Notes: Baker's contract; Brantley's setback

September 24th, 2021

ANAHEIM -- While Cincinnati’s David Bell and Seattle’s Scott Servais both signed contract extension recently -- and Torey Lovullo and Brandon Hyde are returning next year in Arizona and Baltimore, respectively -- Astros manager Dusty Baker remains in limbo.

The Astros hired Baker prior to the start of Spring Training last year, shortly after AJ Hinch was fired in the wake of the sign-stealing scandal. Baker signed a one-year contract with an option for 2021, which was picked up last July. Baker, who entered Thursday 17 wins shy of 2,000 for his career, has told the Astros he would like to return.

“I've said it before,” he said. “I don’t want to be a distraction to the team. My main thing is to take care of my guys here.”

Baker said last year he’s been a lame-duck manager four or five times previously in his career.

“I’ve seen this a lot of times, and it kind of makes you wonder as to why, but hey,” he said. “It is what it is.”

Last year, Baker became the first manager in history to lead a fifth team to the playoffs, and his 1,983 managerial wins rank 12th all-time. The Astros could be waiting until the playoffs are over before deciding whether to bring back the 72-year-old Baker, who has the Astros on the verge of the American League West title.

Brantley has a setback
The Astros were hoping to get off the injured list this week, but Baker said Thursday the veteran outfielder had a setback. Brantley hasn’t played since Sept. 11, one day before he was placed on the injured list with right knee soreness.

“He’s progressing slowly,” Baker said. “He was progressing rapidly, but he’s kind of hit a lull in the action. It’s going to take a little bit longer than we thought or we had hoped.”

The Astros have split up the playing time in left field in Brantley’s absence, with Chas McCormick making four starts, Yordan Alvarez making five starts, Jose Siri getting two starts and Jake Meyers getting one start. Brantley is third in the AL in batting average, hitting .315, with eight homers and 45 RBIs.

Baker didn’t have a timeline on Brantley’s return, and Brantley wasn’t available for comment on Thursday.

“Only his body will tell,” Baker said. “We’ll see. I don’t know.”

Alvarez likely to play Friday
The Astros yanked Alvarez off the field in the middle of the eighth inning Wednesday after he had scored a run, with Baker saying simply that Alvarez was sore. A day later, there was no clarity on what was ailing the 23-year-old, but the Astros appear to simply want to give him a day of rest.

“He’s sore in a number of places,” Baker said. “He’s played the outfield a lot and has done a lot of running, so we’ve got to take care of him and make sure nothing happens to him.”

Alvarez played four of the previous five games in left field before Thursday, which was his most action in the outfield this year. He’s started 92 games at designated hitter this year and 34 in left field. With starting right fielder Kyle Tucker nursing a sore shoulder and limited to DH duties and Brantley out, the Astros have been forced to play Alvarez in left more.

“It was suggested that we get him off his feet,” Baker said. “It looks like, especially with Brantley not being right around the corner, he could play the outfield some more, but we’re waiting to see the outcome of Tucker’s injury. Even though we’re winning and we’ve got guys back, we’re still the walking wounded.”

Alvarez is expected to start at DH on Friday in Oakland, with Tucker possibly returning to right field, as well.