Yordan Alvarez
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Astros promote Yordan Alvarez

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The Astros have called up no. 3 prospect Yordan Alvarez in advance of Sunday’s series finale against the Orioles, per an official team announcement. The versatile infielder/outfielder is slated to fill in at DH for his debut and will bat fifth.

The addition of 21-year-old Alvarez may be just the thing to reinvigorate an injury-plagued lineup, especially as Houston is currently missing the talents of top hitters like José Altuve (hamstring strain), George Springer (hamstring strain), and Carlos Correa (rib fracture), with no plans for immediate reinstatement. So far this season, the highly-touted prospect has done his best to solidify a no. 3 ranking in the Astros’ system (and no. 23 ranking overall) with an electric .343/.443/.742 batting line, 23 home runs, and a 1.184 OPS over 253 plate appearances in Triple-A.

While Alvarez’s skillset lies primarily in his ability to hit for both average and power, his apparent lack of defensive prowess likely won’t be an issue for the Astros. Jake Kaplan of The Athletic reports that the rookie is expected to see many of his starts at DH, with limited appearances in left field as necessary.

In corresponding moves, the club transferred Lance McCullers (Tommy John surgery) from the 10-day injured list to the 60-day IL and optioned lefty reliever Reymin Guduan to clear a roster spot for Alvarez. It was a short stay in the majors for Guduan, who stumbled to an unsightly 14.54 ERA, 8.3 BB/9, and 10.4 SO/9 in six outings this year.

Astros block Detroit Free Press from clubhouse at Justin Verlander’s request

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Last night a BBWAA-credentialed reporter from the Detroit Free Press was barred from the Houston Astros’ clubhouse by team security following the Tigers win over the Astros. The reporter — who was almost certainly Anthony Fenech, who covers the Tigers — was kept out at the request of Astros starter Justin Verlander. Here’s the scene as described by the Free Press. The article contains a photo, taken by Fenech, of the three Astros officials who blocked the door to prevent him access:

At 9:35 p.m., the Astros opened their clubhouse to credentialed media in coordination with MLB rules. As other media members entered the clubhouse, the Free Press reporter with a valid BBWAA-issued credential was blocked from entering by three Astros security officials . . . The reporter contacted Mike Teevan, MLB vice president of communications, who said he would immediately reach out to Dias regarding the issue. Dias eventually gave the reporter access to the clubhouse at 9:41 p.m., after Verlander’s media session had ended . . . Once inside, the reporter approached Verlander, who said: “I’m not answering your questions.” When asked to comment on Wednesday’s loss, Verlander walked away.

That after-the-fact access for the reporter came only after he called Major League Baseball who, in turn, called Astros officials, presumably, to tell them that they cannot bar credentialed media.

It’s unclear at the moment what the beef is between Verlander and either the Free Press or the reporter. For what it’s worth, I follow Fenech and, while he’s a bit more witty and, occasionally, cutting than your average beat reporter, he’s self-effacing and doesn’t do cheap shots. Though he talks often about former Tigers and has made a point to highlight Verlander’s post-Tigers career whenever relevant, to my knowledge he hasn’t said or done anything specific to tweak Verlander in the past.

I will note, though, that last night, about eight minutes before Fenech was barred access, the Free Press Twitter account sent this tongue-in-cheek tweet out. It’s unclear if he or someone else at the paper wrote it:

Maybe that pissed off Verlander, who is known to be active on social media and is usually pretty aware of what’s being said about him. Hard to say.

What’s easy to say, though, is that no matter what has hurt Verlander’s fragile ego, the Astros barring the reporter from the clubhouse is in blatant violation of the agreement between Major League Baseball and the Baseball Writers Association of America, which ensures access for credentialed reporters. Verlander doesn’t have to talk to the guy — he doesn’t have to talk to anyone he doesn’t want to talk to — but the team honoring Verlander’s wishes to bar access is totally unacceptable and, frankly, about as low-rent as it gets from a media relations perspective.

We’ll probably hear more about this later today.