Mariners ready for improved Astros lineup

MLB

The Houston Astros’ ailing offense is about to get a big boost.

Manager Dusty Baker said Wednesday that reigning American League Rookie of the Year Yordan Alvarez, who has yet to play this season, could be back “in a couple days.”

That would indicate Alvarez might see action when the Astros open a three-game series at home Friday night against the Seattle Mariners.

Alvarez, on the injured list for undisclosed reasons, has been working out at the Astros’ alternate training site in Corpus Christi. He had five doubles and a home run in 19 plate appearances in intrasquad games, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The Astros’ lineup has been hampered by George Springer’s wrist injury, Michael Brantley’s quad strain and Jose Altuve’s struggles.

Springer returned to the starting lineup Wednesday as the Astros defeated visiting San Francisco 5-1.

“I think with (Alvarez) in the lineup, a lot of things can happen,” Springer said Wednesday. “All of us got a pretty good glimpse at the stuff he could do last year. He’s a very, very impactful bat. To have a guy in there like that, hopefully that can lengthen out the lineup a little bit and add a spark or two.”

Alvarez’s return could create a glut at the designated hitter slot for the Astros.

Springer served as the DH on Wednesday and Brantley, who got the day off, has been limited to hitting.

“We’re exchanging one guy with a bad hand for a guy with a bad leg,” Baker said.

Both Springer and Brantley would have to return to the outfield as Baker has said he doesn’t envision Alvarez, who batted .313 with 27 home runs and 78 RBI in 87 games last season, playing defense.

“We tried to have Yordan play the field in spring training and his knees got sore and he couldn’t play for a couple days,” Baker said. “That’s why we got to try to get Michael back well enough for him to play the field.”

Left-hander Framber Valdez (0-2, 2.04 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Astros. He allowed one earned run and seven hits in seven innings Saturday in a 3-1 loss at Oakland. Valdez is 2-0 with a 1.56 ERA in four career appearances against Seattle, including two starts.

The Mariners, who had their first day off of the season Thursday after playing 20 games in 20 days, will send left-hander Yusei Kikuchi (0-1, 5.28 ERA) to the mound. He’s 0-2 with a 6.46 ERA in five career starts against Houston.

Seattle’s bullpen blew a three-run lead in a 7-4 loss Wednesday at Texas.

“Giving young guys opportunities in those spots is really, really valuable,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said of his relievers. “They will learn from it, and we will benefit from it down the road. It’s just a little painful (Wednesday) when we didn’t get the ‘W’ after we were in control of that ballgame.”

The Mariners spent their off day in Houston, but players and staff were encouraged to stay at the team hotel because of coronavirus concerns.

“A whole lot of Call of Duty will be played,” Mariners shortstop J.P. Crawford said.

–Field Level Media

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