Houston Astros pitcher Charlie Morton. File photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
HOUSTON -- The trade deadline additions of right-handers Ryan Pressly and Roberto Osuna, coupled with the sudden emergence of rookie right-hander Josh James, have provided Astros manager A.J. Hinch with options regarding how he wants to structure his bullpen for the stretch run.
With Pressly emerging as a valuable setup option for Osuna, bullpen roles have changed for the Astros (92-55). Veteran right-handers Collin McHugh and Hector Rondon, saddled with the decision in a 4-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday, continue to work high-leverage innings, and James was thrown into the mix during the Astros' recently-completed road trip.
The Astros are bloated with solid right-handed relievers, meaning the final two weeks of the season might serve as an audition for veterans aiming to secure a spot on the postseason roster, should the Astros make the playoffs.
"What Pressly has done, he's pushing everybody around," Hinch said. "What Osuna has done, he made his mark as the closer. Josh James now factors in. You stay true to your guys as much as you can, but yet I owe it to the entire team, an entire organization, to adapt and adjust."
Astros right-hander Charlie Morton (14-3, 3.15 ERA) will start on Saturday against Arizona. In his first start off the 10-day disabled list, Morton limited Boston to two runs on seven hits and two walks with three strikeouts over five innings in a 5-3 win on Sept. 8. He allowed three runs on three hits and four walks with three strikeouts over five innings in a 4-3 loss at Arizona on May 5 and is 4-1 with a 3.77 ERA over eight starts against the Diamondbacks (78-70).
Right-hander Zack Godley (14-9, 4.67 ERA) will make his first career appearance against the Astros on Saturday. He has allowed two or fewer earned runs in six of his last nine road starts since June 10, going 6-1 with a 4.18 ERA while surrendering 24 earned runs over 51 2/3 innings.
Arizona right-hander Clay Buchholz will be shut down for the remainder of the season after suffering a flexor strain in his elbow while warming up on Thursday in Colorado. Buchholz, limited to two starts last season with Philadelphia after dealing with the same injury, was scratched against the Rockies. A decision on a course of treatment for the injury is pending.
Buchholz (7-2, 2.01 ERA over 16 starts) had pitched exceptionally well after signing with the Diamondbacks as a free agent on May 5. Right-hander Matt Koch (5-5, 4.48 ERA) filled in for Buchholz against the Rockies and is the most likely candidate to fill the void in the rotation.
"We've got to sit down and talk about that," Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. "I know Matt Koch actually threw the ball pretty good (Thursday). Got banged up on a couple mistakes for some home runs but he did exactly what we wanted him to: get through the lineup twice. So, I think that's the obvious choice if and when we need that spot. We're creatively trying to work through that right now and figure out what our best options are."