Sign up for the Texas Sports Nation Daily Playbook for exclusive sports coverage delivered right to your inbox.
BOSTON — In an expected move to accommodate the seven-game American League Championship Series, the Astros added a pitcher to their postseason bullpen at the expense of a position player.
Both Hector Rondon and Joe Smith will be in Houston’s eight-man bullpen against the Red Sox after not making the American League Division Series roster.
Their additions required the omission of righthander Will Harris and pinch runner Myles Straw, both of whom made the 25-man ALDS roster.
"I had a feeling. I wasn’t too shocked," Straw said. "I want to be out there with the guys and I want to compete. It is what it is, but it’s whatever puts the team in line to win. I’m here for these guys to win and go as far as we can."
Straw and Evan Gattis were the two position players combating for one spot.
Straw’s speed and defense are renowned but, in the postseason, the rookie would likely not be summoned to take the crucial at-bat Gattis is more equipped to handle. Gattis took two at-bats in the three-game ALDS and did not reach base.
Hinch cited both Jake Marisnick and Tony Kemp as viable pinch runners off the bench, too, all but eliminating a need for Straw.
"It’s hard. I should make a plea for a 26-man roster in the playoffs because (Straw) would have been a nice weapon to have," Hinch said. "He and Marisnick are very similar, Jake has a ton of history in this ballpark and certainly on the defensive side. I could run Tony Kemp as well."
Rondon was the most notable exclusion from the Astros’ ALDS roster, a move Hinch said was due to unfavorable matchups against the Indians. Harris, conversely, was placed on the roster due to his curveball and cut-fastball combo that flummoxes lefthanded-heavy lineups like the Indians.
"I felt like I had a pretty normal year for myself, probably a better year than people want to give me credit for but this is the way it goes," said Harris, who finished the regular season with a 3.49 ERA and 2.44 FIP.
"This is a tough pen to crack. I was proud that I made it the first round, but the two guys coming in obviously earned it equally as much as I did."
Neither Rondon nor Smith has a large sample size against Boston this season. Rondon threw 2 ⅓ regular season innings of one-run ball while scattering five hits. Smith, a righty sidearming specialist, threw just 1 ⅔ innings against the Sox.
Smith will likely be summoned only for the fearsome righthanded hitters in Boston’s lineup. Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez are a combined 5-for-19 lifetime against him.
"Hector and Joe are both very valuable relievers — very high-end relievers for us," Hinch said. "You just have to pick a group of guys and we’re going with the guys who we feel are the best matchup for the different looks at different parts of the batting order. Not an easy exercise."
James can provide the length Harris could not. He pitched at Fenway Park in September, too, striking out four in 2 ⅔ innings of one-hit ball, navigating Boston’s entire lineup with relative ease in only his second major league outing.
Excluding Harris seemed to be due to the emergence of rookie righthander Josh James. Harris threw the ninth inning of Game 3 against the Indians — finishing the series. James did not pitch against Cleveland.
"I’m disappointed, man. I’m a competitor," Harris said. "I’ve been in this organization now for four years and I’ve felt like I’ve had the best four years of my career since I’ve been here. This is why we play, to pitch in the postseason. To not crack the roster going onto the next round is disappointing. It is what it is. I’m proud of the year I had, I’m proud of the way I pitched, I’m proud of the way I handled myself, so we’ll see what happens going forward."
"Will’s the odd man out by numbers not by skill," Hinch added.