Let's talk about some of the things rolling around the Astros-sphere on this final Friday of spring training...
1) Livan is cut, signs with Braves - Tim has already covered most of the pertinent angles on Livan's dismissal from the team. At that time, we didn't know that Livan Hernandez would soon sign a $750,000 major league deal with the Atlanta Braves. That means at least one other team thought he was still a viable major league pitcher, but Houston thought he wasn't worth the money, since they had other options.
The question then becomes, who makes the rotation in Livan's place?
I think it's Jordan Lyles and Kyle Weiland. We've all wanted Lyles to spend some time back at Triple-A, but the Astros apparently think he could learn more in the majors thaback down in the minors. I'd also add one thing about Lyles and why I think he could replace Livan and Brett Myers' potential innings.
See, Lyles threw just about 155 innings last season between the majors and minors. If we assume he could increase by around 20 innings, that leaves him around 170 innings this season. While both Myers and Livan could have been counted upon for 200 innings, Lyles gets the Astros most of the way there.
Another sleeper candidate to fill Livan's spot is Lucas Harrell, who the Astros seem very high on. I wouldn't be surprised if he wins a spot, but the innings issue becomes a bit more pronounced with him. Harrell only threw 144 innings last season, so pushing up to that 170-175 inning mark would be more of a stretch, considering Harrell's career high in innings is just 146 back in 2009.
Personally, the Livan news is the most I've been surprised at a starting pitcher's released since Shane Reynolds was cut back in 2003. Coincidentally, Reynolds also quickly signed with the Atlanta Braves that spring. Before the spring, I was convinced Livan had no chance at making the team. I got convinced quickly that he'd make the rotation when the team announced the Astros were moving Brett Myers to closer. Now, we've come full circle, but it didn't make things any less surprising.
Also, looking at Zachary Levine's update on how the rotation will break down, we get some weird timing. Wandy is starting Sunday to start Opening Day on Friday, with Lucas Harrell in like to start the season's second game on Saturday and Bud Norris starting on three-days rest to slot into the Sunday as the third starter. That leaves J.A. Happ as the fourth starter on Monday and then Kyle Weiland or Jordan Lyles as the fifth starter.
Lyles could be stretched a bit to start on Saturday, or even Weiland. Or, the Astros could make a play for John Lannan to fill the rotation and that spot. It's going to be a fascinating next couple of days while all these roster moves shake out, no?
2) Lowrie is okay - Breathe a sigh of relief. The new starting shortstop is just day-to-day after injuring his thumb the other day. Turns out there is no ligament damage to the thumb, meaning Jed Lowrie won't miss much time at all. In fact, he might just end up in the Opening Day roster after all.
That means no Angel Sanchez on the big league roster. I know there are plenty of Sanchez supporters out there, but I'd rather see Marwin Gonzalez on the roster. It's kind of silly, but I'd rather go with the unknown in Gonzalez than the devil we know in Sanchez.
3) The Paul Clemens factor - One last bit on Livan. There has to be some expectation that Paul Clemens' performance this spring will lead to a call-up at some point. He's proven time and again that he can perform at a high level, it just remains to been seen when he'll make the big leagues.
So, if the Astros are thinking about bringing up Clemens at some point this season, maybe by June or July, could they make the call to cut ties with Livan now before he gets more expensive?
It's not the most likely scenario, but I think the Astros will probably use more starters than the did last season, even before Livan got cut. Lots of factors going on in these moves, but Houston has to like its depth at the end of the rotation to make a move like this.
Who are the first pitchers called up? Aneury? Dallas Keuchel? Henry Sosa?