Astros All-Star Framber Valdez scratched due to elbow soreness, will see team doctors

Houston Astros starting pitcher Framber Valdez, a two-time All-Star, was scratched from a scheduled start Monday due to elbow soreness, the team announced.

Per, Valdez felt soreness while playing catch Sunday and traveled to Houston on Monday morning to be examined by team doctors. He was previously set to start against the Texas Rangers in Arlington.

Astros manager Joe Espada and general manager Dana Brown reportedly downplayed the seriousness of the situation by noting that the team wasn't placing Valdez on the 15-day injured list yet, but they admitted they won't know the full story until the doctors take a closer look:

“The fact we didn’t put him on the IL is a good sign, we’ll see what the doctors say," Espada said.

In the meantime, the Astros called up Blair Henley from Triple-A Sugar Land to make his MLB debut Monday against the Rangers. Henley, a seventh-round pick out of Texas in 2019, posted a 5.06 ERA in Double-A last season.

It was a less than memorable debut for Henley, who got only one of eight batters he faced out in the first inning. He allowed four hits, five earned runs and walked three on 39 pitches. Four relievers held the Rangers scoreless the rest of the way in a 10-5 Astros win.

HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 22: Framber Valdez #59 of the Houston Astros looks on prior to Game Six of the American League Championship Series against the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park on October 22, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
The Astros are holding their breath on Framber Valdez. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Valdez has received Cy Young votes and an All-Star nod the past two seasons for the Astros, posting a 3.13 ERA in 399 1/3 combined innings. He was off to a strong start this season, with a 2.19 ERA in 12 1/3 innings across two starts.

The Astros' stated optimism likely won't stop fans from being anxious about the possibility of yet another major pitcher injury, given the week the league has had. Cleveland Guardians ace Shane Bieber, Atlanta Braves ace Spencer Strider and Miami Marlins star Eury Pérez have all hit the IL due to elbow injuries. Bieber and Pérez will undergo Tommy John surgery, while Strider is receiving a second opinion.

The situation has renewed discourse about how to prevent such injuries in modern MLB, in which pitchers throw harder than they ever have, try to spin the ball more than they ever have, are forbidden from using sticky stuff to make holding the ball easier and can wait only 15 seconds before throwing the ball in some at-bats.

The MLB Players Association has focused on the pitch clock in particular as a potential cause of the injuries, an idea MLB immediately pushed back on.