HOUSTON -- There's a "decent likelihood" the Astros will make another roster move to improve the team, president of baseball operations and general manager Jeff Luhnow said on Saturday at the conclusion of the team's annual FanFest at Minute Maid Park.The Astros are expected to add a starting pitcher at
HOUSTON -- There's a "decent likelihood" the Astros will make another roster move to improve the team, president of baseball operations and general manager Jeff Luhnow said on Saturday at the conclusion of the team's annual FanFest at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros are expected to add a starting pitcher at some point, whether via trade or free agency. The team lost Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton to free agency and Lance McCullers to Tommy John surgery. That trio combined for 500 innings last year. Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole will return to anchor the rotation, with Collin McHugh sliding back into the No. 3 slot. As things stand, Houston will be dependent on inexperienced starters after that.
"Because there are so many free agents still out there and because there are still a lot of teams talking trade, there is a decent likelihood something will happen," Luhnow said. "I can't tell you what because I don't know what, and I can't guarantee it. Nor do we absolutely have to have it. It's a pretty good position we're in. We're dealing from position of strength."
Luhnow said the Astros have talked about adding some relief pitching, and even some position players. The team lost reliever Joe Smith until mid-summer with a ruptured Achilles' tendon and lefty Tony Sipp to free agency. Houston has the financial and prospect resources to make some deals, and Luhnow said it might be better to wait until later in the season to assess where the club is at.
"We have a roster crunch on the 25-man and guys out of options," he said.
On Friday, Astros owner Jim Crane said the door is open for Keuchel and free-agent infielder Marwin Gonzalez to return. Luhnow said the team would "love to have both of them back," but wouldn't say if offers were on the table or what the Astros' interest level is.
Meanwhile, Luhnow will travel to the Dominican Republic on Sunday for a tryout camp at the team's Dominican Summer League complex, where 25 position players and 25 pitchers -- some as young as 14 years old -- will be put through workouts. He'll be accompanied by international scouting manager Eve Rosenbaum.
Altuve expects to be ready for Spring Training
Astros second baseman Jose Altuve is recovering from offseason knee surgery as expected, he said Saturday. The six-time All-Star and former American League MVP Award winner underwent surgery Oct. 19 to repair a patella avulsion fracture in his right knee, an injury that hampered him in the second half of last season.
Altuve said on Saturday that he's right where he wants to be with Spring Training starting in two weeks.
"Everything is going in the right direction and that's why I'm so happy," Altuve said. "I'm very thankful. A couple more weeks until we go to Spring Training, and I'm excited about this year."
Altuve said he's progressed to the point that he can hit and work out, but he hasn't tried to run at full speed yet. He said he's going to be available to play in Grapefruit League games, but it's expected the Astros will take it easy with him.
"I don't think this injury is going to be chronic," Altuve said. "They said I'll be 100 percent."
Bregman progressing from elbow surgery
All-Star third baseman Alex Bregman, who had surgery Jan. 11 to remove bone chips in his right elbow, said the Astros are bringing him along slowly. He said he could throw and hit now if he wanted to, but the team is holding him back "because they're smart."
"We're able to take it slow and make sure it heals correctly," Bregman said. "This is actually a blessing in disguise that it happened. I remember back to my finger being broken in high school and I thought it was the end of the world at the time, but it ended up [being a] blessing in disguise and I'm going to treat this as such, as well."
Bregman has found other ways to keep his mind on baseball while he's on the mend.
"I've dealt with the misery by sitting on a computer and re-watching video of every pitch that I saw last year and every ground ball I took," he said. "I'm trying to learn a lot and study some of the great players in this game, as well and pick up tendencies from them."
McCullers to take time with Tommy John rehab
Considering he'll miss the entire 2019 regular season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on Nov. 6, right-hander McCullers said he will take longer with his rehab process, because time is on his side.
McCullers, who pitched through a torn ulnar collateral ligament in the playoffs last year, said he's targeting being ready in time for the start of Spring Training in 2020. He's working currently on arm extension exercises and strengthening his shoulder.
"We're taking a longer route because of the time I did have surgery," McCullers said. "Also, that should give me better results and a better chance of being completely healthy -- for my long-term health and also 2020. A lot of guys will come back in that 11-, 12-month mark and they have a tough time getting back in the groove just because there's a lot of rehab and a lot of throwing and they get right into it. I'll have the fortunate timing of having a little bit of downtime before Spring Training 2020 rolls around, and hopefully I'll step right back in and pick up where I left off."
McCullers will be with the team during Spring Training, and he even plans to travel on a few road trips next season while he's recuperating.
"I still want to be part of the team and help the young guys," he said.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow <ahref="http: twitter.com/brianmctaggart"="">@brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.</ahref="http:>