Barry Laminack: Astros have options as Gurriel recovers from surgery

Yuli Gurriel will miss the start of the season after hand surgery. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Yesterday Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel had surgery to remove the hook in the hamate bone on his left hand, and according to the procedure was a success. So much so that Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow was confident that Gurriel would return to 100% once healed.

"It's a pretty reliable surgery and we know what the outcome is going to be," Luhnow said.

Gurriel will start the season on the 10 day DL, and when he is eligible to return (April 8) he will have to serve his five-game suspension for the derogatory and offensive gestures he made toward Yu Darvish in the playoffs. But if Gurriel should have to miss a full six weeks (the high end estimate for a return) then don't expect to see him in the lineup until the third week in April. Add some more time on top of that, as it will take time to round into game shape (since he will be missing the entirety of the spring), and it's possible he won't be 100% back until mid to late May.


The Astros have plenty of options when looking to fill the void that Gurriel leaves. Here are some that are on the table for AJ Hinch:

Most likely options

  • Marwin Gonzalez moves to first base, creating a platoon situation in left featuring any of the following:

    • Josh Reddick, Derek Fisher

    • In the mix: Tony Kemp, Evan Gattis, Tyler White

  • Another option: A.J. Reed or Tyler White take over first base - Reed (lefty) and White (righty) are the most likely two guys to fill the roster spot, with White getting the nod because of what he’s been able to do at the big league level vs. Reed.

Less likely option

  • Astros sing a free agent left fielder like Melky Cabrera, Jayson Werth, or Matt Holliday (who can also play first). - Signing a free agent isn’t likely to happen. Yes, it would give them another veteran bat and some quality depth, but I doubt the Astros would be willing to spend money on another stick...unless they could get a great deal.

  • Astros sign a free agent first baseman like Adam Lind (who can also play some LF). - See above note on signing a free agent bat.

  • J.D. Davis takes over at first base - Davis is a third baseman by trade, but did play two games at first.

I think the most likely thing to happen is that Tyler White fills the roster spot that Yuli vacates, but Marwin Gonzalez will get the bulk of the playing time at first, Reddick will slide to left, Springer to right and Jake Marisnick will get the bulk of the plaing time in center field.

Of course you'll likely see other guys in left on occasion, but based on the way Hinch did things last year this seems like the most likely scenario.

The bright side

No matter what Hinch decides to do, the bright side for Astros fans is that - thanks to a 100 game suspension for violating the league substance abuse policy - they don’t have to worry about seeing Jon Singleton out there kicking the ball around and waving his bat at the air until the end of may.

See kids, not all the side effects of marijuana are bad.

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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