Astros option Velasquez to give him rest

Houston wants rookie fresh for 2nd half; McCullers pushed back to Sunday

Astros option Velasquez to give him rest

CLEVELAND -- With the innings piling up for young starting pitchers Lance McCullers Jr. and Vincent Velasquez, the Astros have talked for a couple of weeks about having to find ways to keep them fresh in the second half.

After Velasquez threw 6 1/3 innings in Tuesday's 2-0 loss to the Indians at Progressive Field -- the third consecutive start in which he's pitched into the seventh inning -- the Astros optioned the 23-year-old to Double-A Corpus Christi so he can rest during the All-Star break.

Houston manager A.J. Hinch said Velasquez won't pitch for the Hooks, but Velasquez said he'll be on a throwing program and welcomed the break. Velasquez, who began the year on the disabled list, has thrown a combined 58 1/3 innings between the Minors and Majors. His career high is 124 2/3 in 2013.

"It's not pleasant news, but they're looking out for me," said Velasquez, who will be slotted back in after the All-Star break. "I think I'll be fully refreshed."

McCullers, who was originally scheduled to start Friday in St. Petersburg, Fla., against the Rays, will be pushed back until Sunday. Left-hander Brett Oberholtzer will be called up to start Thursday's series finale against the Indians.

McCullers works out of a jam

McCullers has thrown a combined 87 1/3 innings this year, putting him close to his career high of 104 2/3 set in 2013. The Astros have Scott Feldman coming back from knee surgery soon, but they still could use another arm as the non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches.

"Clearly, these guys are starting to enter some uncharted waters for their rest, recovery," Hinch said. "Obviously, we know [Velasquez] is a part of what we're doing and we're expecting to see him again. Given how we're riding our bullpen right now, where we are with the schedule with the All-Star break, we're going to give him a little mental and physical blow for the time being and resort it out after the break."

Velasquez (0-1, 3.94 ERA) has made six starts since being called up from Double-A a month ago. He's thrown 19 innings and allowed 16 hits and struck out 14 batters in his last three starts, posting a 3.79 ERA. On Tuesday, he gave up a pair of two-out hits in the first, including an RBI double by David Murphy, and grooved a changeup to start the sixth to Michael Brantley, who hit a homer.

"I thought he bounced back pretty well," Hinch said. "That first inning they made him work. The two-out hits were killers for him. That's a good job by them … the first-pitch changeup to Brantley cost him a run. We had a small margin for error against [Corey] Kluber, turned out to be no margin. We couldn't solve him."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.