are also scheduled to pitch for the Astros. Greinke allowed no earned runs in two innings on Friday against the Marlins. You can stream the game live on Gameday audio.