A closer is sidelined while another is ready to return. A slugger is sidelined while another is ready to return. A Cincinnati Red is sidelined while another is ready to return. We’ll talk about those mirroring topics as well as Jose Altuve’s terrible, no good, very bad foul ball in today’s injury roundup.
Josh Hader, RP, Milwaukee Brewers
The National League Reliever of the Month hasn’t pitched in a game since April 27 because of back spasms. Fortunately, he did make it through a bullpen session without incident Tuesday, so may return to the back of the Crew’s bullpen on Wednesday or Thursday. Hader has been dominant (obviously, given that recent recognition), throwing 9.1 scoreless innings so far with just two hits allowed and 15 strikeouts. He is a perfect 10-for-10 in save opportunities. Devin Williams has been filling in for him in the meantime.
Ryan Pressly, RP, Houston Astros
Another top-shelf closer could make his return Thursday, as Pressly has been working his way back from right knee inflammation, which the team believes was the cause of his early-season velocity dip. He’s performed well on his rehab assignment, including a six-pitch inning at Triple-A on Tuesday, and should be inserted right back into the ninth when he’s officially activated from the injured list. Sans Pressly, the Astros have been passing around the closer’s role to Ryne Stanek, Rafael Montero and Hector Neris, with mixed results. Montero has been the man in the ninth most often recently.
Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros
Speaking of the Astros, Altuve left Wednesday’s game versus the Mariners in the fifth inning due to right groin soreness. That is the official explanation from the team. But that doesn’t truly capture just how Altuve hurt himself. That is some incredibly bad luck.
However, right now, the sense is he’ll be back in short orders. Fantasy managers should want nothing on his replacement, Niko Goodrum.
Nelson Cruz, DH, Washington Nationals
Cruz is 41 years old, ancient in MLB years. And as it goes with old age, sometimes your back starts acting up out of nowhere. That’s what happened to Cruz on Tuesday night when he was pulled from the Nats’ game against the Rockies in the seventh inning due to back tightness.
Unfortunately, Cruz’s bat has looked pretty old as well so far. He has put together a terrible .143/.233/.209 slash line through 91 at-bats this year. Traditionally one of the game’s leaders in average exit velocity, hard-hit rate and barrel rate, Cruz percentile rankings in those three categories are 42nd, 50th and 45th, respectively. Maybe it’s just a bad month. Or maybe Father Time has finally caught up to the seven-time All-Star. He’s owned in about 80 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues, but I wouldn’t be against dropping him if you needed the roster spot.
Joey Gallo, OF, New York Yankees
Another scuffling slugger, Gallo is back in the Yankees’ lineup after missing three games due to groin tightness. Looking at his metrics and expected stats, Gallo has a little more reason for optimism than Cruz — besides the fact that he is also still in his athletic prime at 28. But it sure has been a rough 21 games for him thus far, with a .570 OPS, two home runs, three RBIs and a 42 percent strikeout rate. However, I think Gallo will heat up at some point soon; that short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium just begs for him.
Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds
TikTok superstar Joey Votto has been on the league’s COVID-19 injured list since Tuesday and will be out “more than a few days,” according to Reds manager David Bell. Votto hasn’t tested positive for the virus, but he is experiencing symptoms, so the team made the precautionary move. The veteran first baseman appeared in each of the Reds’ first 22 games this season, but he is hitting just .122 with three RBIs. It’s hard to believe just how bad Votto has been this season, given his long history as one of MLB’s best hitters and his power explosion last year. But he has indeed been one of the league’s worst at the plate thus far, and he’s stuck on the worst team in the Majors. What already looks like a season to forget for the Reds may very well be one for Votto, too.
Luis Castillo, SP, Cincinnati Reds
How about some positive Reds news?! When you’ve lost 18 of the past 19 games, you’ll take whatever you can get. You might have seen in that linked tweet about Votto that Castillo is “penciled in” to start Monday’s home game versus the Brewers. That will follow Castillo’s third and final rehab start, which will take place Wednesday. He has yet to pitch this season due to shoulder soreness, but the Reds’ ace should be owned in all formats. Yeah, he won’t win many games on this dreadful team, but over the past three seasons, he has pitched to a 3.56 ERA, a 3.61 FIP and a 10.2 strikeout-per-nine rate.