Daylight savings came and went this weekend, and Astros (6-13) fans are looking forward, not behind, as Spring Training moves into its final stretch. Now, Spring Training has seen major injuries (Jason Castro), minor injuries (Wandy Rodriguez’s inflamed shoulder, and a flux of young players that has produced a myriad of rosters, so there’s no reason to panic for Astros fans; however, no fan likes to see their team sitting dead last in their respective league, which is where the Astros find themselves on Monday morning. Again, not that Spring Training matters that much, but roughly two weeks until Opening Day, the Astros’ roster should finally start taking shape and erase some of the uncertainty that ‘stros fans have been dealing with. It’s been a rough start, but with a few wins scattered throughout the schedule since the last “Quick Hits”, the Astros are trying to carry that moment and move forward, full speed ahead.
- First things first…Who wants to play this position? Carlos Lee has reportedly taken a day off with a “tired shoulder,” Brett Wallace still isn’t doing much hitting, and Koby Clemens is 2 for 23 so far this spring. At this rate, maybe the Astros should hold an open tryout for first base. Better yet, what’s the word on Jeff Bagwell’s shoulder? Healed yet? Maybe he could knock a few more homers out and boost his Hall of Fame credentials. One things for sure, with Berkman gone he’d instantly reclaim the title of best facial hair on the team.
- So, about that starting rotation…The Astros are relying heavily on the prospect that their strong starting pitching from last season carries over to this season, especially since the bullpen is considerably weaker this year. The most glaring statistic so far this spring, however, is the runs allowed: 116. The next highest RA total in the Grapefruit League is 92…by the Pirates (8-10). Let’s hope this is the only time this season the Astros trail the Pirates in any category, or it could be a very long summer.
- Trio of fives…Nelson Figueroa, Jordan Lyles, and Ryan Rowland-Smith are the three main candidates still in the running for the fifth spot in the rotation. While Lyles is pitching well, many Astros insiders agree that he needs one more year in the AAA before the Astros bring him up. Since Lyles is the best pitching prospect the Astros have had since Roy Oswalt, the worst thing they could do now is rush this kid up to the bigs just to keep fans coming through what could be a lackluster season. That means that it’s a two man race, and at the moment Figueroa has to be the leading man. So far this spring he is 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP, which is far superior statistically than Rowland-Smith’s 1-1 record with a 6.00 ERA.
- Paying his Towles…J.R. Towles has had a rough start to his MLB career. A very rough start. So bad in fact, that he used to be booed every time he stepped up to the plate in Houston. But with Jason Castro’s season ending injury, Towles has new life and is doing his best (so far) to take full advantage. In eight games thus far, Towles is batting .350, with two HR’s, and four RBI. Not bad for a guy whose career BA is .189 and hit .190 and .289 in the last two springs, respectively. Astros fans have been burned by Towles before, but maybe it’s finally his time to shine.
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That’s it for this week. Remember, Opening Day for the Astros is Friday, April 1. Be sure to plan an appropriate “sickness” accordingly and enjoy a three day weekend of baseball.