The Houston Astros’ biggest surprise of spring training has to be the countless injuries their starting rotation accumulated.
Last year, it looked as though the Houston Astros stood no chance in the postseason. That was expected after ace Justin Verlander underwent Tommy John surgery late into the season. Yet, the Astros managed to pull within one win of clinching a spot in the World Series.
With Verlander projected to be out for the entirety of the 2021 season, the Astros need to bank on their starting rotation to pick up the slack. But in spring training, the rotation has virtually imploded thanks to injuries.
Astros: Houston has a problem with starting rotation health
The first arm to be bitten by the injury bug was Framber Valdez. During a March 2 game against the New York Mets, Valdez suffered a fractured left ring finger when fielding a ground ball from shortstop Francisco Lindor. The reported belief is that Valdez would have to undergo season-ending surgery to repair the injury, but Valdez is opting against it in hopes that he will be able to pitch this season. Even so, the surgery could still be on the table.
Houston appeared to solve the void in the starting rotation after signing former Minnesota Twins pitcher Jake Odorizzi to a two-year contract. It was a solid transaction by the Astros, but it was quickly overshadowed by yet another injury.
Forrest Whitley, the organization’s top prospect, experienced soreness in his right pitching arm during a simulated game. As it turns out, that soreness was a UCL sprain that forced Whitley to undergo Tommy John surgery. Whitley could have made his big league debut at some point in the 2021 season to help the rotation. Now, he is out for the full campaign and could miss some time in 2022.
With Valdez, Verlander and Whitley out for the foreseeable future, the Astros will rely heavily on Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers and Odorizzi this season. Maybe they decide to add another veteran arm prior to the start of the season to build upon the depth.
Whatever they decide, no one thought Houston’s starting pitching depth would implode the way it has in spring training.