The Houston Astros recently shook up their pitching staff by announcing that veteran right-hander Brett Myers will move to the closer role. Myers, who made 33 starts and logged 216 innings last season, had 21 saves out of the Philadelphia Phillies' bullpen in 2007.
' unexpected move to the bullpen to become the Astros' closer has not only answered a big question for the late innings, it also provided some direction to the rotation and greatly helped those battling for spots.
In particular, right-hander Livan Hernandez
, who came to camp on a minor league contract, will likely be counted on to replace the innings that Myers leaves behind. Hernandez, 37, has pitched more than 200 innings 10 times over his 16-year career.
Hernandez, the Grapefruit League opening day starter, is yet to be guaranteed a spot in the starting rotation, but it's becoming apparent that he will be in there. He's a rare veteran addition amid the Astros' youth movement.
"Somebody else probably has to overtake him," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "Moving forward you just have to see how he's throwing the ball and how he's preparing himself and how he's getting ready."
, Kyle Weiland, Zach Duke
and Lucas Harrell
all have better shots with one more spot to compete for.
It also gives Wandy Rodriguez
an even more firm hold on what would be his first opening day start in his eighth year in the major leagues. Mills also stopped short of declaring Rodriguez his ace for the April 6 opener against Colorado but hinted at it, saying he'd have to be considered heavily.
Should Rodriguez start opening day and the rotation stay in order established in spring training, he'd be followed by Bud Norris
, Hernandez, J.A. Happ
and Lyles or whoever ends up claiming that No. 5 spot.
Astros Notes & Quotes
LHP Wandy Rodriguez has a near-lockdown on the No. 1 starter job barring injury, which has been a spring bugaboo for him. He got off to a bad start this spring with back tightness in an early bullpen session but said that's behind him and he'd love to be the April 6 starter with the bright lights. "That game is a special game," Rodriguez said. "Everyone wants to see the season get started."
2B Jose Altuve is working on a drill to improve pitch recognition where he watches balls go over the plate and calls out "yes" or "no" depending on whether it's a good pitch for him.
"I definitely learned that I have to be a little more selective," Altuve said after a 2011 big league debut in which he hit .276 but walked only five times in 234 plate appearances. "We've been working on pitch selection every day, and I feel really good with that."
LHP Sergio Escalona was shut down for what will likely be almost a week after his hyperextended elbow was slow to heal. Escalona initially injured the elbow in a hitting drill and has had pain in throwing his changeup and his curveball.
RHP Brandon Lyon said he had no problem not being named the closer -- he just hopes to get back on the field healthy after missing most of 2011 due to biceps surgery.
"I know I can help this ballclub win games, and whether it's pitching seventh, eighth inning, doesn't matter -- or whether it's playing a different role," Lyon said after RHP Brett Myers was named closer. "The main thing we've talked about for me is getting myself healthy and then figure out all that stuff later. I'm not going to go in there and say 'hey I want this role' and they're not going to come tell me what my role is right now."
3B Jimmy Paredes is limited by an offseason wrist injury in spring training, giving more opportunity to INF Chris Johnson and INF Brett Wallace. Both Johnson and Wallace will start games at both third base and first base as they compete for what could be starting or backup jobs.
By the Numbers: 28 – New jersey number for RHP David Carpenter, who was "upgraded" mid-camp from the 67 he wore last season now that he's a somewhat established major leaguer.
Quote to Note: "If the change is going to be made, certainly next year going to the American League is our transition and we're leaning heavily that way." -- Astros owner Jim Crane on the likelihood of an overhaul to the team's uniforms.