Make-or-break start for Backe?
With Mike Hampton going on the disabled list with a strained groin, Brandon Backe will make his first start of the season in Thursday’s series finale against the Rangers. Simply put, this could be Backe’s final chance to show the Astros he can be a capable Major League pitcher.
Backe struggled last year, going 9-14 with a 6.05 ERA in 31 starts in his first full season since undergoing Tommy John surgery. He led the league in earned runs (112) and home runs (36), but signed a $1.55 million contract and was competing for a spot in the rotation before missing two months when he injured a ribcage muscle in early March.
As a reliever, Backe hasn’t distinguished himself so far this season in four appearances. He’s pitched nine innings and allowed 17 hits and 12 runs while striking out 10 batters. He’s 1-2 with a 7.77 ERA in six career games (three starts) against the Rangers.
Hampton can come off the disabled list on June 29, but don’t be surprised to see the Astros reach down to Triple-A Round Rock at some point soon and summon Bud Norris. He’s 3-4 with a 2.34 ERA in 12 starts, allowing 62 hits and striking out 72 batters in 73 innings.