WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Giving up four home runs on back-to-back homers in the first and second innings didn’t do anything to dampen Jake Odorizzi’s day. The Nationals rocked Odorizzi for seven runs, including four homers, in his Grapefruit League debut with the Astros in Wednesday’s 11-8 win at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. His reaction: So what?
Odorizzi, signed by the Astros on March 9, said he was focused on throwing strikes and using his fastball in his first game action since September. He gave up back-to-back homers to Josh Bell and Ryan Zimmerman in the first inning and consecutive blasts to Zimmerman and Kyle Schwarber in the second. He walked a pair.
“For the first time out in a game setting, I felt pretty good,” he said. “I give two craps or less about results in Spring Training -- good, bad or indifferent. It is what it is. As long as I get more work in and get my pitch count built up and arm strength built up, that’s all I care about. Especially in this situation where I’m behind. There’s a week to go in Spring Training. How do I ramp up safely and properly without overdoing it early on? It’s a long season. I want to be ready.”
Odorizzi was even able to laugh when pitching coach Brent Strom came to meet him on the mound after the second homer in the first inning.
“I told him, ‘As long as I’m ready when it comes to the season, it doesn’t really matter,’” he said. “He said, ‘I love that. That’s the same thing I’m thinking right now.’”
Odorizzi said he will start the Grapefruit League finale against the Nationals on Monday with a goal of throwing 60 pitches. Because he’s still building up his pitch count, he won’t be in the rotation to start the season but is eyeing the Astros’ first homestand for his 2021 debut.
“If there’s anybody who’s not going to lose sleep over this, it’s me,” he said. “I’ve been through enough Spring Training games, enough Spring Training period, to know what I need to do to get ready.”
Díaz to return to action Thursday
Utility infielder Aledmys Díaz has been slowed by tightness in his hamstring, manager Dusty Baker said. Díaz hasn’t been in the lineup since March 15, but Baker said he was scheduled to come into Thursday’s game at second base after starter Jose Altuve gets his at-bats.
Díaz reported to camp 11 pounds lighter so he could avoid the injured list. He’s spent as much time on the injured list as he has playing in his two years with the Astros, missing 86 games (56 in 2019 and 30 last year) with injuries while appearing in 86 regular-season games.
“He had a little tightness in his hamstring so we decided it would be better not to take a chance,” Baker said. “This is the time of year when you’re trying to take it easy on guys as much as you can to hopefully get them 100 percent to start the season.”
Last year, Díaz made 10 appearances at second base, three at third base, two at first base, two at designated hitter and one in left field. He hit .241 with three homers while missing half of the season with a groin injury.
Alvarez to be limited to DH
Baker remains firm in his desire not to play slugger Yordan Alvarez in the outfield in the final few games of spring. Alvarez had arthroscopic surgery on both of his knees last August and was treated with kid gloves throughout the spring, and Baker doesn’t want to take any chances.
“We feel fortunately to have him back DHing and not in any kind of pain,” he said. “I don’t see limping. He’s in a good frame of mind. At this point, no. … It’s subject to change.”
Whether Alvarez plays in the outfield in the regular season remains to be seen. Alvarez said earlier this spring he’d like to do it, and it would give Baker the option of putting other players at DH. Left fielder Michael Brantley started 26 of 60 games at DH last year while Alvarez was out.
“Some guys aren’t that crazy about DHing, and Michael is one of them, even though he does it well,” Baker said. “He’d rather play the field. … It’s going to be a challenge, but we’ll see on a daily basis.”
• The Astros accepted the return of right-handed pitcher Jose Alberto Rivera from the Angels. Rivera, who was selected by the Angels in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft, goes back into Houston’s Top 30 as its No. 18 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. He went 5-5 with a 3.81 ERA, 95 strikeouts and 36 walks in 75 2/3 innings with Class A Quad Cities in 2019.
• The Astros released veteran outfielder Steven Souza Jr., who was in camp on a Minor League contract. Souza struggled mightily at the plate this spring, going 2-for-21 with a homer and a bunt single. He struck out 13 times.
• Baker said right-handed pitcher Andre Scrubb is unlikely be ready for Opening Day as he recovers from a sore shoulder suffered while pitching last week. “I’m not counting on it,” he said.