Notes: Valdez update; Springer returns

May 8th, 2021

HOUSTON -- Astros left-hander , who fractured his left ring finger in his first start in Spring Training on March 2, took a big step toward his recovery when he threw live batting practice on Friday in West Palm Beach, Fla., facing hitters for the first time in more than two months.

Astros manager Dusty Baker said Valdez threw about 20 pitches, mixing all his pitches, against hitters at the team’s Spring Training complex, where he’s been rehabbing all spring.

“That was the best news I've had in a while," Baker said.

Valdez would likely need a couple more live batting-practice sessions before perhaps pitching in simulated games and eventually being sent to a Minor League affiliate on a rehab assignment. He’s still weeks away from joining the Astros.

Valdez, 27, was a breakout performer for the Astros last year, going 5-3 with a 3.57 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 11 games (10 starts) with 16 walks and 63 hits allowed in the regular season. Including the playoffs, he threw 94 2/3 innings in 2020, which was the most of any pitcher in the big leagues.

Astros reunite with Springer
’s return this weekend to Minute Maid Park, where he played six years and helped the Astros win a World Series, sees him on the Blue Jays' injured list with a right quad strain for the second time this year. That didn’t stop several teammates, staff members and Baker from catching up with Springer on the field pregame for handshakes and hugs.

“It’s definitely weird,” Springer said. “I’ve never been to the away side. I didn’t know where to go when I got here today. It’s pretty cool, I guess. I wish I was able to play and help the team, but it is what it is.”

One of the first players to greet Springer was Michael Brantley. The two shared the outfield together for two seasons in Houston and nearly wound up as teammates in Toronto, with Brantley rebuffing the Blue Jays just hours before re-signing with Houston last offseason.

“We talk all the time, almost daily,” Brantley said. “He’s a great friend of mine. It’s always good to see good friends and catch up. It’s always good to see him.”

After signing a six-year, $150 million contract with the Blue Jays in the offseason, Springer started the year on the injured list. He had only appeared as a DH in his four games prior to aggravating the injury, going 3-for-15 (.200) and hitting a pair of home runs on Saturday.

Even though he’s not playing, Springer said the return to Houston is emotional.

“Obviously, it’s a place I got an opportunity to play and got an opportunity to grow as a big leaguer, as a person,” he said. “The fans will always have a very, very special place in my heart. They were great to me, they were great to my family and I’ll always be thankful for the fans here, for sure.”

Worth noting
• Right-handed relief Enoli Paredes (side) is scheduled to make his second rehab appearance at Double-A Corpus Christi on Saturday. He’s set to pitch one-plus inning. Paredes threw one inning in his first outing on Wednesday, allowing a walk with one strikeout. Baker said Paredes will throw two innings in a few days before possibly being activated.