Posted on August 21, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine

Houston Astros Carlos Correa
Image via nytimes.com

Things have more or less gone according to plan for the Houston Astros in 2019. However, a pair of injuries has thrown a small wrench into things. The Astros have placed both shortstop Carlos Correa and starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez on the 10-day Injured List. While not necessarily season-altering injuries considering Houston’s comfortable lead atop the AL West, they are concerning nonetheless.

Correa left Monday’s win over the Tigers with a stiff lower back. After he was unable to play on Tuesday, the Astros decided not to take any chances and put him on the IL. It will be Correa’s second stint on the IL this year after missing close to two months with a broken rib. The Astros don’t believe the issue is serious, but given Correa’s history of back problems, any flare up is a concern, especially this late in the season.

“He’s doing a little bit better, but he’s not doing well enough to play,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Tuesday. “We haven’t seen anything that’s made us believe that this is anything major or massive, but it’s going to take a couple days — and certainly up to 10 days — to mend.”

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On the season, Correa is hitting .278 with an OPS of .914. Despite his earlier stint on the IL, he has 19 home runs this season, giving him a chance to break his career-high of 24 if he can make a quick recovery. He’s done well to bounce back from a down season in 2018 that was plagued by missing more than a month due to back trouble. Given his impact outside of his previous IL stint, the Astros are going to need Correa at 100% when the postseason rolls around.

In the meantime, utility man Jack Mayfield is expected to fill in at shortstop. Aledmys Diaz would be in line for the job, but he went on the IL over the weekend due to illness, although he’ll be eligible to return before Correa. In the event of a long-term absence, the Astros could slide Alex Bregman to shortstop if needed, but they probably won’t make any major changes like that if they think Correa will be able to return within a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, Sanchez has been placed on the IL with a strained pectoral muscle. Sanchez started Tuesday’s game for Houston but was pulled in the 3rd inning after his velocity dropped considerably. Hinch said after the game that Sanchez has been dealing with the pectoral issue for a while, dating back before he was sent to Houston at the trade deadline.

“For me, it’s been an ongoing thing,” Sanchez explained. “I tried to pitch through it. It’s kind of been up and down. When my [velocity] drops the way it is, there’s no sense to push through it, especially knowing where this team is going. I want to be a part of that down the stretch. The best bet is to figure out what’s going on and work from there.”

Sanchez was having a disastrous season with the Blue Jays but was excellent in his first two starts with the Astros. His last two starts have been less successful with his velocity dipping. However, if the Astros can get him back to full health, he could prove to be useful as either a starter or reliever down the stretch and in the playoffs.

Without Sanchez for a least a couple of turns through the rotation, the Astros will have to reshuffle some pieces. Brad Peacock and Collin McHugh could both be moved from the bullpen to the rotation temporarily. Houston also has a few youngsters that could be called up. Of course, they’d prefer to have Sanchez back sooner rather than later.

At the moment, the Astros have an 8-game lead in the AL West and the second-best record in the American League. With that lead, they can afford to be patient with Correa and Sanchez, especially since they are otherwise healthy. However, both players will be critical for Houston’s success in the postseason, and so they Astros will anxiously await the return of both Correa and Sanchez.

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