With another reliever headed to the injured list – lefty Blake Taylor sprained his ankle in the eighth inning Friday night -- the Astros recalled right-handed prospect Peter Solomon on Saturday. Solomon, the Astros’ No. 14-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline, was already in Seattle as part of the Astros’ traveling taxi squad.
“We’re going to use him as needed,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “He has really good stuff and the better he pitches, the more elevated [in his role] he will become. … I like his attitude; I like his stuff. He could be one of those pleasant surprises that you didn’t count on.”
Solomon was scheduled to throw a bullpen session Saturday afternoon at T-Mobile Park but was called into Baker’s office about 45 minutes beforehand and told he was added to the Major League roster.
“Pretty unreal feeling,” he said. “I’m obviously very excited.”
Solomon, who was added to the club’s 40-man roster in November, had Tommy John surgery in June 2019. He was trying to build off a terrific ‘18 season in which he posted a 2.32 ERA and struck out 114 batters in 100 2/3 innings combined between Class A clubs Quad Cities and Buies Creek when he suffered an elbow injury in his second start of the ’19 season for High-A Fayetteville.
Solomon, 24, was selected in the fourth round of the 2017 MLB Draft out of Notre Dame, where was primarily a reliever. He saved eight games in three seasons with the Irish.
“Having that experience throughout college as a closer and reliever and starter makes me feel more comfortable going into a bullpen role, even though I’ve been a starter a lot in the Minor Leagues,” he said. “I have a good routine and I understand what my body needs to be able to do going into a game. I’m really lucky in that aspect.”
Taylor, who Baker says has a severe ankle sprain, joins a growing list of Astros relievers on the IL. Enoli Paredes (right side soreness) started throwing Friday, Andre Scrubb (shoulder) has been throwing and should return by the end of the month and Pedro Báez (right shoulder soreness) has finally started throwing after a COVID-19 diagnosis set him back in the spring.
McCullers’ next start in doubt?
After becoming so ill during his start Wednesday against the Tigers that he needed an IV to get fluids into his body after the game, right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. may not be able to take his next turn in the rotation Tuesday against the Rockies in Colorado, Baker said.
“That we don’t know,” he said. “He’s feeling better, but he’s still not 100 percent. If you’re not 100 percent and having trouble breathing, Colorado is not the place to go to try to catch your breath. We’re back to the drawing board on that. Right now, we’re not sure.”
If McCullers can’t go, the Astros have several candidates to start, including Luis Garcia and Brandon Bielak, who are starters being used in long relief.
After McCullers threw 3 2/3 innings against the Tigers in his third start of the season, Baker said the pitcher’s legs were wobbly and he had trouble breathing, though the Astros didn’t know that until his outing was done. McCullers said he had received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine a few days prior to that start, which could have caused ill side effects.
Baker still believes the five players placed on the injured list Wednesday because of health and safety protocols – Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martín Maldonado and Robel Garcia -- likely won’t return until the team comes home Thursday at the earliest. “Or even a little further,” Baker said Saturday. “I don’t have any positive news.”