The last two weeks have not gone especially well for the Houston Astros. Since their 7-1 start, the Astros have lost nine times in 11 games, and Saturday afternoon they lost righty Jake Odorizzi to an arm injury. Odorizzi exited his start against the Angels (GameTracker) with the team trainer after only five pitches. The Astros later announced he was removed with right forearm tightness.
Odorizzi threw five pitches Saturday: 87.0 mph fastball, 87.6 mph fastball, 81.9 mph slider, 80.9 mph slider, and 79.9 mph slider. His fastball averaged 92 mph and his slider 84 mph in his first two starts of the season, so his velocity drop was significant.
Forearm tightness is typically a symptom of elbow ligament issues and a common precursor to Tommy John surgery, though not always. Odorizzi will surely head for tests on his forearm and elbow to determine the nature and severity of the injury.
The Astros are already without Justin Verlander, who will miss the season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, and Framber Valdez, who had a finger broken by a comebacker in spring training. Valdez's timetable is unclear -- there was initially some thought he could miss the entire season -- though he recently threw a bullpen session.
Houston's current rotation is fronted by Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers Jr., and Jose Urquidy. Cristian Javier impressed as a rookie last year and has been very good in three starts. Right-hander Luis Garcia has also made two starts and would be the obvious candidate to step into Odorizzi's rotation spot, should he miss time.
Garcia and Javier figure to have workload limits this summer, so even if Valdez returns within a few weeks, the Astros may need to go out and add pitching at the trade deadline if Odorizzi will miss significant time. Righty Brandon Bielak is another in-house rotation candidate, though top prospect Forrest Whitley will miss the season with Tommy John surgery.
Odorizzi, 31, signed a two-year contract with a third year player option worth $20.25 million in March. Non-arm injuries limited him to four starts and 13 2/3 innings with the Twins in 2020. In two starts this year, Odorizzi allowed nine runs in 7 2/3 innings. He was getting built up slowly after signing late in the offseason.