HOUSTON -- - Veteran left-handed pitcher Joe Thatcher was designated for assignment by the Astros on Tuesday to make room on the roster for rookie right-hander Vincent Velasquez, who was called up to start and picked up the victory in the 8-3 win over the Red Sox.
Thatcher, who made the club out of the spring as a non-roster invitee, threw 19 innings in 36 games for the Astros, allowing 21 hits, 11 walks and eight runs (3.79 ERA). He struck out 22 batters, but had allowed four runs in 1 1/3 innings in his last five outings.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Thatcher was struggling with command lately.
"It was a difficult time for him in his last five outings," he said. "It's a small sample size for him. But a repeatable delivery where guys could zone him in in a 2-1, 3-1 count and things like that became troubling for him. That's the nature of the business. You end up having to make hard decisions and turn away really good people and good baseball men, and Joe represented us very well and will land on his feet."
The Astros have 10 days to trade, release or send Thatcher to the Minor Leagues, but his time in the organization is likely done. Thatcher's contract this season paid him $1 million, with an additional $1.3 million available in incentives.
Hinch said the Astros are able to go with seven relief pitchers for the next few weeks because the team has a lot more off-days coming up and can use those to rest relievers. He said the shuffling between a 12- and 13-man pitching staff will continue into August before rosters expand in September.
"For us, with the off-days in August and coming off of the break, our starters are hoping to go deep into games and the extra reliever became the causality here," Hinch said.
For the first time this season, the Astros will have just one lefty in the bullpen: Tony Sipp.
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.