Last week’s Quick Hits post went up during the Astros (10-16) game against the Phillies. Unfortunately, that post went up right before the Astros’ Bill Hall and the Phillies’ Cole Hamels exchanged some sharp words with one another. The Astros ended up losing the game 6-7, but the Hall incident was arguably the most exciting thing to happen in an otherwise very dull spring for Houston. After the game, Hall told the Houston Chronicle that in his book, Hamels was “a marked man,” which lends some extra excitement to the opening series of the season when the Phils and ‘stros face off against one another. Hamels isn’t likely to pitch that opening series, but should some pitches find their way a little too far inside by either team, fans could be in for some early fireworks.
- Speaking of fireworks…After the aforementioned Phillies games, the Astros hitters finally woke up, racking up 34 runs during a four game win streak. The Astros finished close to last in just about every major offensive category last year, and are projected to struggle mightily again this year, but these spring games show that the Astros might have more firepower than people are giving them credit for, especially if Carlos Lee can bounce back from a mediocre season. The Astros, with Chris Johnson, Hunter Pence, Lee, and the speed of Michael Bourn, most definitely have the potential to score runs in bunches, but their problem is and has been doing it with consistency throughout the season.
- Any questions?…Astros fans, allow me to introduce you to you’re starting first baseman: Brett Wallace. Any talk about Wallace not being ready and Carlos Lee starting Opening Day at first base has been completely squashed by Wallace’s performance this spring. In 50 ABs, Wallace is hitting .380 with 9 XBHs and is leading all of baseball during Spring Training with 14 RBIs. The only red flag to this point for Wallace is patience at the plate (8 SOs, only 2 BBs thus far), but that will come with time. As for now, the Astros are excited to see if the young slugger can produce when the games start to count.
- Ryan Rowl-ing Right out of town?…The Astros’ biggest offseason moves weren’t very big moves at all, and the only acquisition of note to the pitching staff was bringing in former Seattle Mariner Ryan Rowland-Smith to vie for the 5th spot in the rotation. When he was signed the job was his to lose, primarily since he has the most experience of any candidate in Astros camp competing for the 5th slot. However, things have not gone according to plan for Mr. Rowland-Smith. In five appearances, 11.0 innings total, Rowland-Smith has given up 12 hits, 8 ERs, 3 HRs, and 7 BBs. That’s good enough for a 6.55 ERA. With Nelson Figueroa still pitching well and Jordan Lyles impressing more and more with each outing (13.2 IP, 1.98 ERA, 9 SO), I hope Rowland-Smith decided to lease, not buy, because he could be on his way out of Houston before he ever sees an actual game.
- Coming up…The Astros have only eight games left in Spring Training before they head to Philadelphia on April 1. With no more split-squad games, Astros fans should get a clearer picture of who will be on the field Opening Day. There aren’t many starting positions up for grabs, but the big question marks surround which prospects will make the 25-man roster. Lyles? Brian Bogusevich? Jason Bourgeois? We’ll find out soon.
- Food for thought…So, Astros pitchers haven’t been doing too well this spring. Perhaps they should try the Tim Lincecum diet. I mean, I’ve heard it works a similar diet works for Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, too, where he eats McDonald’s burgers three times a day. When I think of people shoveling down burgers, I think of something along these lines, not this. I certainly don’t think of a guy that runs a sub-4.4 with a 40″+ vertical, or a guy with a 95 mph fastball inhaling quarter pounders all day. Maybe there’s something to this whole fast food thing that I’m missing…
On that note, spring is officially here, get outside and enjoy the weather while it lasts. It’s prime time for baseball. And maybe a burger, too.