HOUSTON -- Astros manager Dusty Baker filled out his rotation for the start of season on Wednesday, tabbing right-hander Luis Garcia to start the fifth game of the season against the Angels on Monday in Anaheim.
By placing Garcia in the rotation, right-hander Brandon Bielak will start the season in the bullpen as one of two long relief options (Bryan Abreu is the other). Garcia, who is ranked as the club's No. 6 prospect by MLB Pipeline, is a strike-thrower, but his stay in the rotation will be probably be short-lived considering the plethora of off-days in April and Jake Odorizzi working his way towards the rotation.
After lefty Framber Valdez broke his index finger on his pitching hand on March 2, the Astros signed Odorizzi a week later and he’s scheduled to throw in simulated games Saturday and April 8 before joining the Astros rotation in the Tigers series, April 12-14. The arrival of Odorizzi will push Garcia out of the rotation.
“Five innings might constitute a complete game the first time around,” pitching coach Brent Strom said. “We’ll see how they feel as the games goes on. There’s going to be more adrenaline, and if we can get some quick outs earlier, that will be the key.”
Altuve makes 10th Opening Day start
Thursday will mark the 10th consecutive Opening Day start at second base for Jose Altuve. He’ll join Hall of Famers Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, and franchise icon Jose Cruz as the only players to start 10 Opening Days for the Astros. Altuve made his first Opening Day start in 2012.
“It means a lot,” said Altuve, who made his debut on July 20, 2011. “First of all, to be 10 years in the league, that’s a good accomplishment, and with the same team. Everybody knows how much I love the city of Houston, and I love this team. I’m really happy about it.”
Bagwell started every Opening Day at first base from 1991 through 2005, and Biggio started at three different positions from 1989 to 2007, including 14 at second base (1992-02, ’05-07). Cruz started on Opening Day 11 times, including in right field in 1975, 1977-78 and in left field from 1979-85 and ’86.
Lineup set for Opening Day
Baker said the lineup he used to close out Spring Training will be the same for Thursday’s season-opener against the A’s, with Altuve replacing George Springer as the club’s leadoff hitter. Springer had hit leadoff the previous four seasons, with Altuve leading off on Opening Day in 2013 and 2015-16.
“I’m not going to try not to change a lot, but if Dusty or whoever needs me to do something different in some games, I’m willing to do it,” Altuve said. “I’m here to help my team -- and leadoff, second, third, wherever they put me, I’m happy to play.”
Myles Straw, who replaces Springer in center field, will hit eighth. Straw was scratched from the Saturday's lineup and he didn’t play on Sunday while in quarantine for health and safety protocols. He was cleared to travel with the club to Oakland.
Thus, Baker’s lineup against A's starting pitcher Chris Bassitt will be:
Jose Altuve, 2B
Michael Brantley, LF
Alex Bregman, 3B
Kyle Tucker, RF
Carlos Correa, SS
Yordan Alvarez, DH
Yuli Gurriel, 1B
Myles Straw, CF
Martín Maldonado, C
Six of those nine players started on Opening Day for the Astros in 2020. Springer started in center field last year, Josh Reddick started in right field and Aledmys Díaz started as the designated hitter. Springer signed with Toronto and Reddick remains a free agent. Díaz will come off Houston’s bench.
Before the Minor League season starts on May 4, the Astros’ alternate training site players are going to play eight games against the Rangers’ alternate training site players: April 7-8 at Round Rock, April 12-13 in Corpus Christi, April 19-20 in Round Rock and May 2-3 in Corpus or Sugar Land.