Alvarez nears return; Pressly returns to form

April 30th, 2021

HOUSTON -- Astros designated hitter could return to Houston's lineup as early as Friday, when they open a three-game series against Tampa Bay, manager Dusty Baker said. Alvarez was placed on the COVID-19 injured list for a second time this season prior to Wednesday’s game, and was unavailable again Thursday.

“He’s still taking some more tests,” Baker said. “He’s feeling better than he was yesterday, but he’s not 100% yet. We’re hoping he’ll be available in Tampa.”

Alvarez was among five players who were on the COVID-19 injured list from April 14-April 21, joining second baseman Jose Altuve, third baseman Alex Bregman, catcher Martín Maldonado and infielder Robel Garcia. Altuve, who was activated Monday, later confirmed he had tested positive for COVID-19. There is no minimum stay for players on the COVID-19 IL.

Altuve is the second known Astros player to have tested positive for COVID-19 this year. Veteran reliever Pedro Báez, who signed a two-year deal with Houston in the offseason, tested positive during Spring Training and has been on the injured list since. Alvarez had COVID-19 last year.

Pressly off to a quick start
Astros closer has returned to his 2019 All-Star form through the first month of the season. Pressly entered Thursday’s game with three saves in three chances, including Tuesday night against the Mariners when he threw 11 consecutive strikes. Pressly also threw 20 pitches in a scoreless inning Monday.

In his first 11 innings, Pressly has 13 strikeouts with one earned run on two walks. He took over as closer early last season when Roberto Osuna got hurt, and had 12 saves in the 60-game season, adding four more in the playoffs while going scoreless in six of seven outings in October.

“I think he’s in a good space,” Baker said. “Last year, it was a little tough on him because he was thrust into a role [that] he wasn’t accustomed to. Sometimes his arm was a little sore, and he'd go out there anyway.”

Baker stayed away from using Pressly in a save situation in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s comeback win, because that would have meant he’d pitch in three consecutive games. Baker doesn’t want to use him that much this early and instead turned to Ryne Stanek, who’s been terrific early in the season as well.

“I stay ready and whenever they call, I get the ball and go,” Pressly said.