World Series Hero

Astros lose another piece as Morton signs with Rays

Astros lose another piece as Morton signs with Rays
Charlie Morton is gone. Houston Astros/Facebook

The Astros are losing another key piece to their 2017 World Series Championship team.

Charlie Morton, who shut down the Dodgers in Game 7 to give the Astros their first-ever title, is signing a two-year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays for $30 million.

Morton was also one of the best starters for the Astros over the 2018 season, when they lost in the ALCS to the Boston Red Sox. Morton went 15-3 with a 3.13 ERA for the season.

Morton is yet another blow to what was one of the best starting staffs in baseball last year. Fellow free agent Dallas Keuchel is not expected to return, and Lance McCullers is going to miss the season with Tommy John surgery.

As of now, the Astros will have Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Colin McHugh and a lot of question marks in the rotation. The team also lost veteran catcher Brian McCann and infielder Marwin Gonzalez. While they have signed Robinson Chirinos and acquired Aldemys Diaz to replace Gonzalez, the rotation remains a major question mark. Most assumed Morton would return to the team. The Astros reportedly offered a one year deal with an option; the Rays topped that with two years and an option.

While the Astros have earned the benefit of the doubt with a World Series title in their pocket, the losses from a really good team are piling up, and the Yankees and Red Sox are not going to stand still. The Astros will make some moves to get better, but they let a pretty nice sized fish get away in Morton.

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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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