Vincent Velasquez seemingly had one of the best starts of his short career. He threw 6.1 innings, allowing just two hits, two runs, and two walks while striking out five. It was a quality start by the rookie but it was also his first loss of his career as the offense was unable to give him any support.
Following the loss, the Astros demoted Velasquez to AA Corpus Christi. However, the move wasn’t necessarily a demotion, rather a way to keep his innings count down.
Velasquez and Lance McCullers Jr. have both pitched well in their rookie year with the Astros, but both will be under an innings-limit this season, with the amount of innings unannounced. GM Jeff Luhnow prefers to keep his youngsters from wearing out their arms early in their careers, which is one reason he likes to use a tandem-pitching system in the Minor Leagues.
Velasquez’s career high in innings pitched is just under 125 innings. That was back in 2013. Besides 2013, the 2010 2nd-rounder has only pitched more than 50 innings in one other season (63.2 innings in 2014). The other seasons, including 2014, were cut short due to injuries.
McCullers is in a similar boat, not having more than 104.2 innings in his career (2013). So far this season, McCullers has combined for 87.1 innings at both the MLB level and at Double-A. Velasquez has combined for 58.1 innings.
How many more starts each starter will receive will be up to Luhnow. Teams usually like to limit their young pitchers somewhere between 130 and 150 innings. However, if the Astros are in a pennant race can they afford to bench a dominant McCullers?
The Astros demoted Velasquez so they can give him two weeks off before his likely next start. By calling up Brett Oberholtzer for Thursday’s start, McCullers will only pitch one more time before the All-Star game and then likely be slotted towards the end of the rotation coming out of the break.
McCullers likely has another 8-10 more starts in him before the Astros may decide to shut him down. Velasquez could have a few more but the Astros may want to shut him down earlier due to his extensive injury history.
More from Houston Astros
- Astros-Twins Wild Card Series: 5 things to know as MLB postseason begins
- Houston Astros: Playoffs require stronger finish
- Houston Astros: Three reasons why team should trade Josh Reddick now
- Houston Astros: Assessing the lineup without Yordan Álvarez
- Houston Astros: Why the pitching rotation is coming together at right time
We may see the Astros move to a 6-man rotation later this season to help out with the innings load. We may also see McCullers and/or Velasquez sent to the bullpen to keep their innings count down.
Whatever the case may be, I don’t expect much of an answer until after the deadline when the team has cleared up its pitching rotation. The Astros are still in need of another top-of-the-line starter and that could shake up the Astros’ plans as well.
Time will tell but expect a different rotation in a few weeks and an updated plan once we reach August.
Click here for all the latest on the Houston Astros.