Let's talk about the finalized roster and more on this final day before Opening Day finally gets here...
1) Thirteen pitchers? 13 pitchers - No need to wonder who was going to get cut out of the lefties in the bullpen. Turns out neither of them will get cut and Brad Mills gets his two lefty setup he seems to favor out there. That bullpen largesse is at the expense of one Justin Ruggiano, who was sent to Oklahoma City to cut the roster down to 25 men.
That means Houston only has four outfielders and six infielders. Oh, and only four position players on the bench each game, three of which are "eligible" to pinch-hit (assuming you don't want the backup catcher used up). It's a surprising, if unconventional move. We've seen it before with some managers like Tony LaRussa, but I wonder if this is just a stopgap while the team tries to acquire another right-handed outfielder it likes better than Ruggiano or Brian Bixler?
Just another in a long line of surprising decisions from this front office this spring. I'm not sure I totally agree with this one, but it's also not likely to hurt the club in the short term. I also don't expect this setup to last all season, either. It could, but more than likely, this is a short-term roster that will change as the weeks and months go on.2) Jed Lowrie's health - We still don't know. We were supposed to know by Wednesday afternoon, when rosters needed to be finalized, but the Astros pushed that back. Brian Bixler could very well be with the club if Jed Lowrie is placed on the DL, but right now, the shortstop is on the active roster.
Brad Mills has already said that if Lowrie can't go, Marwin Gonzalez will start on Friday. That's because Angel Sanchez improbably did not get added to the roster in case of a Lowrie DL stint. In fact, it doesn't appear Sanchez was even under consideration. It seems like Mar-Go had it, and Bixler was next in line.
Lowrie is a pretty important piece to this particular Astros puzzle. Hopefully, this is the last bit of bad luck he's got in his system and he gets through the rest of the year relatively healthy. Then again, I hope that I win the lottery all the time. Doesn't mean it's happened yet.
3) Time to get excited about Tuve? - Lost in the sea of predictions, prophecies and everything else this spring is any big-time excitement about Jose Altuve. Yeah, we all like the guy and he's pretty much had the second base job since the word "Go" this spring. But, how many people have thought of him as a breakout candidate?
I think all the scouting reports are starting to weigh on us collectively. There's only so many times someone can tell you how he's never going to hit for power, that he's the new David Eckstein, that he embodies scrappiness, before you start to believe it, almost through internet-osmosis.
Yet, the fact is, the little second sacker has hit everywhere he's gone. When tasked with walking more this spring, he's gone out and done just that. He's got a great line drive swing and can play good defense. Why can't this guy hit .280/.350/.420 for this team? And, if he does that, won't he be a good bet to maybe sneak onto the All-Star team?
I mean, you know people will fall in love with his story (and by that, I mean height). Don't you think he could win that fan voting to get the final All-Star spot? I don't know. My personal expectations aren't very high for Altuve, but I really think he could impress this season. Certainly, his development is going to be one of the more enjoyable things to watch.