How Houston Astros GM can put his foot down on Montero situation

STONE COLD 'STROS

Houston Astros relief pitcher Rafael Montero is going through a rough patch, well that might be putting it mildly. With the All-Star break on the horizon, Montero is coming up on a shockingly bad first half of the season.

He currently has the worst ERA of all qualified relief pitchers in MLB (7.76), and he can no longer be counted on to protect a lead. Yet, manager Dusty Baker continues to play him in high leverage situations with little to no success. At least in Montero's case.

So how do the Astros fix him? The team isn't going to cut Montero, he has a boatload of money left on his contract. And relief pitchers are inconsistent by nature, having good years after bad ones regularly. But this just isn't a bad year for Montero, he's unplayable at this point if you ask anyone outside of Dusty.

The team also can't just ship him to Triple A, he's out of options. Astros GM Dana Brown certainly has his hands full. He didn't sign Montero, owner Jim Crane did. And you have to think Baker had some role in the offseason, with no GM steering the ship during free agency. So he has to be careful with this situation as to not ruffle any feathers.

His best bet may be coming up with a fake injury and working on getting Montero fixed on the backfields of a minor league facility. This would also remove him from the active roster, and Baker couldn't be tempted to use him in a game.

Montero needs to come up with a quality secondary pitch to get batters out. Per the Houston Chronicle, Montero's four-seam fastball is an effective pitch. Batters are hitting only .238 against it. But against all of his other pitches, batters are hitting a whopping .405.

Nobody said figuring out this situation would be easy, but the team cannot continue to run Montero out on the field. This isn't 2022, winning the AL West will be much more difficult this year with the Rangers and Angels playing significantly better baseball.

It's time to earn your money, Dana Brown. Good luck, we're counting on you.

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Everything is coming into focus. Composite Getty Image.

The 2024 season certainly hasn't begun like the Astros would have hoped, and the club is currently 8.5 games behind the Seattle Mariners in the AL West.

And while the play on the field certainly hasn't been up to par, what's going on behind the scenes is what has Astros fans the most curious.

How does the Astros power structure really work? Is GM Dana Brown really the one calling the shots? Based on what we've seen since Brown was hired, the answer is clearly no.

For what we can tell, Brown's main focus is replenishing the club's farm system. And that's a role he's highly qualified for, but his title calls for a lot more than that. He should be the main voice in the room, not just one of the many voices in the room.

The Athletic's Keith Law recently gave an interview on ESPN Houston, and said the common consensus across the league is Jim Crane is running things, and he's one of the most active owners in baseball.

Which goes along with the narrative most believe in Houston, Jeff Bagwell has Crane's ear, and that's how decisions are being made.

This goes back to when former GM James Click was allegedly pushed out the door because he didn't see eye-to eye with Dusty Baker. And that was after winning a World Series. That's when the Jim Crane-Jerry Jones comparisons starting gaining momentum.

And now it's fair to wonder if Baker was taking orders from above, and now Joe Espada is in the same predicament. Which would explain the nightmare at first base with Jose Abreu playing almost every game.

Why the secrecy?

The Astros have a strange policy with injuries. Just recently, Houston refused to acknowledge that Cristian Javier and Jose Urquidy were set to have elbow surgery and would be out for the season. Even after reports to the contrary surfaced.

And yet, there was an article on the Astros.com website reporting that exact same news about Javier and Urquidy being done for the year. The Astros would then confirm the surgeries not long after.

Yet, when Kyle Tucker fouled a ball off his shin, we found out that night that the X-rays were negative. And there are plenty more examples of this, we just don't have the time to document them all here.

There just doesn't seem to be any consistency, and when the team is losing, it's not hard to irritate the fanbase.

Don't miss the video above as we examine the Astros power structure, try to make sense of their curious stance on reporting injuries, and much more.

Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and Charlie Pallilo discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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