HOUSTON — A day after pitcher Jose Urquidi left a game with a shoulder injury that put him on the injured list, the Astros’ rotation was dealt another blow when Luis Garcia Monday left a 7-3 win over the Giants at Minute Maid Park just then. Eight pitches due to right elbow discomfort.
García, coming into the game on 13 straight scoreless innings, gave up a one-out run to Lamonte Wade Jr. and made a 2-2 run on Cero Estrada when catcher Martín Maldonado went to the mound and pointed at the dugout. After a brief meeting with coach and manager Dusty Baker, Garcia was removed from the game.
Garcia said he felt pain around the fifth pitch he threw. He said he will have an MRI on Tuesday. Urquidy’s MRI, done Monday, showed inflammation in his shoulder, and he was suspended from pitching.
“He’ll be out a while; we don’t know how long until he gets better,” Baker said of Orchid. “Hopefully he’ll be back relatively soon. We don’t know when. We just have to call out who’s the best.”
Brandon Belak, who joined the Astros earlier Monday as Urquidy’s roster replacement, worked four innings in relief, allowing two runs with three walks and six hits. He is the most likely candidate to take Urquidy’s position on the rotation.
The Astros’ pitching depth is being tested after losing Justin Verlander in free agency and Lance McCullers Jr. to injury at the start of spring training. The only other healthy starting pitchers on the Triple-A Sugar Land 40-man roster are GB France and Forest Whiteley, a former first draft starter with a 6.00 ERA in 21 innings pitched.
“It’s been my main goal throughout my career to work in the starting rotation with the Astros, and if I get that opportunity, I’ll take it and run with it,” said Belak, who flew out of Reno, Nev. on Monday morning.
Urquidy (Mexico) and Garcia (Venezuela) both participated in the World Baseball Classic in March, as did teammate Cristian Javier (Dominican Republic). Astros urged ace Framper Valdez not to play in the WBC for the Dominican Republic, and he stayed in camp instead.
“I hate to think that some of our guys, especially the Latin guys who went to the WBC, are going to come in lame, and I hope that’s not what’s causing the problem,” said Baker.
The Astros were healthy with their pitching staff last year, which was dominant in their run to the World Series. Maldonado said it was time for the others to step up.
“We also understand that it’s part of the game,” he said. “In teams, you’re always going to need more than 26 guys. Look at Bellak. I came in today, flew in today and stepped up big. We’re going to need what we’ve always been good at is someone to step up. I don’t know how dangerous it is, but at the end of the day it’s about by picking on each other. That’s our philosophy.”
Urquidy’s brief outing did not prevent Garcia from winning both matches. Houston broke a tied game opener on Monday the 7th by sending 10 batters to the plate and scoring five runs. Mauricio Dupont, traded from the Giants a year ago, went 3-for-5 with two runs and two RBI runs against his former team and continues to excel while filling in for injured second baseman Jose Altuve.
Altuve, who fractured his right thumb when he was hit by a pitch in the WBC, could return by the end of the month, and outfielder Michael Brantley — who has been out since last June after a shoulder injury — could return sooner. The Astros’ full lineup could be intact for the first time this year by the end of May, but rotational health is a growing concern.
It’s hard to watch Lewis go down like that in the first half, W [when] Belak got off the plane and pitched the way he pitched, so that’s a big help there,” Dupont said. “Being able to take the win was big. It was a good day on the field.”
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