As you may recall, the health of the Astros rotation was less than optimal last August and September.
Between Keuchel’s left shoulder inflammation and McCuller’s elbow troubles, the Astros rotation was left thin as the team tried to make a push for one of the two AL wild cards last summer. And we remember how the team unraveled afterwards.
Anyway, the goal for Houston heading into Spring Training should make sure that everyone is healthy and well-rested for the start of the 2017 season. This includes Keuchel and McCullers.
This is the best plan for the Astros in my opinion. While you would love to see Keuchel and McCullers shake off the rust sooner rather than later, the Astros are within reason to exercise caution. After all, the team’s entire playoff hopes could hinge on their collective health. This affords both of them time to sort out various aspects of their game without putting too much stress on their arms.
At the same time, this also affords the Astros the opportunity to get a closer look at their other pitchers.
Pitchers like Michael Feliz, Chris Devenski, Joseph Musgrove, and Francis Martes could all benefit from extra playing time. The front office could also determine if a trade for another starter like Jose Quintana or Sonny Gray during Spring Training would be a viable option. Especially if Keuchel or McCullers take longer than expected.
This leads into my last point: It is a bit concerning to see the Astros exercise such caution before anyone reports to camp. Maybe the team isn’t fully confident that both pitchers will return sooner rather than later. I could be completely off on that though as exercising caution in their cases is a good idea. But it doesn’t hurt think ahead if you are the Astros.
The 2017 Spring Training is shaping up to be an interesting one to say the least. There is a lot riding on the line as Houston’s front office made notable quality additions to bolster the roster. But they may only go as far as their pitching takes them.