Astros righty Tyler Ivey went unclaimed on outright waivers and has been assigned to Triple-A Sugar Land, tweets Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle. Houston designated Ivey for assignment last week when selecting the contract of reliever Ronel Blanco — their final move before setting their Opening Day roster.
That Ivey, 25, went unclaimed is at least a moderate surprise, given his relative youth, his broader track record of minor league success and the fact that he has multiple minor league option years remaining. A team wasn’t going to claim Ivey and plug him directly into the rotation, but he’d have made a sensible enough depth option for another organization that is thin on big league-ready arms.
Instead, the Astros will be able to retain Ivey in hopes that he can recapture the form he showed in 2018 (112 innings of 2.97 ERA ball between two Class-A levels) and 2019 (1.57 ERA in 46 Double-A frames).
Ivey was limited to just 13 minor league innings and another 4 2/3 innings in the big leagues last season, thanks to a nerve issue in his pitching elbow that he detailed last June. That injury and the subsequent treatment — he underwent a non-surgical treatment for thoracic outlet syndrome, Rome reported last August — could well have played a role in Ivey passing through waivers. He was healthy enough to take the mound this spring, although he only logged one inning in one official game for the Astros.
Even with Lance McCullers Jr. on the injured list, Houston’s rotation is set for the foreseeable future. Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy, Luis Garcia and Jake Odorizzi give the Astros a strong quintet upon which to lean while McCullers mends, and talented righty Cristian Javier gives them a sixth MLB-caliber option, though he’s currently in the bullpen. Triple-A righties Brandon Bielak and Peter Solomon are both on the 40-man roster and have MLB experience as well, and former top prospect Forrest Whitley is making his way back from a notable arm injury of his own (Tommy John surgery).
If Ivey is back to full strength at some point this year, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him work his way back into MLB consideration. In 215 1/3 career minor league innings, the 2017 third-rounder has a 3.13 ERA with a 29.5% strikeout rate and an 8.1% walk rate.