Astros Spring Training: Fighting for the last spot?


The Astros are a few games into their 2018 Spring Training regimen and on paper (and this is more than what dogs do to paper) they have the deepest and best team they have ever taken to ST.  Listening to and reading a number of stories it would seem that the only decisions to be made are on the very last spot or spots on the bench.

While that may true, just remember that one of the most under the radar critical occurrences in Spring Training 2017 was Collin McHugh being injured and not being able to start the season or play for most of the season. Brad Peacock was nails in Spring Training and was given a spot on the roster and was perhaps the most important and flexible pitching cog in the Astros run-up to the World Series. But assuming the Astros are looking at the end of the bench only who do they see working to get that last spot or two?

Note – This post was started prior to Yuli Gurriel‘s injured hand and subsequent surgery.

Tony Kemp. Tony from Vandy is no dumby. He knows that versatility is cherished in the organization, so the natural 2nd baseman has been working on his arm strength so that he can be an option to play the left side of the infield and the outfield too. He quietly hit for good numbers last year at AAA (.329 BA /.375 OBP/.825 OPS) which he has not matched in two short stints at the majors.

Tyler White.White started the 2016 season on-fire but eventually the fire caught his wings on fire and he plummeted back to earth. He only played 22 games in 2017, but he was the most effective of the call-ups with a .279 BA/ .328 OBP/ .853 OPS with 3 home runs and 10 RBIs. It does not take a lot of imagination to see Tyler slide into Yuli’s first base spot, while the Astros rookie of the year heals and then serves his Non-PC five game suspension.

J.D. Davis. J.D. had his moments in 2017 with 4 doubles and 4 home runs in 62 ABs. He showed power and is known for lack of speed (though he only had one SB less than Carlos Correa).  He is likely a next man up type player as he is not quite as versatile as some of the other folks on the cusp.

A.J. Reed. As friend of the blog, Billy C wrote – he has been Jon Singleton without the drugs. He has had some good stats in the minors, but the foundation is shaky as he just strikes out too much, which matches what he has shown in his cups of coffee in the majors where he just looks like he has a slow bat. He came into camp “in the best shape in his life”. But he needs to show something other than a svelte figure or he will likely end up in some mid-season trade as a player who needs a new situation….

Max Stassi. He is not a shoo in, but if the Astros plan on resting the aging Brian McCann and they plan for Evan Gattis to be the full time DH, then they need another catcher on the roster. He has only played in small samples in the majors, which were good samples the first 3 times he was called up and poorly the last two times. He had a very good 2017 AAA season (.266/.383/.852). He has looked good in the early ST and the Astros hope that like the other player not named Chris Carter that they picked up in the Jed Lowrie trade (Brad Peacock) that he is a late and good bloomer.

Kyle Tucker. He will probably not make this squad out of spring training. He does not need to make this squad out of spring training. But with a couple of early homers he is showing that he should be on the short list for a call-up if the need arises.

Rogelio Armenteros. The young Cuban was arguably the best minor league pitcher not named Whitley in the Astros system. He has shown well in the early going and it is not impossible to think that if someone in the bullpen falters or gets hurt that he would get the call.

David Paulino. He made it to the majors. He was working through an injury. He went for chemical help and paid the price. No one has more to prove and to apologize for than this young man. He has a terrific arm, but can he earn another shot at the Bigs.

Francis Martes. Due to a rotation inflicted with the injury bug, Martes spent a lot of time in the majors in 2017. He was bad as a reliever and decent as a starter. He really has no chance of making the rotation out of spring training, so he will need to show improvement as a reliever to make this team. The more likely scenario is that he spends most of the season in the minors as a starter maneuvering for a shot at a more wide open rotation in 2018.

So ….

Who do you think has the best shot to make the team out of ST?

Who will need some injury luck to have a shot?

Who will be on speed dial if help is needed during the season?

Do you think the “moment” would be too big for any of these young men, if called upon to play in the majors this season?

Who else should I have listed? Garrett Stubbs? Reymin Guduan? Riley Ferrell?

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81 comments on “Astros Spring Training: Fighting for the last spot?

  1. In light of Gurriel’s injury, Tyler White should now make the team. He has a good eye, a good bat, and is serviceable, though no All-Star, at several positions in the field.

    Stassi should also make the team. Of course, I suppose the ‘let’s trade for J.T. Realmuto’ talk could get a little more traction now on the theory that he could both catch and play 1B. We’ll see.

    Davis can hit doubles and dingers, but can’t play a position – kind of like Evan Gattis, circa 2016. Hmmmn.

    Kemp is a great athlete – as he proved yesterday with that unbelievable leaping catch going away in left field – but his small build doesn’t seem like a fit for first base. And he is not exactly having a great spring offensively.

    A.J. Reed? Svelte or not, I just cannot see him right now as anything other than a poor man’s imitation of Brett Wallace – sans the thunder thighs.

    KTuck? See you in 2019!

    Armenteros? He’ll probably be on a short-list for a call-up if/when a pitcher goes on DL.

    Paulino? Clean slate. Has the stuff. Has to perform NOW, or he falls behind Armenteros.

    Martes? Needs seasoning. Let him pitch in AAA – and learn to throw his excellent stuff for strikes.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Guduan still can’t throw strikes, or keep his head on straight with runners on, so no way he’s in the mix for a spot on the 25-man. All we need is another guy who walks every third batter he faces.

      Stubbs? He’s available in a pinch in case McCann goes on DL.

      Ferrell? Hasn’t blown us away yet. It’s hard to crack this team with anything less than brilliance.

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  2. Its certainly a change to not have multiple question marks going into spring training. A GREAT change. I really like this team as assembled.
    best shot at making the team? out of the players listed it has to be Stassi.
    who will need injury help? (i hate that phrase injury help) the candidates for 1B already have it
    whose on speed dial? the pitchers and tucker
    is the moment too big? you never know till they are called up, but i think with this team and management any of them are better prepared than in the past
    who else could be listed? Boshers, Gose

    Thanks for the post Dan.

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  3. Mr Bill – what I was thinking about with Kemp is to send Marwin to 1st base and Kemp to left. But my first thought is with you – White is the best / easiest option until Yuli returns
    RJ – thanks for checking in and reminding me about Gose. Has he pitched this spring?

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    • i dont think he has Dan, but i expect he’ll get chances as ST goes along. i really hope he can corral his control and be a contributor, but thats surely not a given. it would be nice to have a lefty opposing players dont wanna face.

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  4. From what I have seen I would agree White, Stassi sticks Hinch has stated many times 3 catchers. I don’t see any young pitchers making it yet. What an OF in 2019 Tucker, Springer, Reddick/Fisher?

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  5. Only three regulars in the line-up to support Charlie Morton against the scarlet legging wearing braggarts from Beantown. Correa, Gattis, and Gonzales. Hinch is giving yet another chance to impress to: Kemp [LF], Davis [3B], White [1B] and Reed [DH].

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  6. Kemp is having real trouble hitting the ball in the air or through the left side of the infield. After his ground out to 1B in the first inning today, he is 0-13 with no walks and one strikeout. Maybe he should try pushing a bunt down the 3rd base line.

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    • I understand the dilly dilly reference – I’m not getting the TED reference – does it have something to do with Kyle Tucker hitting his 3rd HR of the spring or Tyler White continuing to produce

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      • The funny thing about Chipalatta bloggers saying hold him back is that he’s already living up to his moniker in the minors of Ted Williams swing.

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      • Somebody on the Astros team removed Tucker’s nameplate from his locker and wrote the name Ted above it after Tucker hit his homer last week. It was in reference to the comparisons some have made between his swing and that of Ted Williams. Since then the Astros broadcast team keeps playfully referring to him as Ted, especially after the darn guy keeps bombing home runs!.

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      • Thanks for filling me in guys. That is a pretty terrific player to be compared to isn’t it? Just saw his dinger today on the news at 6…. yes he has that beautiful left handed upper cut swing….

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      • I always wondered what numbers Teddy baseball would have put up if he didn’t lose almost 5 seasons to WWII and Korea at the height of his career – you would think he would have been right at Ruth’s level on HRs and ahead on RBIs.

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  7. Useless but fun information:

    BA leaders so far [10 or more at bats]:

    1st place: Tie: .385 – J.D. Davis & Kyle Tucker
    2nd place: Tie: .375 – Max Stassi and Tyler White
    3rd place: .364 – Derek Fisher

    RBI and Home Run Lead: Kyle Tucker [3 HR, 8 RBI]

    Most BBs – Tyler White [5]

    Most HBP -Jon Kemmer [3]

    Most Ks – A.J. Reed [7 in 13 ABs]

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  8. There several reasons that I suspect that, no matter what stats Kyle Tucker compiles this spring, he will not be starting the year on the Astros 25-man roster:

    1. He just turned 21 years old;
    2. He is feeding off of pitches that are right smack dab in his wheel house right now [see, for example the dinger he hit today]; he needs a season of facing good pitching at AAA once they learn where NOT to throw the ball, and actually start to test his ability to hit pitches that are a. up higher in the zone; and b. on the outside 1/2 to the outside corner.
    3. There really is no place to put him without trading Marisnick or Fisher; and
    4. I doubt the Astros are anxious to ‘start his clock’, considering the other options we have available.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Astros outfield right now consists of Springer, the #24 ranked player in baseball, Reddick, the #70 ranked player and Gonzalez, the #76 ranked player. This, according to MLB.com.
      With Marisnick and Fisher as the backup outfielders the Astros are in terrific shape and can allow Kyle Tucker to complete his minor league career.
      What Tucker is doing now is showing the Astros that when he is needed, he will be ready.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes, there is less than a 1% chance, in my opinion, that Ted makes the OD roster. There would have to be injuries to 2 of the 5 current OFers projected to make the OD roster. While he is having a good spring so far and he had a good 2nd half last year he still needs some seasoning in AAA.

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  9. I find it unusual that a kid like Reed won the Golden Spikes Award in college but just can not hit MLB pitchers. He’s an enigma for sure. I fully expect to see our Chipalatta adopted nephew to stay up with the big club. Luhnow is going to have to look at the log jam coming from Corpus to Fresno very soon! Especially the outfield and first base. We are getting a sweet taste of what to expect from that tall skinny kid named Kyle “Ted” Tucker next year!! Dang he has a quick bat! You can tell by the way Hinch talks about him, they are VERY impressed with him! He wants one or more of those BIG World Series rings! The winter went fast this year and I was soo happy to see March is finally here!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Becky, if you think about it, Reed may have actually faced maybe five pitchers in his entire college career who are going to end up as a major league pitcher. Most pitchers he faced in college didn’t even end up in minor league ball.
      A guy like Reed with slow reflexes at the plate may not be able to adjust to good pitching. Tons of power against college pitchers. Cant catch up to major league pitching.
      You can take the same situation and flip it around to Mark Appel. Great stuff to get out college hitters, most of whom will never sniff a major league at bat. But he had neither the stuff or the drive to get major league quality hitters out.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Burning the midnight oil again! Yes 1OP, and then there is the great leap to be made from AA or AAA ball to MLB. Even most guys getting that far then hit their ceiling. They just don’t make the final step. I always think about J.R. Towles as my cautionary tale.. He sure fooled me. Then I found out he had his own website and knew he was doomed.

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      • There are so many cautionary tales along the way and success in the preseason also does not mean anything. I remember the Rockets had a center named Kelvin Cato. As I remember he blocked something like 11 shots in a preseason game and they signed him to a big multi-year contract that they regretted before the first season was over.

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      • I don’t know about that. He faced three pitchers alone from Vanderbilt who have pitched in the majors. Then you throw in guys like Gausman, Nola, and Alex Wood. Someone who is more of an SEC fan can probably throw out a few names of other guys of pitchers who already cracked the big show. Reed faced a lot of pitchers who have made it to various levels of the minors as well.

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  10. Right now, it looks like the 2 favorites to earn spots on the OD roster are Stassi and White. One person you probably should have mentioned is Tim Federowicz since he is battling Stassi to be the backup catcher. Hinch has said they plan to carry 3 catchers, if you want to count Gattis as a catcher, so one of Stassi and Federowicz is likely to make the OD roster.

    Also, Gose has not pitched this spring as they are taking it slow with him. He had some injuries last year, but I believe he is slated to pitch on Saturday.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Bouncing stuff around this morning:
    – Remembering how George Springer decided not to participate in the home run derby in July and what he did to finish up the baseball season.
    -Wondering if all these good pitchers the Astros have in their rotation are in Max Stassi’s corner, while outsiders try to connect the Astros to other catchers out there. Ex-catcher Hinch knows what is going on here.
    -The person on this blog who has been talking about Armenteros for the last year or so, knows what they are talking about. It’s not me, because my one claim to being right was spent on Brad Peacock.
    – OK, so I did think the move to sign Morton was a gem, too.
    – Wondering if Becky was able to work a deal with Direct TV.
    – Joe Smith had a weird first inning the other day, but he was as happy as any guy I have seen at the end of it. His attitude looks like it will keep the bullpen loose out there.
    – Any chance that the bats being used today could add something to the mix of baseballs flying out of ballparks?
    – Very interested in Kyle Tucker not using batting gloves.
    – Where is the Gose of lefties past?
    – The most analytics driven front office in baseball did not go chasing after any big-time lefty relievers. What does that say?

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    • – The maple bats favored by many hitters do have a harder surface to them. Many people will tell you this results in a more efficient energy transfer from ball to bat back to ball.
      – I can’t quickly find the evidence, but thought I’d read that average velocity of pitches has increased steadily each year for the last decade. Higher velocity means more energy and the possibility of higher exit velocity on batted balls.
      – An interesting stat is HR allowed per 9IP (for all MLB):
      2017: 1.26
      2000: 1.17
      2016: 1.16
      1999: 1.14
      2004: 1.12
      2006: 1.11
      1996: 1.09
      2003: 1.07
      1987: 1.06
      2009: 1.04
      2002: 1.04
      1998: 1.04
      2005: 1.03
      1994: 1.03
      2012: 1.02
      2007: 1.02
      1997: 1.02
      2015: 1.01
      1995: 1.01
      2008: 1.00
      2013: 0.96
      2010: 0.95
      1961: 0.95
      2011: 0.94
      …lots more years from 50’s and 60’s
      2014: 0.86
      There are some factors. Players are trying to optimize their launch angles with their swing. Notice there are no years in the 70’s and only one in the 80’s in my list above. This is because artificial turf, cookie cutter stadiums, and fast, skinny guys dominated. However, it’s also easy to make a correlation to PEDs in that data. Ridiculous ballparks like Coors Field also contribute to this.

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      • Nice work, Devin.
        Many pitchers noted a slicker quality to the ball as well. Kind of like buying fruit with that waxy film. I’ve noticed all our guys going to their pants leg for rosin in the Spring, I presume – McHugh especially the other day, while he was snapping off those spinners. Verlander suggesting the balls could be lighter weight in today’s news.

        Btw, I read recently that Bill James has shown Minute Maid to be a difficult place to score runs, despite the short porch theory, arguing that the dimensions are sneaky long. I would think pitchers are constantly taught to avoid certain parts of the zone, specific to the park they’re pitching in.

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      • Thanks, Grayson, for pointing out that MMP is not the bandbox that uninformed baseball fans will portray it to be. It is normally either neutral or slants to the pitcher advantage. I get a bit worn out when salty fans on Twitter call MMP a bandbox when statistics show it is not. I appreciate the good insight.

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  12. “Teams don’t value players as people anymore. They value them as a number on a sheet of paper”
    These words are spoken by a player who has already earned $95 million as a player and has a guarantee of another $105 million with his current contract.
    Pardon me, Mr Upton, if a guy who has to make payments on his hospital bill from a year ago can’t quite find some common ground with you here. My heart would bleed for you, if I could afford for it to do so. I seem to relate better with minor league players, who don’t make anything because you and the player’s union don’t give a crap about them.

    Liked by 3 people

    • OMG, Dan I was just posting the link to this when I saw your comment. It was beautiful timing after my snide comment about the way minor league players have to live.

      Liked by 2 people

      • No kidding op.

        I was going to respond to one of your earlier posts where you were commenting on Tucker not using batting gloves. I sure hope he doesn’t toughen his hands like Moises Alou did….

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      • I happen to love your snide comments. More often than not they are accurate and, let’s be honest here, I have been known to post some snide comments so I can relate. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • Dan, I had to google about Alou toughening his hands because that is the time in my life when I could not watch TV. Kinda glad I missed that.

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  13. Bud Norris got bombed in his start for the Cards today. Alex Cora put Mike Matheny’s son, Tate, in the leadoff spot for the Red Sox.
    Tanaka got bombed by the Braves in his start for the Yankees.

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  14. Tonight’s line-up features a 1-2-3 of Springer, Bregman, Altuve. Correa’s not playing so Reddick is in the 4-spot, followed by Gattis.

    I have been trying to figure out every since Gurriel went down if I want the 1-5 of the line-up to be Springer, Bregman, Altuve, Correa, & Reddick, OR Springer, Reddick, Altuve, Correa, & Bregman.

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  15. More useless but fun facts.

    Before tonight’s game, the Astros’ pitching leaders are:

    1. Innings pitched
    – Armenteros – 5.0 IP
    – Paulino -4.2 IP
    – Thornton & Valdez – 4.0 IP

    2. WHIP
    – 4 pitchers with a 0.00 WHIP -Verlander, Cole, Sipp and Brandon Bailey
    – 3 pitchers have less than 1.00 WHIP – Armenteros, Paulino & Thornton

    3. GO/AO
    – 2 pitchers have a GO/AO ratio of 4.00 – Hauschild & Martes
    – 2 pitchers have a GO/AO ration of 3.00 – Cole & Sneed

    4. K/9

    – 6 pitchers have a K/9 over 15.00 – Verlander, Devenski, Nunn, Emmanuel, Ramsey & Dorris

    5. WPs – only one pitcher has thrown a WP – Riley Farrell has actually thrown 2

    6. HRs allowed – Dorris has allowed 2 [in just 2.1 IP]

    7. BAA –
    – 4 pitchers have given up no hits – Verlander, Cole, Sipp, and Bailey
    – 2 pitchers have BAA’s of under 1.00 – Paulino & Thornton
    – 4 pitchers have BAA’s of under 2.00 – Peacock, Armenteros, Sneed, & C. Perez

    8. Worst ERAs
    – Rondon and Will Harris presently both have ERAs of 54.00
    – next worst ERA is Hoyt with 13.50

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  16. Got home from work and turned on the Astros and I go – who the heck is pitching? Devo with a Gattis beard was tough to pick out.

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  17. Gotta love Springer who killed his homer and then comes back to the dugout and razzes Marisnick who lost a homer to the win apparently

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  18. Hey how about Giles? Picking up right where he left off last year. Need to be able to overcome fielding errors. 3 hits, a WP, and 4 runs later…..

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      • True Dan but unfortunately these things happen. You have to not let it bother you and buckle down and carry on.

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      • One error – I agree with you Zanuda. I felt like Giles gave his teammates opportunities for about 5 outs and they converted like 2.

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  19. On July 24th 2013, the legend of Super Jack Mayfield was born.
    In the ninth inning, with two outs and Greeneville trailing by a run, Mayfield single in the tying run. In the bottom of the 13th, light-hitting Mayfield hit a walkoff two run homer and he was promoted to Tri-City that night.
    His career is full of little heroics late in games and he has fought his way to AAA now and is one step away from the majors.
    Tyler White was a teammate of Mayfield’s in Tri-City in 2013, as was Ariel Ovando.

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  20. Check out Hunter Atkins’ story about Gose in today’s Chronicle. He describes him as sounding like Forrest Gump, with a “suspicious” Alabama accent (all bios say he grew up in California). Pitching at age 5, he got so fed up with his teammates one inning that he converted three outs himself. At age 6, he started practicing his autograph. He did not admire any pitchers. “I just idolize Anthony Gose…ain’t no sense in tryin’ to be nobody else.”

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    • That was a heck of an odd story wasn’t it Diane.
      If it truly was a put-on (Gose saying he hated pitching and his Southern accent) I’m ok with it. But if a guy has fought most of his pro career against pitching in not too confident in his eventual success.
      Next he will be talking about himself as a third party.
      “Anthony Gose has a 100 mph arm….”

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      • Well it looks like Gose’s goose is cooked. Three batters and three walks. Heck of an inning here:
        W, W, W, (pitching change), E4 (2 Run scored), WP (run scored), W, K, HBP, Single (2 runs scored) E6, Single, Db l (2 runs scored ), Pitching change, W, K, Pop out.
        I thought I was watching the Keystone Cops. Good thing it’s ST.

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      • But on the bright side – Verlander with 3 scoreless, Hoyt with 1 scoreless and Martes with 1.2 scoreless innings

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  21. *Three* errors! Oh my goodness…..gotta clean those up boys! At least ONE question was answered today Gose ain’t gonna make it as a lefty in the Astros bullpen, but when we give him back to the arlington little league, we’ll probably see him pitch against us this season! I’ve been here reading your posts and for the first time in 49yrs….my baseball life had to take a back seat for a while.
    The black cloud of death is still hovering over my life. I lost my very best friend of 49yrs yesterday. We met when we 20yrs old, when we both started flying.
    I’ve lost three very important people in the span of 5 months. That’s enough😠!
    OP….your boy Brad Peacock on the bump tomorrow! I’m finding out the hard was that changing cable provider’s ain’t as easy as it sounds. Becky⚾

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Anthony Gose and Reymin Guduan are giving Tony Sipp his job.
    Recorded the game yesterday but didn’t watch it. Reading about that seven run inning took all my interest away.
    How hard is it to win a World Series? In 2014 Detroit had Price, Scherzer and Verlander in their rotation and all those good hitters and got swept in three games in the ALDS by Baltimore.
    Don’t mind losing and I don’t mind getting beat up in a ST game, but OMG, those errors! However, looking like a little league team might just be the thing to shake the Astros out of their WS euphoria and help them remember how they accomplished it.

    Like

  23. I believe Stassi wins the job as backup catcher and that it was his from the start. I believe Fisher and White are on the opening day roster, as is Tony Sipp.

    Like

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