The Astros weren't going to have Wilton Lopez pitch through the pain anymore. A week after they initially diagnosed his right elbow soreness as neuritis that would not affect him and a day after he came in sore again, they performed an MRI and put Lopez on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation of the ulnar nerve.
"The report is right away that as of right now, it shouldn't be longer than 15 days," manager Brad Mills said prior to the Astros' 4-2 loss to San Diego on Friday. "We'll see how everything plays out and how he starts throwing the ball when he does come back."
Lopez had been ineffective after working his way up to the closer role last year and had allowed five runs (four earned) in his first 4 2/3 innings. Mills and the Astros staff had also noticed that it was taking him longer than usual to warm up and that he didn't have the movement they were accustomed to seeing on his pitches.
So he had an MRI on Friday morning and the Astros made the quick decision to let the arm rest. In his place, they purchased the contract of non-roster reliever Jose Valdez from Class AAA Oklahoma City.
Lopez's setup role will not be filled by one man. Mark Melancon pitched 1 2/3 shutout innings on Thursday and he will be used most frequently, but Jeff Fulchino and others could see some late time with the lead.
"We really like what Melancon's done this year, and I think we're going to be able to piece it together," Mills said. "We'll try to mix and match a little bit and hopefully we can bridge that gap to (closer Brandon Lyon)."
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