Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker will need to focus on who is in his dugout -- not who isn't -- when his team hosts the Oakland Athletics in the second game of a three-game series on Saturday.
With the announcement on Friday that left fielder Michael Brantley underwent an arthroscopic labral repair on his right shoulder, the Astros confirmed what had long been suspected: Brantley, in the final year of his two-year contract extension, will miss the remainder of the 2022 season.
Baker has shuffled multiple players in left field since Brantley landed on the injured list on June 27, with utility man Aledmys Diaz manning the position Friday in a 7-5 win over the A's. Diaz finished 2-for-4 with a run.
Brantley was batting .288 with five home runs and 26 RBIs in 64 games before his injury. In addition to Diaz, Baker has used slugger Yordan Alvarez, outfielder Chas McCormick and utility player Mauricio Dubon in left.
Trey Mancini, acquired from Baltimore at the trade deadline, is considered a viable option as well, although he has yet to play left field in nine games with the club.
When asked how he would proceed with Brantley officially sidelined for the stretch run and the postseason, Baker conceded that he's already initiated the process of finding an able successor.
"Michael is not here, so it's got to be more of the same," Baker said. "We've been trying to figure out how to replace Michael -- who to put here, who to put there. We're doing a pretty good job of it.
"I spend a lot of time and energy trying to figure out ... what's best for our team on a daily basis."
Right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. (13-5, 3.16 ERA in 2021) will make his season debut for the Astros on Saturday. He has missed the first four months of the season with a right-forearm strain, an injury sustained last postseason.
McCullers last appeared for the Astros in Game 4 of the American League Division Series when he allowed one run on five hits and three walks with five strikeouts over four innings in the Astros' 10-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
McCullers is 6-3 with a 3.55 ERA in 12 career appearances against the Athletics, including 1-1 with a 2.12 ERA in three starts against Oakland last season.
Rookie left-hander Zach Logue (3-5, 4.79) is the scheduled starter for the Athletics on Saturday. He surrendered three runs (two earned) on five hits and one walk with four strikeouts over six innings in a 7-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers after he was recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas as the 27th man for a doubleheader on July 21.
He snapped a three-start skid in his previous outing when he allowed two runs on three hits and one walk with two strikeouts over five innings in a 3-2 home win over the Astros on July 9, his lone appearance against Houston.
Athletics rookie outfielder Cal Stevenson ran his way into the final out of the second inning on Friday when he rounded first base following his single to right field and misjudged whether Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel would cut off the throw from right fielder Kyle Tucker. When Gurriel did exactly that, Stevenson -- playing in just his second career game -- was caught between first and second and erased before Jonah Bride could score on the play.
"I'm fine with it," Oakland manager Mark Kotsay said. "It's baseball. It's a difficult play. It really is."
--Field Level Media