Yesterday, Ken Rosenthal included a blurb about the Astros in this article:
The Astros are at their payroll limit, but would like to add a left-handed hitting outfielder to platoon with Jason Michaels if they go with Carlos Lee over Brett Wallace at first base, which is hardly a sure thing. Wallace is hitting .362/.388/.617 this spring.
The team’s greater need is a replacement for catcher Jason Castro, who is out for the season due to a torn ACL in his right knee. The Astros like the Royals’ Brayan Pena, but the Royals won’t trade him with Jason Kendall still recovering from shoulder surgery.
I know I’ve been something of a J.R. Towles fanboy, and I understand that the team might be reluctant to give him another shot to translate his skills to the Major League level, but if going .344/.382/.594 in Spring Training, with more at-bats than any other player at your position, doesn’t earn you a chance to be the starting catcher, then I don’t know why we even have Spring Training. Of course, I understand that Humberto Quintero and Chris Corporan have posted comparable, and at times better, numbers. But Towles’ minor league production backs up his spring numbers, and I just happen to think he’s due one last chance to either be the starting catcher or to be traded or released.
As for the speculation about Carlos Lee, I think Brett Wallace has to be installed as the everyday first baseman to start the season. You have to believe that he’s going to find his power stroke at the major league level, and the thought of platooning Jason Michaels with any other options isn’t promising. Brian Bogusevic, the obvious in-choice left-handed outfielder, isn’t performing well this spring and needs to swing the bat a few more times in Oklahoma City before he should be called up. That means going out and getting a free agent, which more or less is limited to Ryan Church, as every other option with big league experience is right-handed, to my knowledge.
So, really, it just makes much more sense to me to put Lee and his diminished defense in left field, with Wallace and his potential big bat at first; rather than Lee at first and a combination of Jason Michaels and any other human being in left field.
Geoff Geary and the Florida sun allowed the Cardinals to tie today’s Grapefruit League game at 3-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning, but Wesley Wright and Jeff Fulchino shut them down in the final two innings, and Michael Bourn‘s single up the middle in the ninth gave the Astros their sixth win in a row.
Right now, we’re winning games in the same fashion we were losing them just a week ago. Back then, Jason Michaels losing the ball in the sun or Jason Smith sprinting across the diamond to drop a pop-up while trying to backhand it just feet from Chris Johnson, whose ball it clearly was, would have spelled disaster.
Today, they were mere bumps in the road.
Of particular note during this streak is Bourn, who went 1-for-3 today with two walks. Bourn’s numbers during this stretch are perhaps the single-most encouraging part of the Astros’ Spring Training: .333/.389/.400 with 2 SB in 4 attempts, 2 BB, 2 K, 5 RBI, and 4 R over six games. It’s a small sample size, to be sure, but holds a lot of promise. If he can continue to get on base at anything near a .350 clip or above, the Astros’ offense will succeed.
For the first time in 2009, I’m disappointed to have a day off.
That day off will be spent by at least one person in Astros camp, Danny Graves, to look for a new job. Graves was assigned to minor league camp, and had until Tuesday to decide whether to accept the assignment or to ask for his release. He asked for, and was granted, his release.
Though his spring wasn’t great, neither was it as terrible as the 6.43 ERA suggests. First of all, he was only given seven innings to show his wares, and though he gave up five earned runs in those seven innings, none were from home runs. He also only issued one walk, didn’t hit any batsmen, and struck out three for a DICE of 2.57 despite a WHIP of 1.71.
Unfortunately, given human nature, most people will see the high WHIP and ERA and fail to give him a chance to show his wares. But based on his ability to keep his walks, HBP, and HR to an absolute minimum – even over such a short amount of time – should at least warrant him the ability to go out and show someone what he can do.
I wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t the last we heard from Graves.