Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve will be activated off the injured list and rejoin the team for Friday night's series opener against the Oakland Athletics at Minute Maid Park, the Astros announced Friday morning. Altuve has not played this season after being hit by a pitch and breaking his thumb in the World Baseball Classic in March.
The thumb fracture required surgery and, at the time of the injury, the Astros said Altuve would be sidelined two months. That put him on track to return in late May, though his rehab work has gone so well that he's returning slightly ahead of schedule. Altuve, an eight-time All-Star, went 2 for 22 (.091) in five minor-league rehab games within the last week.
"He hasn't had a bunch of hits, but he feels good," Astros manager Dusty Baker told MLB.com about Altuve's rehab assignment.
Altuve, 33, slashed .300/.387/.533 with 28 home runs last season. He struggled in the postseason (.190/.242/.241), though the Astros were so good they won the World Series anyway. Given the long layoff and short rehab assignment, it's possible Altuve will have some rust to shake off initially. Once he does though, there's no reason to think he will be anything other than very productive.
Utility man Mauricio Dubón filled in at second base during Altuve's absence and has played very well, including cobbling together a 20-game hitting streak in April. Dubón owns a .309/.333/.389 batting line and he has big league experience at every position other than first base, catcher, and pitcher. The Astros will surely find a way to keep him in the lineup alongside Altuve.
Even with Altuve returning, the Astros will still be without several important players: Michael Brantley (shoulder surgery), Luis Garcia (Tommy John surgery), Lance McCullers Jr. (elbow strain), and José Urquidy (shoulder discomfort). Garcia is done for the season. There is no firm timetable for any of the other three to return.
The Astros enter play Friday with a 24-19 record. They have won seven of their last eight games to climb to within two games of the Texas Rangers in the AL West.