Notes: Brantley (quad) to IL; Biagini returns

August 15th, 2020

HOUSTON -- Dusty Baker’s dilemma over what to do with an ailing while is the designated hitter has been answered for him for the time being.

The Astros placed Brantley on the 10-day injured list with right quad discomfort ahead of Saturday's game against Seattle. The club said that it will make a corresponding move on Sunday.

Brantley, who had been limited to DH duties for more than two weeks, worked out in the outfield with coach Gary Pettis on Friday, but he didn’t respond well.

“He was sore this morning,” Baker said. “We were hoping he would come out here today and be feeling much better, but he’s actually feeling much worse.

“If you’ve ever had a groin or quad injury, you’re flirting with danger, and so we’ve got to have him for the long run,” Baker said. “It really hurts because he’s one of the best leaders on the team, not only physically on the field but psychologically and emotionally off the field. And so we depend on him.”

Brantley, who’s hitting .286/.375/.446, hasn’t played since going 0-for-4 in Tuesday's loss to the Giants. He hasn’t played in the field since starting in left field in the fifth game of the season on July 28 against the Dodgers. The next game, he stepped on the foot of Dodgers pitcher Joe Kelly at first base and has been hobbled since.

The Astros activated Alvarez off the IL on Friday following his recovery from COVID-19, and he homered in his first at-bat of the season. Baker had hoped to start Brantley in the field Saturday and at DH on Sunday. Alvarez’s balky knees prohibit him from playing the outfield.

Biagini returns to help bullpen
The Astros are slowly getting their bullpen back together, with veteran right-hander getting activated from the 10-day IL on Saturday. Rookie right-hander was optioned to the alternate training site in Corpus Christi, Texas, reducing the number of rookies in Houston’s bullpen to five.

Biagini appeared in one game this year for the Astros, allowing one run against Seattle on July 26, before going on the IL with right shoulder soreness. He said Saturday that he suffered from some inflammation, which required rest and a short rehab.

“I felt really good coming into Summer Camp,” he said. “I think like a week before the season, I had a ramp-up in usage trying to get ready for the season. So I had some games kind of pile on a little bit more quickly and I guess just at that moment some inflammation set it and I was just trying to stay out in front of it. I just didn’t do the right things to keep my arm in good shape.”

Biagini’s velocity was down a tad in his first outing, too. His sinker averaged 92.5 mph after he threw it on average at 94.1 mph last season, per Statcast. The day after he threw against the Mariners, Biagini felt tired and his arm didn’t feel good playing catch.

“My velocity has fluctuated over the year, frustratingly,” Biagini said. “I feel pretty good about my mechanics and getting a chance to work on that while I was rehabbing. It’s kind of starting to climb back up a little bit. Hopefully, that’s the way it goes forward.”

Different approach for Gurriel
A more patient approach at the plate this season by veteran first baseman Yuli Gurriel has led to him drawing walks at a much higher rate in 2020. Gurriel’s walk rate was 10.3% entering Saturday, which was well above his previous career high of 6% last season and career average of 4.9%.

Gurriel, who doesn’t strike out or walk much, had a .356 on-base percentage through 19 games, which is the best mark is his career and above his career average of OBP of .331. He had taken 57.7% of pitches this year, which is above his career average of 50.5%.

“It’s been a change of mentality for me, to be honest,” said Gurriel, who signed with the Astros in 2016 after a long career in Cuba. “When I got here from Cuba, I was thinking about hitting .300 and driving in a bunch of runs, so it’s really a deeper understanding of the game now and a lot of that is thanks to [Carlos] Correa. He helped me change my mentality a little bit and understand that being patient can pay off.”

That new approach came into play Friday, when Gurriel drew a four-pitch walk even though he had homered and tripled in his first two at-bats and was thinking about the cycle.

“If I had the same mentality I was talking about that I came here with from Cuba, I definitely was going to be swinging at everything that at-bat,” Gurriel said. “But I tried to be a little patient and took my walk there, but I was definitely thinking about [the cycle].”