I am sure the Astros are ready to put the first two weeks of spring training behind them and are looking forward to a new week. They have started out 2-7 so far this spring training and have been outscored by 25 runs to this point. They also lost Jason Castro, there starting catcher, for the majority of the season. He had to have surgery to repair a torn ACL that he suffered running down to first during a game against the Detroit Tigers.
The Astros have ten games coming up this week, with split squad games on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Below is the schedule for the coming week:
Monday, March 7th at Washington
Tuesday, March 8th at Boston
Tuesday, March 8th vs. NY Mets
Wednesday, March 9th at NY Mets
Thursday, March 10th vs. Washington
Friday, March 11th vs. Boston
Friday, March 11th at Washington
Saturday, March 12th vs. Baltimore
Sunday, March 13th at Detroit
Sunday March 13th at Atlanta
Things to watch this week:
Can the Astros get their offense on track?
So far this spring, the Astros have only hit four home runs as a team in nine games and no one has more than three RBI. The offense was a weak point for the Astros last year but did hit much better once Bagwell took over as hitting coach. It looks like they lost whatever they learned last year during the off-season. Mike Barnett has a serious challenge ahead of him and hopefully the Astros start to show some recognizable improvements this week.
Who will replace Jason Castro?
It will be interesting to see who wins the battle for the starting catcher position between J.R. Towles and Humberto Quintero. Castro did not provide much value at the plate last year and the Astros have been able to win without much offensive output from the catcher position for as long as I can remember. However, Quintero and Towles are a combined .221 in their major league careers and hopefully one of them can surprise some people and improve at the plate.
Towles has shown he can hit, for example his eight RBI game a few years ago, but has not shown much since. This is probably Towles last shot to show the Astros he can be a major league catcher. Quintero has been a decent back up catcher the past few years because he is a good defensive catcher but has been one of the better Astros at the plate hitting 3 for 7 with 2 doubles and 3 RBI to this point. Quintero is probably the favorite at this point.
The battle for the fifth spot in the rotation continues on
The battle for the fifth spot in the rotation seems to be a three horse race as we move through spring training. Right now Nelson Figueroa, Ryan Rowland-Smith and Jordan Lyles are still competing for that spot but I think Rowland-Smith will quickly fall out of contention, possibly as early as this week. Lyles is pitching the best out of the three but I think the Astros will send him back down to Triple A to get him some additional work at the minor league system. Also because if they bring him up to early, it could shatter his confidence and some players have never been able to recover.
Figueroa, pitched great down the stretch for the Astros with an ERA of 3.23 in his final 10 starts and the Astros may reward him with that fifth spot in the rotation to see if he can carry over his success from 2010 to 2011. This would allow to move Rowland-Smith to the bullpen to be a long reliever/spot starter.