Astros starters stepping up on short notice

September 18th, 2021

The Astros had to adjust their starting rotation on the fly this week, since Framber Valdez cut his left index finger while shagging fly balls during Wednesday’s batting practice in Arlington -- just one day before his scheduled Thursday start against the Rangers.

Rookie right-hander Luis Garcia, who had been scheduled to start Friday, was bumped up a day on very short notice and pitched quite well, allowing just one run on five hits over 5 1/3 innings. Garcia picked up the win to improve to 11-7 on the season, and he lowered his ERA to 3.37.

In the case of Garcia, it helped that the Astros were using a six-man starting rotation prior to Jake Odorizzi’s foot injury, which meant that Garcia was able to be bumped up and still be on normal rest. While it was short notice, Astros manager Dusty Baker said that could actually benefit some players.

“A lot of times, those guys pitch better on short notice, because they don’t have all night to sit up and think about what they’re going to do,” Baker said before Friday’s game against the D-backs. “I’ve seen that a bunch of times.”

“I had one guy, [Chad] Zerbe, when I was in San Francisco. He was talking to his wife, 30 minutes before the game, in the stands. We had a late scratch and I said, ‘Hey man, you’re in there.’ So he kissed his wife goodbye, went and warmed up and threw a heck of a game.”

Brandon Bielak got the start in Friday’s game at Minute Maid Park under similarly short notice. While Bielak has worked as a long reliever for most of 2021, he had not pitched since Sept. 11 against the Angels, so he was technically on full rest for a start, as well. The right-hander went on to strike out six batters across 2 2/3 scoreless innings against the D-backs, continuing the strong run for the short-notice starters.

With the D-backs presumably starting numerous left-handed hitters during the upcoming weekend series, Baker said the Astros stayed away from using left-handed relievers Brooks Raley and Blake Taylor in recent days to allow them to be ready for extended duty against Arizona, if needed.