The Houston Astros added potential depth to their rotation with the recent signing of veteran right-handed pitcher Livan Hernandez. Hernandez has logged at least 175 innings in each of the last 14 seasons, and he'll be looking to spend a 17th year in the majors.
Despite where the Astros sit relative to the rest of baseball, spots in the rotation will not just be handed out this spring. That was assured when a sixth extremely viable candidate was added to the rotation mix with the signing of veteran workhorse Livan Hernandez
Hernandez, 36, signed a minor league contract complete with an invitation to major league spring training, where he will have a legitimate shot to make the opening day roster. It would be his 17th season in the major leagues for the 1997 World Series MVP.
"He gives us a veteran presence and it gives us flexibility so we don't have to push some young guys into roles if they're not ready for them," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said.
The most obvious young arm is attached to the body of Jordan Lyles
, who debuted at age 20 with a 5.36 ERA last year as the Astros' top prospect. He had, in some eyes, been penciled into a rotation with Wandy Rodriguez
, Brett Myers
, Bud Norris
and J.A. Happ
after the Astros let most of the offseason pass unable to move the veterans in that rotation.
Henry Sosa and Kyle Weiland also figured into the equation, which became a lot more complicated in the sunset of the offseason. Not only was Hernandez acquired, but also Zach Duke
, who comes to camp on a minor league deal.
Should Hernandez make the rotation, the Astros are counting on him to pitch a lot of innings. He pitched 175 1/3 for the Nationals last year before being shut down to give some of their young pitchers a chance to pitch in September.
Hernandez has passed the 200-inning mark 10 times in his career.
Astros Notes & Quotes
OF Justin Ruggiano, who refused the Rays' outright assignment to the minors and became a free agent last week, signed a minor league deal with the Astros. The Texas A&M product was invited to Houston's big-league spring camp. Ruggiano, 29, played 46 games for Tampa Bay last year, hitting .248/.273/.400 with four homers and 13 RBI.
RHP Jordan Lyles is not guaranteed a spot in the opening day rotation after compiling a 5.36 ERA as a rookie last season. Lyles will look to show his readiness in spring training, but could lose out to a more veteran player, general manager Jeff Luhnow implied. He still has two options remaining.
INF Angel Sanchez was re-signed to a minor league contract after he cleared waivers. Sanchez had been designated for assignment to make room for C Chris Snyder's arrival on the 40-man roster. Sanchez will compete for a roster spot with SS Marwin Gonzalez and UTL Brian Bixler.
LHP Wandy Rodriguez will be presented with his Astros' Pitcher of the Year award on Feb. 10, making him the second player to win the award multiple times. Roy Oswalt won the award, which was instituted in 1997, three times. Rodriguez brought needed stability to the shaky Astros staff last year, going 11-11 with a 3.49 ERA.
1B/3B Mike Hessman signed a minor league deal to join the Astros, returning from Japan, where he spent the 2011 season. A former Mets, Tigers and Braves big leaguer, Hessman probably will provide Triple-A depth for the Astros, who are intrigued by his power. Hessman, 33, has 329 home runs in a domestic minor league career that has spanned 15 seasons.
By the Numbers: 14 – Consecutive seasons of more than 175 innings pitched for recent Astros signee Livan Hernandez entering this season.
Quote to Note: "One thing that we are not going to change is the name. We received strong feedback and consensus among season ticket holders and many fans, and we will not change the name Astros. The Houston Astros are here to stay." -- Owner Jim Crane, a week after floating the possibility of a name change for the 2013 season.