Jesse Crain is approaching one calendar year without pitching, with his last appearance coming on June 29 for the White Sox, which was two teams ago. Now he’s with the Astros and thanks to numerous setbacks in his recovery there’s still no timetable for his return from shoulder and biceps injuries.
Crain signed a one-year, $3.25 million contract with the Astros this offseason and the plan was for him to step into the closer role, prove he’s healthy, and hit the open market again as a free agent.
Instead, here’s what general manager Jeff Luhnow told Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle about Crain’s status:
Still working on the strengthening and recovering from weakness in his scap [right scapula muscle]. I don’t have a time frame. … I think right now since we’re in the middle of June you would have to assume that him coming back in June is probably not going to happen.
Well, yeah. As of May 2 the Astros were targeting a May 29 return for Crain. And before that they thought he might actually be ready for Opening Day.
Before the injury Crain was an All-Star for the White Sox in 2012, throwing 37 innings with a 0.74 ERA and 46/11 K/BB ratio, which is why the Rays and now the Astros were willing to take fliers on him knowing he might never actually pitch for them.
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Jesse Crain never pitched for the Rays after they acquired him from the White Sox in the middle of last season and he’s yet to pitch for the Astros after they signed him to a one-year deal this winter. And whenever he does debut for Houston it won’t be before May 29.
That’s when he’s first eligible to return following a move to transfer the right-hander to the 60-day disabled list. Houston needed a 40-man roster spot for left-hander Tony Sipp, who joins the bullpen in a middle relief role.
Crain has yet to advance to throwing off a mound, so even a May 29 return seems iffy at this point. His last game action came on June 29 of last year for Chicago, as his shoulder problems and recovery from biceps surgery simply have not progressed amid numerous setbacks.
Jesse Crain’s last two years have been a bumpy ride. As a reliever with the White Sox, Crain landed on the 60-day disabled list in early July last season with a strained right shoulder. Despite the injury, the Rays decided to gamble and traded for him in late July, hoping he’d be able to make a return and help the team for a playoff push in September. It never materialized.
Crain became a free agent, underwent shoulder surgery in October, and eventually signed with the Astros on a one-year, $3.25 million deal. The Astros were making a similar gamble as the Rays, hopeful that Crain would be healthy enough to contribute at some point during the season.
Crain strained his calf early in spring training, adding insult to literal injury. And now there’s even more. As Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle reports, Crain has developed bursitis in his right shoulder. Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursae sacs of synovial fluid. They sit where muscle and tendons slide across the bone, allowing for movement without friction. As a result of the latest developments, GM Jeff Luhnow scrapped Crain’s most recent timetable of early May, and did not offer an updated timetable.
The Astros could have certainly used the help. They enter Friday night’s action with the fourth-worst bullpen ERA in baseball at 5.45, behind only the Tigers, Phillies, and White Sox. In the 36 2/3 innings Crain pitched leading up to his initial injury last season, Crain had a 0.74 ERA along with 46 strikeouts and 10 unintentional walks. The 32-year-old has a career 3.05 ERA over 532 innings.