Astros general manager Ed Wade made it known Tuesday that the organization plans to have their September call-ups in uniform for Friday night’s three-game weekend opener against the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers at Minute Maid Park.
Although the Astros could wait to expand their active roster upon the conclusion of Triple-A Oklahoma City and Double-A Corpus Christi’s seasons, Wade wants to make his decisions by Friday.
Right-hander Lucas Harrell, who was claimed off waivers on July 8, will make his Astros debut Friday night by getting the starting nod.
Harrell, 26, was selected by the Chicago White Sox in the fourth round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft and evolved in their farm system prior to making his major league debut on July 30, 2010.
He had two stints with the White Sox this season.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Harrell has continued to turn heads since joining the Astros organization, going 5-2 with a 1.72 ERA and 38 strikeouts over 52 1/3 innings in nine starts at Oklahoma City.
He’ll receive an opportunity over the final month of the 2011 campaign to prove himself to Wade and manager Brad Mills after being on the verge of breaking into the big leagues on a more permanent basis with the White Sox dating back to last season.
It’s unclear how the Astros intend to utilize Harrell down the stretch, but for the time being, he’ll fill in Friday for ace Brett Myers, who’s leaving the club temporarily for the birth of his fourth child.
Harrell is 1-0 with a 5.28 ERA in 11 career games (three starts).
Wade told joltleft.com that he doesn’t anticipate the Sept. call-up list to be extensive, considering a handful of young players, such as Jose Altuve, J.D. Martinez, Jimmy Paredes, Henry Sosa and David Carpenter, already find themselves in the big leagues.
The Astros are expected to recall rookie right-hander Jordan Lyles, the team’s top prospect entering 2011, and outfielder J.B. Shuck from Oklahoma City, with Lyles scheduled to work out of the bullpen for the remainder of the season to limit his innings.
Lyles posted a 2-7 record with a 5.02 ERA in 15 starts for the Astros prior to being optioned to Triple-A on Aug. 21, while Shuck hit .250 with two RBI, two doubles and a stolen base over 44 at-bats in 16 games during his lone stint with Houston this season.
Fernando Abad, Blake King, Arcenio Leon, Jose Valdez and Henry Villar, as well as Chris Johnson, J.R. Towles and Brett Wallace, could be in position for a potential call-up, since these particular players are currently on the Astros’ 40-man roster.
Johnson and Wallace — both starters at third and first base throughout the majority of the 2011 campaign — will likely rejoin the team.
Also, reliever Enerio Del Rosario continues to progress during his current minor league rehab assignment at Oklahoma City and finds himself close to being activated from the 15-day disabled list after suffering a right shoulder strain earlier this month.
The most intriguing call-up may arguably be behind the plate, as an MLB source told joltleft.com that Houston plans to carry a third catcher on the depth chart behind Humberto Quintero and Carlos Corporan during the final month of the season.
Towles seems to be the logical choice based on his roster status, but the source indicated that Astros pitching coach Doug Brocail has been in communication with Mills regarding the possibility of adding Brian Esposito as the third catcher instead.
Brocail and Esposito have known each other for seven years dating back to their days as members of the Texas Rangers organization.
Esposito, who was a September call-up in 2010 and had a brief stint with Houston this season, isn’t known for lighting up the box score, yet he’s developed an exceptional reputation within the organization for working effectively with the young arms.
The 32-year-old Esposito brings a coaching mentality to the field and knows how to properly break down scouting reports, as well as write them — a skill he enjoys passing along to the youngsters in order to make their transition to the big leagues easier.
He’s currently in the farm system at Corpus Christi.
Towles, 27, had several chances to prove himself this season to the Astros, especially with starter Jason Castro out for the entire year while rehabbing from right knee surgery in early March.
However, Towles hit .180 with three homers and 10 RBI over 128 at-bats in 44 games before being optioned to Triple-A on July 6.
He’s bounced back to hit .284 over 102 at-bats in 34 games at Oklahoma City while posting an impressive .439 on-base percentage.
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