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The Houston Astros have lost another starting pitcher to injury. Right-hander Cristian Javier was scratched from Sunday's start with neck discomfort, and manager Joe Espada later confirmed Javier will be placed on the 15-day injured list (via the Houston Chronicle). Hunter Brown will start Sunday in Javier's place and Spencer Arrighetti will be called up in a corresponding move. 

Houston did welcome Justin Verlander back from the injured list Friday, and he pitched well, though they still have a full five-man rotation on the injured list. Here is their rotation depth chart:

  1. RHP Justin Verlander
  2. LHP Framber Valdez (elbow inflammation)
  3. RHP Cristian Javier (neck discomfort)
  4. RHP Lance McCullers Jr. (flexor surgery)
  5. RHP Hunter Brown
  6. RHP Luis Garcia (Tommy John surgery)
  7. RHP José Urquidy (forearm strain)
  8. RHP Ronel Blanco
  9. RHP J.P. France
  10. RHP Spencer Arrighetti

Garcia and McCullers are out until at least the middle of the season. It's unclear how long Javier, Urquidy, and Valdez will be sidelined, though Urquidy and Valdez recently threw bullpen sessions and are working their way back. Still, the Astros are missing an awful lot of pitching, and it's reflected in their team 5.03 ERA, second worst in baseball.

The Astros have off-days coming up Monday, Thursday, and next Monday. That will give them plenty of flexibility to rearrange their rotation and navigate Javier's injury. If they want, Houston can avoid using a No. 5 starter until Saturday, May 4. Javier's 15-day stint on the injured list is retroactive to April 18, so he could be active in time for that May 4 start.

Javier, 27, was off to an excellent start to the season, posting a 1.54 ERA in four starts and 23 1/3 innings. His strikeout rate is down to 18.9% of batters faced, however, below the 22.5% league average. Javier had a 23.1% strikeout rate in 2023 and a 33.2% strikeout rate in 2022. That strikeout rate decline from 2022 to 2023 was the largest in baseball.

Houston enters play Sunday with a 7-15 record and a minus-22 run differential. They have the fourth-worst record in baseball and the fifth-worst run differential.