HOUSTON -- Wanting to be as careful as possible with their star second baseman, the Astros placed seven-time All-Star Jose Altuve on the 10-day injured list on Wednesday after he was removed from Monday’s game against the Angels with a strained left hamstring. The injury isn’t expected to keep Altuve out long term.
The Astros purchased the contract of Triple-A infielder/outfielder J.J. Matijevic, a left-handed hitter who was hitting .310 with four homers, 10 RBIs and a 1.134 OPS in 42 at-bats with Sugar Land, to take Altuve's spot on the active roster. Infielder Taylor Jones (back) was transferred to the 60-day IL to make room for Matijevic.
Here’s a closer look at what putting Altuve on the IL means for the Astros:
How long will Altuve be out?
Altuve strained his left hamstring while running out a grounder in the eighth inning of Monday’s 8-3 win over the Angels. He was immediately removed from the game and underwent further testing, including an MRI on Tuesday. He’s eligible to come off the IL on April 29 at Toronto.
“We didn’t think he would be ready to go in a week,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “It’s a 10-day IL and we’ll reevaluate him from there. He was disappointed. He apologized, which you don’t have to. But that’s the kind of guy he is. Sometimes you can’t help it. This guy has been a rock. He’s played every day for a number of years and hopefully he didn’t hurt it too badly. He’ll be all right, hopefully, within a couple of weeks.”
Altuve missed five weeks during the 2019 season with a strained left hamstring. He was placed on the IL on May 12 of that season and wasn't activated until June 19 as his return was slowed by right leg weakness.
“It’s probably less severe,” Baker said. “I’ve seen guys pull a hammy and then you’ve got to carry them off the field. Some of them can last four to six weeks and invariably guys try to come back too soon. I’ve seen that 100 times. You come back and say, ‘I feel great running around,’ and as soon as they have to bust it [run hard], it’s back again. We want to make sure that doesn’t come back anymore. He’s such a vital part of this team.”
Who will play second base in Altuve’s absence?
Niko Goodrum started at second base in Wednesday's series finale against the Halos and figures to get a large chunk of the playing time there. Utility player Aledmys Díaz has also started a game at second base this year and could get a few starts.
What the book on Matijevic?
Matijevic, 26, was selected with the No. 75 overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft and will play first base and left field. By playing first, Matijevic could allow Yuli Gurriel to be the designated hitter, or possibly move to third if Baker wants to give Alex Bregman a day off.
Matijevic was crushing with Sugar Land this year after slashing a combined .254/.341/.512 with 25 homers and 75 RBIs in 109 games at Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A in 2021. Matijevic moved to Florida from Pittsburgh shortly after Christmas and reported to the Astros' complex in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Jan. 10 to work on his defense with Minor League field coordinator Jason Bell.
“I was really prepared coming out of Spring Training,” Matijevic said. “I had a great offseason and started out really hot. I didn’t have any thoughts of being called up or anything like that. I just showed up to the ballpark and did my work and let whatever happen, happen.”
Matijevic found out he was called up following Sugar Land’s game on Tuesday at Tacoma, Wash., and flew to Houston early Wednesday. First, he called his parents in Pittsburgh and let them know to book a ticket to Houston.
“My mom cried, my dad was so excited,” he said. “My dad was working late at night. He’s a firefighter and he was on call. He answered the FaceTime and he was so excited. My mom, it was a special moment for me and her. We are super close and it’s something we always talked about.”