The Astros activated Zack Greinke, according to manager Dusty Baker, relayed by Mark Berman of Fox 26. Right-handed pitcher Brandon Bielak was optioned in a corresponding move.
Sunday’s game has no meaning for the club in terms of the standings. The Astros already clinched both a division title and home-field advantage for their upcoming ALDS matchup with the White Sox. That means they will be free to deploy Greinke in whatever manner they feel best prepares him for his role in that series. Recently, Baker acknowledged the possibility of Greinke being used out of the bullpen during the postseason. This is partially due to the fact that Greinke’s routine has been disrupted by two separate IL stints in recent weeks. He first went on the COVID-related IL Aug. 31 and returned Sept. 14. However, after making just two starts, he then went on the IL with neck soreness, retroactive to Sept. 19. Greinke then pitched a rehab outing in the minors on Sept. 30, throwing just 34 pitches over two innings.
However, even if Greinke were fully stretched out, it could be reasonably argued he is not one of Houston’s top four starters this season, despite his lengthy track record of success. In 168 2/3 innings this year, the 37-year-old (turning 38 on October 21st) has an ERA of 4.11 with a flimsy strikeout rate of 17%, although his walk rate is still superb at 5.2%. That performance seems to put him behind Houston’s other hurlers such as Lance McCullers Jr., Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia, Jose Urquidy and Jake Odorizzi for consideration to be in the playoff rotation.
Greinke being healthy and effective would help the club by giving it another option out of the bullpen, but it also has ramifications for Greinke himself, as he is slated to reach free agency after this season. A quality playoff performance, or lack thereof, could impact the amount of interest he garners in the offseason.