The Astros, Bud Norris, and the future

The 2010 Astros' season has not gone as we had hoped it would (thus far the draft feels like a mixed bag, too). Many of us here had limited hope that the Astros would at least play watchable baseball throughout the year, and a large part of that seemed to hinge on the performance of our two youngest arms: Felipe Paulino and Bud Norris. As of late, Paulino seems to have hit his stride and is doing all the things we hoped would allow the Astros anemic offense to possibly win baseball games. Bud Norris, however, has spent the last two weeks on the dreaded disabled list with bursitis and bicep-tendonitis after getting off to shaky start.

This week, Norris begins his journey back from the DL. The tentative plan is Monday in Round Rock with a simulated game and then two more rehab starts at AAA- if all goes well.

When Norris' move to the disabled list was announced, my fears of Norris possibly brilliant career being derailed by the abuse he endured in 2009 roared in the back of my mind. David quickly went to Twitter to ask Will Carroll just how nervous we should all be about Norris' bicep/shoulder issues (it has been near impossible to get a consistent description of just what Norris is on the DL for across news sources). 

Carroll responded a link to the Astros' team health report, which Carroll complied before the season got started. The essential gist of Norris' health report is that Carroll worries that it is not so much Norris' past that determines his future, as it is how the Astros handle Norris' future for him. At first I didn't really understand why it was that Carroll gave that link to David, but after mediating on it for two weeks now, I get it.

Norris does not have a truly worrisome injury- just an injury that become worrisome if Norris is rushed. How the Astros handle Norris' issues right now probably determines whether or not he passes through his injury nexus with 60-day DL stints, or is allowed to recuperate and scrape by as he amasses the durability required to be a MLB starter. 

The concern I have had in waiting to see how Norris' return goes is that the Astros won't take the latter course; opting instead to push Norris to get him back on the mound and help the Astros somehow improbably resurrect themselves. With Roy and Wandy struggling, and Brian Moehler a sitting duck on the mound, the pressure has to be mounting on Wade and Mills' heads to put on a good show. Norris returning quickly and pitching well could do just that.

My guess is that it wouldn't go that way if that is the path they chose. Norris reportedly didn't feel stretched out after his simulated game of three innings. For someone suffering from tendonitis and bursitis- that is not good.

Thus, I am curious to see what the outlook for Norris' rehab starts are. I think that will be the sign we look for in regards to the Astros brass' grip on reality. If Norris is rushed through the rehab stints it is clear—to me, at least—that the Astros cannot see the forest through the trees in terms of the Astros' future seasons (unless they have already written off Norris as a part of that...but how could they?). If Norris is given all the time he needs to get his arm right, then he is being given a legitimate chance to work through his injury nexus responsibly; a chance that would also allow him to hopefully contribute MLB innings for the Astros the rest of the year.

The initial returns from the draft seem to indicate that Ed Wade is content to let Bobby Heck continue lay a solid foundation in projectable talent at the lower levels of the system. This makes it all the more imperative that Norris gets a chance to solidify himself as a MLB-capable starter if the Astros want 2010 to be the low point in their recovery. Otherwise, instead a V-shaped recovery, it could be a U-shaped recovery.

We have no definitive indication either way with Norris because the latest word I have, which come across Norris' next step comes courtesy of Greg Lucas, via the FNHouston Twittter, is that the Astros will not make announcement about Norris until they see how things go today for him. Something to keep abreast of for sure as David and OremLK continue to grace us with their sterling and tireless draft coverage.

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Speaking of their draft coverage, our fearless leader, David, had a busy, busy day yesterday. In case you missed his outstanding draft coverage, here it is (I imagine David was just as busy as Bobby Heck was yesterday):

Hats off to David and OremLK for everything they put together to make us one overly prepared group of fans for this draft. David Coleman is currently be investigated for PED's or the possibility that he is in fact just a robot- the man has done nothing but turn out 5+ posts a day for the last few days. OremLK is also up for ROY with his pre-draft contributions. Again, thanks to both of you.

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