Astros designated hitter Yordan Alvarez was back in the starting lineup, batting cleanup, for Friday’s series opener against the Rays in St. Petersburg after missing two games while on the COVID-19 injured list. Taylor Jones, who was activated for those two games, was optioned back to the alternate training site.
Alvarez, who went on the IL prior to Wednesday’s game against the Mariners, entered Friday hitting .309 with two homers and 14 RBIs and recently became the first player in Major League history to reach 30 doubles and 30 homers in his first 100 career games.
“It’s great having him back in the heart of the lineup,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “It changes your lineup, especially in times when you bring in a guy to face three batters at a time. It’s a totally different ballgame handling your bullpen now than how it used to be.”
Alvarez was among five players who were on the COVID-19 injured list from April 14-April 21, joining second baseman Jose Altuve, third baseman Alex Bregman, catcher Martín Maldonado and infielder Robel Garcia. Altuve, who was activated Monday, later confirmed he had tested positive for COVID-19. There is no minimum stay for players for the COVID-19 IL.
Altuve is the second known Astros player to have tested positive for COVID-19 this year. Veteran reliever Pedro Báez, who signed a two-year deal with the Astros in the offseason, tested positive during Spring Training and has been on the injured list since. Alvarez had COVID-19 last year, but it’s still not clear why he landed on the COVID-19 IL again this week.
Scrubb joins Astros in St. Pete
Right-handed relief pitcher Andre Scrubb, who posted a 1.90 ERA in 20 relief appearances last year in his Major League debut, was activated from the 10-day injured list prior to Friday’s game. Scrubb injured his shoulder on March 19 during a Grapefruit League game against the Nationals and was placed on the IL with shoulder soreness.
Scrubb said he took his rehab slow, beginning with some rest before appearing in five or six games during Minor League camp in West Palm Beach, Fla., and the alternate training site in Corpus Christi, Texas. His final hurdle was throwing back-to-back games, which he did earlier this week.
“Rehab was a grind, but it went well,” Scrubb said. “Obviously, the Astros have a great staff. The training staff in West Palm Beach and Corpus took care of me. I’m feeling good after the back to back. That was the first time [he did that] since last year. I’m bouncing back well. The shoulder feels fine right now, so we’re good to go.”
Scrubb was one of 10 Astros pitchers to make their Major League debuts last year. He allowed only five earned runs and 15 hits in 23 2/3 innings but walked 20 batters. He was effective against both left-handers (.211 opposing average) and right-handers (.171).
“He gives us more power at the back of the [bullpen], gives us somebody that can get lefties out pretty good,” Baker said. “Especially if [Kent] Emanuel or [Brooks] Raley has gone two or three days in a row, we feel comfortable putting him in against most lefties.”
Right-hander Peter Solomon was optioned to the alternate training site to make room for Scrubb.