By Will Martin
Once you start the process of Spring Training it tends to go at a certain cadence, a certain pace. Back in the day, when sports wasn’t a 24-7 buffet, you actually took the time to get into a mode of following your favorite teams leading up to Opening Day. Television games of the exhibition variety? Back in my day you saw one or two in March and that was it! Usually it was a Yankees-Red Sox or Yankees-Mets in the annual Mayors Trophy Game. Do they even do that now?
By the time this article goes live, Nolan Ryan and his Big Express legacy will have arrived in Kissimee, Florida. There to provide knowledge, leadership, and assistance to the team of son Reid, Jim Crane, Craig Biggio, and Jeffrey Luhnow. Heading into this week, the Houston Astros were playing .500 baseball and will now be a part of the process of some games utilizing instant replay. March 7th Houston would entertain the New York Mets. A rematch from a game played earlier in the week at Port St. Lucie that the Mets won 6-2. The Mets will be the last team the Astros play in the Grapefruit League on March 28th before coming home to entertain the New York Yankees on April 1st.
How ironic that the last team Houston closed with in 2013 comes right back to lead in 2014 and that when 2014 ends the Astros will also finish out in Interleague fashion with the Mets at CitiField 9/26-9/28/14? But I digress.
March may be a form of madness for those who like to carry a bracket two weeks out of the year. For diamond lovers it is a time to decide which players are going to pass the test. Some will make the trek back home with the big boys, be reassigned to a minor league camp, or even let go.
As for players who have come out of the gate red hot for Houston, lets begin with Marc Krauss. He’s hitting .455 with two homers and two ribbies. Jose Altuve is hitting at a .333 clip. Marwin Gonzalez ( he who denied Yu Darvish a perfect game back on April 2013) is hitting .400 and Robbie Grossman is at a .571 at the plate. We should also note that George Springer lies among your leaders with stolen bases (3) and walks (5).
None of this really matters in the big picture. Talking numbers and getting sabermetric in the spring is God’s way of preparing every baseball fan for the six month affair of box score reading leading up to the Fall Classic.
Scott Feldman is all set to get some pitching on the mound against the Mets against Rafael Montero. In relief for Houston RHP Brad Peacock, LHP Raul Valdes, RHP Matt Albers, RHP Josh Zeid, and LHP Kevin Chapman will be available. March 7th Brett Oberholzer makes his first start of the Grapefruit run against the Nationals and hurler Doug Fister at their home park.
In getting to 3-3 the Astros exhibition games went as follows: Feb 28th Matt Albers with a 7-5 win over the Atlanta Braves. March 1st a 5-1 defeat to the Tigers at Lakeland with Brad Peacock getting the loss. March 2nd Jarred Cosart with a 7-4 win at home against Atlanta. March 3rd Dallas Keuchel got the start and was money in a 4-0 game at Jupiter against the Florida Marlins followed by two home losses to the Mets and Tigers 6-2 and 3-0 which is where we stand for now.
Bo Porter has a pretty good idea of what he has to work with and an even better understanding of the lay of the land. From a pitching standpoint there is a solid quintet in place with Scott Feldman, Dallas Keuchel, Brett Oberholzer, Lucas Harrell, and Brad Peacock. One name to also keep an eye on is Rhiner Cruz. Big league managers always keep an eye out for a surprise diamond in the rough for future reference.
Having spent most of 2013 in Oklahoma City after being optioned on May 1st he was recalled in September and pitched well enough for a 1.29 era in the final month. Cruz may also serve this Astros ballclub well.
Next post we will provide an even deeper breakdown of whom the position players shall be. The routine of daily games now well underway. Nolan Ryan in camp. The #1 ranked minor league system according to many in the know. A few years away from being a serious thought in the A.L. West. There’s only one way to go for this Houston club. And that’s up.
Age is not going to be an issue for this club for some time. Even so the grapes of Florida are pretty sweet in March. The first freeze in April will test the durability of these young men of the Porterhouse Fraternity.
3/13 @ Blue Jays 12:05 PM
3/14 vs Cardinals 12:05 PM
3/15 @Tigers 12:05 PM
3/16 vs Nationals 12:05 PM