Greinke, Jones to IL; James back in 'pen

September 1st, 2021

SEATTLE -- Astros starting pitcher and infielder both landed on the injured list Tuesday because of health and safety protocols. Houston manager Dusty Baker wouldn’t divulge any information beyond that, except to say Greinke would miss his next turn in the rotation this weekend in San Diego.

In a corresponding move, the Astros added right-handed pitcher Josh James and infielder Robel García from the taxi squad.

The Astros have been steadfast in not offering up much additional information about players who are placed on the IL for health and safety protocols, but several players who have been on the IL for that reason this season were the result of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. That includes outfielder Kyle Tucker, who missed the required 10 days after testing positive. He returned last week.

In recent weeks, Astros coaches and players have been wearing face masks more often in the dugout and on the field as COVID-19 cases rise. The Astros hit the 85% vaccination threshold earlier this season.

“I think people are becoming more and more aware, even if vaccinated, there’s a chance you could get COVID again,” Baker said. “Like I always wore [a mask], and there are people getting on me for always having a mask and gloves on. I’ve got some underlying issues from the past. I certainly can’t afford to have it. There’s been some players here that have worn [masks] quite frequently. It’s becoming more and more apparent that we need to do more.”

Greinke, 11-5 with a 3.66 ERA in 27 starts, last pitched in Sunday’s loss to the Rangers, allowing six runs and nine hits in four innings. Jones had two at-bats Sunday against the Rangers and didn’t play in Monday’s series opener in Seattle. He’s hitting .245 with two homers and 16 RBIs in 35 games this year.

The Astros will fill Greinke’s spot in the rotation by activating right-hander José Urquidy from the injured list in the coming days after he had two strong Minor League rehab starts at Triple-A Sugar Land. He hasn’t pitched for the Astros since he left his June 29 start with shoulder soreness.

“We’re expecting Urquidy to come back and we were anticipating a six-man rotation, but now we’ll just slot him into a five-man rotation until Greinke comes back,” Baker said.

Astros to add two players Wednesday
The Astros will have to add two players to their active roster Wednesday, when rosters expand to 28 players (from the customary 26). Complicating matters for Houston is that Urquidy and outfielder Chas McCormick are both set to be activated from the IL this weekend.

Urquidy pitched in a rehab game Sunday for Sugar Land, so he won’t pitch again until Friday at the earliest. There’s no reason to activate him prior to that. Friday is also the first day McCormick is eligible to be activated. The Astros may have to call up two players for Wednesday’s series finale in Seattle and then send them back down when Urquidy and McCormick are activated.

One candidate to get called up is already in Seattle. Minor League catcher Michael Papierski joined the club at T-Mobile Park on Tuesday on the taxi squad. Additionally, the Astros called up catcher Garrett Stubbs from Triple-A prior to Sunday’s game after veteran Jason Castro went on the injured list with a right knee injury.

James set for 2021 debut
The hard-throwing was in the Astros’ bullpen Tuesday for the first time this season after he was activated from the taxi squad. James last appeared in a game for the Astros on Sept. 22 of last year when he injured his hip and eventually had surgery that kept him out into this season.

James, who set the Astros’ single-season rookie record for strikeouts in 2019 with 100, was reinstated from the injured list on Aug. 1 and optioned to Triple-A, where he made a total of 18 appearances, including rehab appearances (and two appearances with Low-A Fayetteville). In those Minor League appearances, James posted a 1.53 ERA with 24 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings. His lasting out was Sunday, when he threw 19 pitches.

“We have to see what we have, have to see if he’s healthy and conditioned,” Baker said. “Right now, we’ll have him somewhere in the middle [of the bullpen] until we see where he is. He has the stuff. It’s about what kind of command he shows and the stuff he has.”