Just a week after losing right-hander Alex White to Tommy John elbow surgery the Astros lost another potential starter, right-hander John Ely, to the same surgery.
Ely, who was acquired from the Dodgers in a trade back in December, began the season at Triple-A after failing to win a rotation spot during spring training. He tossed four shutout innings in his only appearance there before being shut down and will miss the entire season.
Ely led the Pacific Coast League in ERA last season, going 14-7 with a 3.20 ERA and 165 strikeouts in 169 innings, but has a 5.70 ERA in 115 innings as a big leaguer through age 27.
Jordan Lyles threw a complete-game shutout against the Brewers in his final outing last season to finish 5-12 with a 5.09 ERA. Now, that doesn’t sound very impressive, but he was just 21 years old and that he was an Astro explains the win-loss record. He entered camp this year penciled in as Houston’s No. 3 starter behind Lucas Harrell and Bud Norris.
Unfortunately, Lyles’ position in the rotation is now very much in doubt. He gave up six runs in two-thirds of an inning in his start against the Braves on Friday, elevating his spring ERA to 25.20. In three outings, he’s given up 20 hits and 15 runs — 14 earned — over five innings.
The Astros do have rotation alternatives, so Lyles will probably be Triple-A bound barring a massive turnaround in his next two starts. Philip Humber and Erik Bedard were the favorites for the last two rotation spots entering camp, with Alex White and John Ely next in line. They also have Edgar Gonzalez and Dallas Kuechel available as fallback options.
Count on Houston looking at any out-of-options starters placed on waivers later this month. The Blue Jays’ Brett Cecil is an obvious possibility. There are also guys like the Dodgers’ Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang, the Royals’ Luke Hochevar and Bruce Chen and the Rays’ Jeff Niemann available in trade talks. Rick Porcello, too, but the Astros don’t have the closer the Tigers are looking for and probably wouldn’t want to give up prospects for him.
Houston picked up a potential back-of-the-rotation starter in John Ely, acquiring the right-hander from Los Angeles for minor leaguer Rob Rasmussen.
Ely hasn’t had much success in various stints with the Dodgers, throwing 115 career innings with a 5.70 ERA, but he led the hitter-friendly Triple-A Pacific Coast League with a 3.20 ERA this year while posting an excellent 165/36 K/BB ratio in 169 innings.
Obviously the Astros can use all the pitching help they can get and the 27-year-old Ely has the potential to be useful if given an extended opportunity.
Rasmussen was the Marlins’ second-round pick in 2010, had a mediocre season between Single-A and Double-A as a 23-year-old, and was traded to the Astros in the Carlos Lee deal. He’s not a bad pickup for the Dodgers considering Ely wasn’t in their plans at all.