When a starting rotation has as many question marks as the Houston Astros’ 2009 edition does, Spring Training competition begins to take on an added edge.

For those of you unfamiliar, this is what our rotation looks like:

1. Roy Oswalt, RHP (no question marks here)
2. Mike Hampton, LHP (part-timer; isn’t likely to make more than 12-15 starts)
3. Wandy Rodriguez, LHP (better than a lot of people realize)
4. Brian Moehler, RHP (had a good 2008; can he repeat?)
5. Brandon Backe, RHP; Russ Ortiz, RHP; Clay Hensley RHP; Felipe Paulino, RHP; Fernando Nieve, RHP; etc.

The 1-3 spots are pretty much set, at least for as long as Hampton can stay healthy, and minus whatever time Wandy spends injured.  The upside to having so much competition for the fifth starter spot is that it means there are a lot of options for spot starters when the opening rotation gets battered.

Russ Ortiz.jpgToday, we’ll get our second look at Russ Ortiz in an Astros uniform.  A non-roster invitee, Ortiz didn’t interest me very much when he came to the organization.  His career has been a mess since his career year in 2003, when he finished 4th in the Cy Young voting:

2003: 21-7, 212.1 IP, 3.81 ERA (112 ERA+), 1.314 WHIP, 149 K, 102 BB
04-08: 22-31, 431.2 IP, 5.61 ERA (76 ERA+), 1.677 WHIP, 260 K, 237 BB 

So when he came to Astros camp, I figured he was just a guy brought in to challenge the other starting alternatives.

But the thing is, he looked very good in his first spring game.  In his two innings of work, he allowed just one hit, walked one, and struck out three, not allowing any runs.

Sample sizes don’t get much smaller than that, but at the moment I’d say he’s the odds-on favorite for the fifth starter spot.  We’ll see him today against the Yankees, and it’ll be interesting to note if he continues to perform well through the Spring, especially with Nieve’s and Hensley’s disappointing performances in yesterday’s game.


  1. astrosfaninexile

    Hard to say how Russ Ortiz “looked,” from listening to the game on the radio broadcast today. But he sounded pretty good. Give Backe a run for his money…

    Wish I could say the same for Hampton. 😦

  2. roundrock15

    Thanks, Julia… I can’t say I know what that means, but thank you! lol

    AFIE: I’m with you; I couldn’t see Ortiz, but he “sounded” good. It’s an interesting development, and one that I can safely say I didn’t see coming. Don’t worry too much about Hampton. Who’s to say that had he pitched a full game, the scoring would have continued. Mike is 36 now… he may take a while to get “set” in Spring Training. He’s fine, as long as he can stay healthy.


  3. astrosfaninexile

    Not worried – yet – about Hampton. He’s a vet, gotta get his work in, and all that. Of course, said that for Woody W last Spring, and it was PAINFUL to watch.

  4. roundrock15

    Let’s not discuss Woody. I saw him pitch in San Diego, and even though his 2006 line was decent (12-5, 2.65 ERA, 111 ERA+, 1.287 WHIP, 72 K, 35 BB), you could tell he was nearing the end of his rope. Giving him six million in 2007 didn’t make any sense to me, even at the time.

  5. renaudtn

    Well, the game vs the yankees was played and Ortiz did a good job..He allowed one run this time but he still looked pretty good. After Backe’s bad performance yesterday, the odds are probably a little more in Ortiz favor right now but it’s still too early. He is undeniably the best looking candidate for that #5 spot as today.

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