HOUSTON -- With their bullpen having thrown nine innings the previous two nights, the Astros on Thursday called up rookie right-hander Vincent Velasquez from Double-A Corpus Christi for his third stint with the club. That was bad news for Josh Fields, who was optioned to Double-A because he had pitched in four of the previous five games and wouldn't have been available for a few days.
Fields improved to 4-1 with a 2.20 ERA by getting the win in Wednesday's 3-2 victory and was simply the odd man out. He has 54 strikeouts in 41 innings with a 0.95 WHIP, so he's been pitching well. He'll have to stay in Corpus Christi at least 10 days unless there's an injury, and manager A.J. Hinch said he would appear in a couple of games.
"We needed a fresh arm, and Josh is the guy with options," Hinch said. "So it's fallen to him."
Velasquez went 1-1 with a 3.67 ERA in nine games (seven starts) with the Astros in June, July and August and was sent back to Double-A following his Aug. 1 outing against the D-backs because the Astros are limiting his innings. He's thrown in four games in August for the Hooks, allowing three earned runs and five hits in 6 2/3 innings. MLBPipeline.com ranks him as the Astros' No. 5 prospect.
"When there's probably one guy you have to go and get out, it changes the whole game, the whole situation, so you can't just go out there and throw the fastball the first pitch," Velasquez said of pitching in relief. "They might swing and hit it and hit a home run, and that changes the whole game. You just have to be a student of the game while you're out there. You have to watch the game, you have to watch the hitters. That's pretty much what I learned."
Hinch said the club talked about possibly sending down a position player instead of Fields, but outfielder Carlos Gomez has been under the weather, outfielder Colby Rasmus is dealing with various aches and third baseman Jed Lowrie isn't playing every day after missing three months with a thumb injury.
"Those guys aren't obviously in the conversation, but they affect how the rest of the roster is needed," Hinch said. "The way Marwin [Gonzalez] is playing, the way that [Jake] Marisnick can come off the bench, they all add something different. You're taking somewhere, something out of your team whenever you make a move like this. With Fields being down for a few days and the 'pen needing a jolt of freshness, we felt like that was the better option."
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.