Following four-game sweep, Astros send Brad Peacock to pen

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Forced to try something new with their starters putting way too much pressure on their bullpen, the Astros dropped Brad Peacock from the rotation on Monday.

No replacement was immediately announced by the team, which lost four straight in Boston this weekend to drop to 7-18.

Peacock, who was part of the Jed Lowrie-Chris Carter deal with the A’s in the offseason, had a 6.01 ERA in Triple-A last year, so his struggles don’t come as much of a surprise. He was 1-3 with an 8.44 ERA in five starts this season. He gave up five runs and walked five in 3 1/3 innings Saturday in a loss to the Red Sox.

Unfortunately for the Astros, that 8.44 ERA didn’t make Peacock the only obvious choice for demotion. While Lucas Harrell and Bud Norris have both been solid in posting ERAs in the low-4.00s, Erik Bedard is at 7.98 and Philip Humber is at 7.99.

In 25 games this season, the Astros have already had three starters pulled in the first inning. Starters were removed prior to completing five innings 12 times in all. In just six of the 25 games have their starters lastedsix innings.

Current relievers Dallas Kuechel and Paul Clemens appear to be the most likely choices to replace Peacock. Travis Blackley might also be a possibility, though he’s struggled some since coming off the DL. Top prospect Jarred Cosart figures to spend a bit more time on the farm before he gets a chance. Ideally, Jordan Lyles would be ready to contribute, but he’s posted a 5.32 ERA and struck out just 11 in 23 2/3 innings for Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Japanese Baseball to begin June 19

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Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.

The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.

The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.

In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.