Posted on May 29, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine

Houston Astros Carlos Correa
Image via si.com

Something the Houston Astros hoped would be a small issue has turned into something a little more serious. The Astros placed shortstop Carlos Correa on the 10-day Injured List on Wednesday after learning he has a fractured rib. Correa becomes the third key position player Houston has lost to the IL, joining George Springer and Aledmys Diaz, as well as Jose Altuve, who went to the IL earlier this month.

The 24-year-old Correa didn’t play on Monday because of a scheduled off day for him. However, he also missed Tuesday’s win over the Cubs after complaining of pain around his rib cage. The problem turned out to be a crack in one of Correa’s ribs. Astros president of baseball operations Jeff Luhnow says Correa suffered the injury at home but didn’t elaborate further. Luhnow said he expects Correa to miss the next four to six weeks, keeping him out until early-to-mid July.

“With a fractured or cracked rib like that, it takes time for the bone to heal, and he’s got to strengthen the muscles around the bone and get back to playing shape,” said Luhnow. “We don’t really know if it’s going to be four or six [weeks], but somewhere in that range is the best guess right now.”

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With Correa joining Altuve and Diaz on the IL, the Astros are suddenly thin in the middle infield. Altuve was supposed to return from a hamstring injury later this week. However, his minor league rehab assignment was cut short due to pain and soreness in his leg related to knee surgery he had last October. It could be another two weeks or more until he’s back in the majors. Diaz, meanwhile, went to the IL on Monday with a hamstring strain that will likely keep him out for at least a couple of weeks.

Houston called up utility man Myles Straw to take Correa’s spot on the roster. Jack Mayfield is also a capable infielder while Tony Kemp has also been used at second base. However, it seems likely that Alex Bregman will slide over to shortstop now that Correa will be out for an extended period of time. That could force Yuli Gurriel to spend more time filling in for Bregman at third base and pushing Tyler White to play more first base rather than get most of his at-bats as a DH. The likes of Straw and Mayfield will also be mixed in as well.

“I feel comfortable we have organizational depth, but we will look externally to see if any options make sense,” says Luhnow. “We’re going to mix and match, and I’m going to leave it up to [Astros manager] AJ [Hinch] and [bench coach Joe] Espada to evaluate Straw and see if they feel he can help in the infield. We knew he’s a great defensive center fielder and outfielder and a right-handed bat, which fits well.”

Even if the Astros like their infield depth, being without both Correa and Altuve simultaneously is a huge blow for Houston. Having Diaz, their primary backup infielder, also on the IL adds to those problems. The absence of Springer at the same time doesn’t help. Those are three core players and one of Houston’s most important backups all missing at the same time.

If there’s a silver lining it’s that Houston began Wednesday with a 7.5-game lead atop the AL West standings. However, the Astros will be challenged to retain such a comfortable lead without some of their best players available. It figures to be at least a couple of weeks until any of the injured stars return. It’ll be interesting to see how the Astros fare in the meantime.

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