No surprises as Astros set 26-man roster
There were no surprises when the Astros set their 26-man roster prior to Thursday's season opener against the A's in Oakland. The Astros, as expected, will carry 13 pitchers and 13 position players, including six players who are appearing on an Opening Day roster for the first time: right-handers Brandon Bielak, Luis Garcia and José Uruidy, infielder Robel García, outfielder Chas McCormick and designated hitter Yordan Alvarez.
The Astros also set their taxi squad for the first road trip of the season: right-handers Ralph Garza Jr., Nivaldo Rodriguez and Peter Solomon, infielder Abraham Toro and catcher Garrett Stubbs. The club opens the season with four games in Oakland beginning Thursday and then travel to Anaheim for two against the Angels on Monday and Tuesday.
To finalize their Opening Day roster, the Astros made several roster moves Thursday, optioning left-hander Kent Emanuel, right-hander Jake Odorizzi, Stubbs and Toro. Also, four players were placed on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Monday: right-handers Josh James (hip), Austin Pruitt (elbow), Andre Scrubb (shoulder) and lefty Framber Valdez (finger).
Catcher (2): Martín Maldonado, Jason Castro
The Astros will have one of the most experienced catching tandems in the big leagues with Maldonado and Castro. They have combined to catch 1,511 games in the Major Leagues, which is the third-most of any active catching duo. Maldonado started 46 of 60 regular-season games last year.
First base (1): Yuli Gurriel
Gurriel didn't swing the bat particularly well this spring, but there will be no cause for alarm unless it bleeds into the regular season. The Astros have several options who could play first base if Gurriel needs a day off or is at designated hitter, including Aledmys Díaz.
Second base (1): Jose Altuve
Altuve has put aside any concerns about the throwing problems that plagued him in the playoffs last year. He's hit a couple of home runs this spring, including one from the leadoff spot. Altuve has batted leadoff for much of the spring and will be there on Opening Day.
Third base (1): Alex Bregman
Bregman was slowed by a sore left hamstring in the first three weeks of camp but holding him back was strictly precautionary. He didn't get nearly as many at-bats as the other starters in Grapefruit League games but got plenty on the back fields earlier in camp and said he feels as good as he has in his career to start a season.
Shortstop (1): Carlos Correa
Correa had a nice spring at the plate and says he's continued to benefit from the changes he made in his mechanics in the playoffs last year. He turned down a six-year, $120-million contract extension from the Astros earlier this spring and appears headed for free agency at season's end.
Outfield (4): Kyle Tucker, Michael Brantley, Myles Straw, Chas McCormick
While Brantley (left), Straw (center), Tucker (right) are the starters, the fourth outfield job goes to McCormick, who's on the 40-man roster. He was on the playoff roster last year in the American League Wild Card and Division Series rounds but didn't play.
Utility (2): Aledmys Díaz, Robel García
The injury-prone Díaz navigated around some hamstring soreness late in camp and appears to be healthy heading into the season. Garcia, also a switch hitter, battled Abraham Toro for the last infield spot, but the club wants Toro to play every day in the Minor Leagues, giving the nod to Garcia.
Designated hitter (1): Yordan Alvarez
Alvarez, the 2019 AL Rookie of the Year Award winner, didn't play in a Grapefruit League game until March 14 as the Astros took it easy after he had surgery on both knees in August. He appears to be over the knee problems that have plagued him. Still, manager Dusty Baker appears reluctant to play Alvarez in left field and risk an injury and lose his bat.
Starting pitchers (5): Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers Jr., Jose Urquidy, Cristian Javier, Luis Garcia
Greinke will start Thursday and will be followed by Javier (Friday), McCullers (Saturday), Urquidy (Sunday) and Garcia (Monday). Jake Odorizzi will join the rotation April 13 after he makes a pair of outings at the alternate training site to build up his pitch count.
Relievers (8): Ryan Pressly, Joe Smith, Enoli Paredes, Brooks Raley, Ryne Stanek, Blake Taylor, Brandon Bielak, Bryan Abreu
The Astros will be without Báez (delayed throwing because of COVID-19 positive) and Scrubb (shoulder) to start the year. Pressly, Paredes, Raley and Taylor were key members of the bullpen last year, and the Astros returned Joe Smith and signed Ryne Stanek. They'll have two long relievers in Bielak and Abreu.