It was a surprise to many when Collin McHugh was moved to the bullpen. After his success in 2018 out of the pen, the Astros hoped that he could rediscover that magic in 2019. But McHugh has only made two appearances out of the bullpen and hasn’t pitched since last Tuesday, May 14. This has led to an opportunity for Brady Rodgers.
Before last night’s game, AJ Hinch said that he and McHugh talked about what the next step was. They agreed to warm up in the ninth inning last night and see if the discomfort was still there. McHugh told Hinch that it didn’t feel right, so they decided to put him on the IL. That explains why we didn’t see him this weekend (as we wondered about on Talking Stros). They will not shut him down, but they will monitor what is going on from this point forward. This could be a short stay on the IL, especially since McHugh hasn’t pitched in a week.
It doesn’t appear to be serious, but they want to be careful with McHugh after switching him to a new role. With McHugh going onto the IL, the Astros have promoted right-hander Brady Rodgers (via Chandler Rome), who came back from Tommy John surgery last year. Rodgers grew up in the Houston area, and he is looking to prove that his unsuccessful first stint in the big leagues was a fluke. In five MLB games, he is 0–1 with a 15.12 ERA with three strikeouts in 8⅓ innings pitched. He walked seven batters and allowed 14 runs.
Why Astros fans are asking, “Why him?“
Is Rogelio Armenteros ever going to get a shot? Armenteros is already on the 40-man roster, but he is not having a great start to the season. In fairness to anyone who pitches in Triple-A, they are now using MLB baseballs that fly out of the yard. Armenteros is 1–4 with a 4.91 ERA, with 32 strikeouts in 29⅔ innings (via the Minor League Baseball website).
Meanwhile, while Rodgers will have a lot to prove during this stint with the Astros, he has pitched well in Triple-A. He is 4-0 with a 3.22 ERA, striking out 32 hitters in 44⅔ innings. Rodgers last pitched on May 14 and gave up three runs in 4⅔ innings. He will be used as a reliever with the Astros as Corbin Martin moves into the rotation.
Forrest Whitley may be the next best thing, but he has gotten off to a terrible start. He is one of those players who could fall into Super 2 status, so they are not going to rush him up yet; he has to earn it.
Some other possible reasons why Rodgers got the call
As the Super 2 cutoff approaches, spots on the 40-man roster will be needed. If the Astros make a trade before the June 31 deadline, they could need additional roster space. The 40-man roster currently sits at 39, and Lance McCullers could be added to the 60-day IL to add another spot. Maybe the Astros want to reward Rodgers for his Triple-A success, but they might also want to see what he could offer before they made a decision.
Along those same lines, could the Astros be showcasing him for potential trade partners later? The Astros have quality depth in terms of starting pitching candidates, while some teams are still using openers. No, you couldn’t trade Rodgers for Madison Bumgarner, but he could be a throw-in candidate or part of a smaller package. Either way, they could want Rodgers to show that he is not a AAAA pitcher.
Rodgers himself wants to prove that he belongs. How he adjusts to the reliever role is left to be seen, but McHugh’s injury gives him this chance. The Astros have an 8.5-game lead in the AL West. This is the perfect chance to see what Rodgers can do while giving McHugh time to get healthy.
(Photo credit: Keith Allison/CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)