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Astros promote righty Velasquez to big leagues

Houston's No. 4 prospect to debut Wednesday against White Sox

HOUSTON -- Another top prospect is set to join the Astros.

Right-handed pitcher Vincent Velasquez, who went 3-0 with a 1.37 ERA in five starts at Double-A Corpus Christi, will be called up Monday and join the team in Chicago in advance of starting Wednesday's series finale at U.S. Cellular Field against the White Sox.

Veteran right-hander Roberto Hernandez has been told he's being moved to the bullpen after going 2-5 with a 5.18 ERA in 11 starts. Velasquez, the Astros' No. 4-ranked prospect by MLBPipeline, is a hard thrower who has struck out 37, walked nine and allowed 15 hits in 26 1/3 innings.

"Roberto had given us a really solid two months in the rotation, but his last three starts haven't been as good, and we really felt like he could be better utilized in the bullpen right now, and that provided an opportunity right now to give Vincent some starts while [Scott] Feldman is out," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "Vince has dominated Double-A in a very similar way that [Lance] McCullers has dominated, and I think we're emboldened to a certain extent by what McCullers has done up here.

"We're hoping Vince can replicate that, and we do believe he's got the weapons to be a successful Major League pitcher and that he's not that far away. The window of opportunity seemed too good to pass up."

Video: Top Prospects: Vincent Velasquez, RHP, Astros

Velasquez's promotion is the latest in a series of high-profile callups by the Astros, who lead the American League West by 3 1/2 games. The biggest came Sunday when they announced shortstop Carlos Correa, one of the top prospects in baseball, will make his Major League debut on Monday at 20 years old.

Velasquez, 23, becomes the third pitcher the Astros have called up within a month from Double-A without even throwing a pitch at Triple-A, joining McCullers and Michael Feliz. Coming off a complete game in his fourth Major League start, McCullers will start on Monday. Feliz pitched once last week before being sent down.

"We have a lot of choices, and when [Corpus Christi pitching coach Doug] Brocail works with some of our pitchers and says they're ready, we're confident he's right," Luhnow said. "So far, his track record is pretty good. It just so happened this year a lot our prospects ended up at Double-A, and we have good insurance pitchers at Triple-A, but we feel like the prospects have true upside and want to find out if they can help us this year."

Velasquez, a second-round pick in 2010, missed the first month of this season after sustaining a strained right lat on Nov. 4 while playing in the Arizona Fall League. He missed two months last season with a strained groin and all of the 2011 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. When healthy, he had a nice 2014 at Class A Advanced Lancaster, going 7-4 with a 3.74 ERA in 15 games (10 starts).

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.
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