How Astros hope to have exciting answer to a few lingering questions

As Houston Astros Spring Training kicks into gear, all eyes are on Yordan Alvarez. The 2019 Rookie of the Year hopes to rebound from an injury-plagued 2020 season. ESPN Houston's Charlie Pallilo explains how Yordan Alvarez can fill George Springer's shoes offensively.

In the above video we discuss:

  • The loss of George Springer makes Yordan Alvarez all the more valuable to the offense. If Alvarez can repeat his production from his rookie season, he'll more than make up for Springer's departure.
  • One of the big question marks is whether Alvarez can play defense or, with 2 questionable knees, whether the Astros would even want to use him in the outfield.
  • Questions surrounding Yuli Gurriel could make Alvarez playing first an interesting option, but the position requires an incredible amount of skilled footwork and agility that Yordan has yet to show.
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Welcome back, Justin! Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images.

Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander will make his season debut Friday night at the Washington Nationals.

Houston manager Joe Espada made the announcement Wednesday.

“Getting him back is huge because it brings a level of confidence to our team, a boost of confidence that we’re going to get someone who’s been an MVP, a Cy Young (winner) on the mound,” Espada said. “It's (good) for the morale and to get stuff started and moving in the right direction.”

The three-time Cy Young Award winner opened the season on the injured list with inflammation in his right shoulder. He made two rehabilitation starts, the first for Triple-A Sugar Land on April 7 before Saturday’s start for Double-A Corpus Christi.

Espada wouldn't say how many pitches the 41-year-old would be limited to but said they'll keep an eye on his workload.

“We've got to be careful how hard we push him early,” Espada said. “I know he’s going to want to go and stay out there and give us an opportunity to win, but we've got to be cautious of how hard we push him early in the season.”

Verlander wasn’t thrilled with the results in his rehabilitation starts, but he said Monday that those games were valuable in getting him prepared to come off the IL.

He allowed seven hits and six runs — five earned — in four innings against Frisco on Saturday. He struck out three, walked one and threw 51 of 77 pitches for strikes.

Verlander allowed six earned runs and struck out six while pitching into the fourth inning for Sugar Land on April 7.

The Astros have gotten off to a tough start with Verlander and fellow starters Framber Valdez and José Urquidy on the injured list. They enter Wednesday's games last in the AL West with a 6-13 record.

Espada hopes Verlander can be the boost the team needs to get on track.

“It’s good to get him back in the rotation,” Espada said. “With what he means to this club just to get him back on track, getting some innings from him (to) build our rotation with the pieces that we need to move forward is exciting.”

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