Astros outfielder Yordan Alvarez is dealing with some left hand soreness, with both he and manager Dusty Baker speaking to reporters today about it, including Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle and Mark Berman of Fox 26. Alvarez isn’t currently swinging a bat but expects to do so in the coming days.
Alvarez dealt with soreness in both hands last year but it doesn’t seem as though offseason surgery was ever seriously considered, with Baker relaying that doctors “said he didn’t need it.” Despite the seemingly persistent nature of the issue, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of concern, with Alvarez suggesting that it can be addressed with rest. It certainly didn’t seem to hamper him too much last year, as he launched 37 home runs and hit .306/.406/.613 for a wRC+ of 185, though he did go to the injured list once for the soreness in his right hand.
Everyone involved seems to be downplaying the issue for now and this all might pass in a few days. But given that Alvarez is one of the most potent sluggers in the league and the soreness seems to have been lingering for quite some time now, it will be a situation to monitor going forward.
Elsewhere on the roster, outfielder Michael Brantley is still trying to get back into shape following last year’s shoulder surgery but could spend some time at first base once he’s healthy. A report from Brian McTaggart of MLB.com indicates Brantley has been getting some work at first lately, with the club exploring if he’s a viable emergency option there. Houston will have José Abreu getting the lion’s share of the work at the cold corner after he signed a three-year, $58.5MM deal this offseason, but it seems there’s a chance Brantley could give him the occasional day off.
Brantley has a small amount of first base experience in the minors, way back in 2007 and 2008, but none at the Triple-A level or in the majors. “We’ll see how it goes,” Brantley said. “At the same time, it’s a team-first approach always. I’ve always been like that. If I can help the team out in any way, I’ll be available. It’s a lot of hard work. I’m learning a lot very quickly, but it’s all been going smoothly so far.”
If the experiment proves successful and Brantley becomes a legit option there, it could provide the club with a bit more flexibility in setting its lineup. Furthermore, Brantley has had a few significant injuries in his career and is turning 36 in May, meaning there might be some wisdom in having him play a position that generally requires less running around the field. Abreu will also be in his age-36 season, so helping him get off his feet on occasion could also have benefits.
For the time being, Abreu is likely followed by David Hensley and J.J. Matijevic on the first base chart, though they have just 16 and 32 games of MLB experience, respectively. It’s always possible that the club could find someone else to jump in, such as longtime Astro Yuli Gurriel, though general manager Dana Brown recently articulated the difficulty in finding a substantial role for a veteran like Gurriel. Unless something changes on that front, it seems Brantley will take a shot at making himself a part-time option at the position.
In more long-term news, prospect Drew Gilbert is expected to be ready to go when the minor league season starts, director of player development Sara Goodrum tells Rome. Gilbert was the club’s first round draft pick last year and played ten games in the lower levels of the minors before crashing into the outfield wall in a Class-A game. He was initially diagnosed with a forearm contusion though it was later discovered that he suffered a dislocation in his right elbow, which ended his season. He’s just 22 years old and will still have to climb his way up the minor league ladder, but the fact that he’s going to start the season healthy is still encouraging news.