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When it comes to the Houston Astros, one name stands out: Framber Valdez. The departure of Justin Verlander to the Mets during the winter cemented the Astros left-hander as the ace starting pitcher of the defending World Series champions. And Valdez is embracing the responsibility that comes with it.

The 29-year-old Dominican had an incredible season last year, going 17-6 with a 2.82 ERA in 31 starts in the regular season, and 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA in four postseason starts, including 2-0 in the World Series. He even set a Major League-record 25 consecutive quality starts. It’s clear that Valdez is ready to take on the challenge of leading the Astros.

But Valdez is more than just an ace pitcher. He’s also in the running for a possible contract extension with the Astros. General Manager Dana Brown has reached out to Valdez’s agent to discuss a long-term deal, and Valdez is open to the idea of staying in Houston for a long time. He’s also been preparing for the new pitch timer rule that has been implemented this year.

Valdez has been working with a Dominican-based psychologist to help him relax on the mound and take his time between pitches. He’s confident that he will be able to adjust to the new rule and continue to be successful on the field.

It’s clear that Framber Valdez is an integral part of the Astros, and he’s ready to take on the challenge of leading the team. With his hard work and dedication, Valdez is sure to be a key player in the Astros’ success this season.