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Jose Altuve will make his season debut for the Astros on Friday

The All-Star second baseman has been slowly working his way back after fracturing his thumb during the World Baseball Classic.

Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros takes infield as he continues to rehab a broken right thumb at Minute Maid Park on May 03, 2023 in Houston, Texas. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Houston Astros have managed to stay afloat despite an uncharacteristically moribund offense so far this season, and now that lineup will be getting a huge shot in the arm. Second baseman Jose Altuve has been activated off the injured list and will make season debut tonight against the Oakland Athletics — with Houston releasing a whole hype video to mark the occasion.

Altuve’s been on the shelf since late March, when a Daniel Bard fastball broke his thumb during the World Baseball Classic. The initial timeframe for a return was two months, but the All-Star’s rehab has gone well enough that he’s returning slightly ahead of schedule. He’s spent the last week or so getting at-bats at Double-A and Triple-A, and while he’s gone just 2-for-22 over that time, manager Dusty Baker reported that Altuve “feels good” and is ready to return.

Underwhelming Minor League numbers aside, there’s no reason to think that Altuve will be anything other than very productive once he knocks the rust off. The 33-year-old slashed .300/.387/.533 with 28 homers and 18 steals in 141 games last season, making his eighth All-Star team and helping the Astros win the World Series (although he did struggle a bit at the plate in October). His return couldn’t come at a better time for the Astros, who currently sit second in the AL West at 24-19 — a minor miracle considering the injuries they’ve suffered to starters Luis Garcia, Jose Urquidy and Lance McCullers Jr. as well as position players like Michael Brantley and Chas McCormick.

Utilityman Mauricio Dubon has been holding down the keystone in Altuve’s absence, and he’s been a revelation, hitting .309/.333/.389 and even putting together a 20-game hitting streak at one point last month. Obviously second base will be Altuve’s gig now, but Houston will surely find a way to keep him in the lineup given his experience everywhere on the diamond defensively.