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Greinke: Astros may be best team I've played on

Right-hander to start Tuesday; 4 Deadline acquisitions join club
@brianmctaggart
August 2, 2019

HOUSTON -- The high praise for the Astros’ daunting starting rotation continued to roll in Friday as the club introduced veteran right-hander Zack Greinke along with fellow newcomers Aaron Sanchez, Joe Biagini and Martín Maldonado prior to the series opener against the Mariners. Astros owner Jim Crane said Hall of

HOUSTON -- The high praise for the Astros’ daunting starting rotation continued to roll in Friday as the club introduced veteran right-hander Zack Greinke along with fellow newcomers Aaron Sanchez, Joe Biagini and Martín Maldonado prior to the series opener against the Mariners.

Astros owner Jim Crane said Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz called him Friday to gush about the trade to land Greinke, which Crane helped push through by taking on a huge financial commitment. The Astros sent four prospects to Arizona, including three of their top five ranked by MLB Pipeline.

“Smoltz said, ‘Man, you really did a great job of putting that together,’” Crane said. “Yeah, it looks like Smoltz, Glavine and Maddux.’ He said, ‘No, no, no. You guys are way better than we were.'”

The Braves’ Hall of Fame trio of Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux anchored one of baseball’s best all-time rotations in the 1990s and helped Atlanta win the 1995 World Series. Greinke said he hopes joining Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley will get him his first ring this year.

“I’m happy to be here in Houston,” Greinke said. “They’re a good team and maybe the best team I’ve played with. I’ve been on some good teams. There’s a chance this is the most talented team I’ve been on. That’s not easy to do.”

Greinke, who will make his Astros debut on Tuesday against the Rockies at Minute Maid Park, is a six-time All-Star and former American League Cy Young Award winner who went 10-4 with a 2.90 ERA in 23 starts this season for Arizona. The Astros are the sixth stop for Greinke, who’s adapted his game through the years. He used to throw 95-97-mph with his fastball, which sits now at 90-91.

“Any time you’re on a new team, especially a team like this, there’s a lot of learning you can do, and I think it will be more fun to watch than your average team,” he said.

Sanchez, Biagini look for next gear with Astros

Astros manager AJ Hinch insisted Sanchez and Biagini aren’t “reclamation projects,” but you can bet pitching coach Brent Strom, in conjunction with the analytics department, will suggest tweaks to their mechanics and repertoire to take their careers to the next level the way the club did with a number of pitchers, including Charlie Morton and Cole.

Sanchez had a mid-90s fastball with elite spin rate on his curveball but has averaged only 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings ins his career. Expect him to throw more curveballs and eschew the two-seam fastball for a four-seam fastball. An All-Star in 2016, Sanchez has struggled this year, going 3-14 with a 6.07 ERA and 1.69 WHIP.

“I’m sure there’s things that are on their mind like there’s things that are on my mind,” Sanchez said. “It’s an open line of communication here since the trade happened. I’m thrilled to see what they got for me, and I’m thrilled to share my thoughts with them and bounce ideas off one another and see how it goes.”

Biagini, meanwhile, also has a high spin rate on his curveball and a mid-90s fastball. He doesn’t throw his curveball much, but that could change. Biagini, 29, made 50 relief appearances for the Blue Jays this season, posting a 3-1 record and a 3.78 ERA with 50 strikeouts in 50 innings pitched.

“If you were to pick a team you could be on, to choose to be on, this is the one you want to be on,” Biagini said. “It’s an honor for them, because they’ve established a reputation of being good at what they do, so for someone like that to want me to be a part of it, it’s a really cool thing.”

Stubbs summoned with Chirinos ailing

Just three days after reacquiring the veteran Maldonado in a trade with the Cubs, the Astros’ catching depth was thinned when starter Robinson Chirinos reported left shoulder soreness and was unavailable Friday. That forced the club to call up Garrett Stubbs from Triple-A Round Rock and option right-hander Cy Sneed to Triple-A.

“Chirinos was in the original lineup today and reported some left shoulder soreness,” Hinch said. “We’ll carry the three catchers for the time being given the position and the late notice on Chirinos’ left shoulder. I don’t know if he slept funny or something. He was fine [Thursday]. He said he was a little bit sore from the night before when he took a swing. When he reported it today, we sent him to see our team doctors and we started the process of getting that transaction underway.”

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.