WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The first wave of roster cuts hit Astros camp on Friday, with seven pitchers getting sent to Minor League camp. Left-handers Kent Emanuel and Cionel Pérez and right-hander Cristian Javier were optioned, and right-handers Dean Deetz, Riley Ferrell and Brendan McCurry and left-hander Ryan Hartman were reassigned because they’re not on the 40-man roster.
The moves leave the Astros with 52 players remaining in camp (24 pitchers, 28 position players). The report date for Minor League pitchers and catchers is Sunday.
The biggest name in the group was Javier, the Astros’ No. 6-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline and the club’s 2019 Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Javier threw four innings in two Grapefruit League outings in his first big league camp and struck out seven, allowing one hit and one run with two walks. He has barely pitched above Double-A, so he wasn’t going to make the big league club, but he made a solid impression on manager Dusty Baker.
“Javier is a big-time talent,” Baker said. “All the years I’ve been managing, this is probably the worst time of the year for me because you’re bursting bubbles out of people that are close to achieving their lifetime goal. ... You can’t really tell them, ‘You’d be the first callup.’ You don’t want to lie to them or give them false hope. You want them to go down and work and don’t get the big league-itis when you go down because you don’t know how close you are to coming back.”
While Baker had most of his regular players in the starting lineup Friday night against the Mets, designated hitter Yordan Alvarez remained sidelined with sore knees. Alvarez was scratched from the lineup Tuesday against the Marlins and hasn’t played since, though Baker said he’s improving.
Astros general manager James Click said Friday that he wasn’t concerned at all.
“This is something that he has dealt with before, and we’re going to get a plan in place and we have every expectation he’s going to be out there and going to be fine,” Click said.
Alvarez, who won the 2019 American League Rookie of the Year Award after clubbing 27 homers and driving in 78 runs in 87 games, dealt with knee problems last year as well. Click didn’t know a timeline on when Alvarez would return to action.
“We’ve got a lot of time to figure this out before the regular season,” Click said. “The focus is going to be how we best target March 26 for Opening Day. Whether that’s this weekend [when he plays] or whether that’s a couple of more days, that will be a conversation for trainers. Again, we haven’t seen anything that’s concerning.”
Bailey rejoining Astros
Right-hander Brandon Bailey, whom the Orioles plucked away from the Astros with the second pick in the Rule 5 Draft in December, has been returned to Houston. Click said Bailey would report to Minor League camp.
Bailey was acquired by the Astros in a November 2017 trade in which they sent outfielder Ramón Laureano to the A’s. A sixth-round Draft pick out of Gonzaga in 2016, Bailey spent all of last season at Double-A Corpus Christi and had a 3.30 ERA in 22 appearances (17 starts) with 103 strikeouts in 92 2/3 innings.