4:12PM: Gurriel has a right MCL sprain, Astros general manager James Click told reporters (including Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle).
3:33PM: The Astros are one win away from clinching the World Series, but heading into tonight’s critical Game 6, the team has made a roster move. Catcher Korey Lee has been added to the roster in place of first baseman Yuli Gurriel, who suffered a knee injury in Game 5. As per league rules, Gurriel is now also ineligible for the rest of the series, should the Phillies win tonight and force a seven game.
Gurriel’s injury occurred in the seventh inning of Game 5, when Gurriel awkwardly bent his leg while being tagged out in a rundown play. Gurriel remained at first base for the bottom half of the seventh, but Trey Mancini then pinch-hit for Gurriel during his next scheduled plate appearance in the top of the eighth.
There isn’t any indication that Gurriel’s knee is anything more than sore, but since he still isn’t well enough to play after an off-day, the Astros aren’t taking any chances on leaving themselves with an undermanned roster. Despite the logic involved in the decision, there was naturally still some emotion involved in removing the longtime Astro from the roster. Manager Dusty Baker told the Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes and other reporters that Gurriel “tried everything” to be ready for Game 6, and had “tears in his eyes” over not being healthy enough to play.
It now creates quite the opportunity for Lee, who made his Major League debut in 2022 and has played in only 12 games as a big leaguer. Lee hasn’t faced MLB competition since July 31, and hasn’t had game action of any kind since a Triple-A contest on September 26. This is the first time Lee has been included on Houston’s postseason rosters, as Martin Maldonado and Christian Vazquez have locked down the two catching positions.
Both Vazquez and Maldonado are in tonight’s lineup, with Vazquez at DH and Maldonado behind the plate. (Mancini takes over at first base for Gurriel.) Lee’s inclusion on the roster gives the Astros some extra flexibility at catcher, thus allowing Vazquez to move to designated hitter. Naturally, the Astros are hoping to use Lee purely for depth purposes, since it isn’t likely he would see any game action outside of an injury situation.
With Gurriel now gone for the rest of the World Series, it is possible he has already played his last game in an Astros uniform. The 38-year-old Gurriel is slated for free agency, and after he hit only .242/.288/.360 over 584 plate appearances during the regular season, there has been an expectation that Houston might move onto another first base option for 2023. Indeed, the acquisition of Mancini (another free agent) at the trade deadline was an early indicator that Houston felt more production was needed from the first base spot, though Mancini also struggled after coming over from the Orioles.
If this is Gurriel’s last hurrah with the Astros, he at least went out on the strength of a very solid postseason run. Gurriel hit .347/.360/.490 with two home runs over 50 plate appearances during these playoffs, and is the Astros’ postseason leader in batting average. Mancini’s struggles have only worsened during the postseason, as he has yet to record even a single hit in 21 playoff PA.