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Astros roster begins to take shape

Before game time today—which was yet another loss—the Astros whittled down their roster further.  There aren't a lot of surprises in this mix, but I think the moves bear some analysis.

Here's the story; here are some block quotes:

Five were optioned to Triple-A Round Rock: infielder Drew Sutton, outfielder Yordany Ramirez, right-hander Sammy Gervacio and lefties Tyler Lumsden and Polin Trinidad.

The Astros also reassigned infielder Mark Saccomanno to Minor League camp.

Like I said, none of these moves are overly surprising.  I can't say that I'm not disappointed to see Sutton optioned to Round Rock, but in the end, it's probably the best for his career path.  It's also not like we won't see him called up when Kaz inevitably goes down with an injury at some point—so godspeed Drew.  Ramirez is so gifted defensively, but aside from a short stint at the Padres AAA affiliate where he mashed, he hasn't done much to warrant a major league job, but maybe he'll develop into a serviceable fifth outfielder in the future.

Sending the lefties down was interesting, because it came on the heels of Hensely being slotted into the bullpen and leaving the rotation race.  However, that move doesn't give us anymore lefties in the bullpen, so it'll be interesting to see how Cooper is able to play his platoon split strategy during the season.  According to the article above, Trinidad will start at AAA, but it sounded like Lumsden will stay in the bull pen.  Coop was impressed with Trindad and expects to see him at in the bigs sometime this season; that's not an overly bold prediction given that Mike Hampton, Brian Moehler, and Russ Ortiz will ostensibly be our 3/4/5 to start the season (maybe Capellan after today's effort too?).

The final stop on today's recap of where we're at is Brandon Backe and Alberto Arias.  Backe is apparently no closer to starting, with no idea when to begin.  There's been a lot of ink spilled about us releasing him so that we don't have to pay his $1.55 million contract, but I think that's a bad idea.  Yes, he's Brandon Backe, but at least we know he can be around replacement level for us.  This team is shallow on starting pitching depth, and I think $1.55 million is worth a DL slot and at least hedging our bets against our ridiculously old rotation.  That brings me to Arias, whose IP this Spring Training had indicated the Astros were shoping him as a bullpen only candidate, but that status was finally confirmed, for me at least, yesterday in this article.  We've talked about Arias a lot over the offseason, so this doesn't make a whole lot sense to me.  Paulino doesn't look ready to be a starter; Ortiz, Hampton, and Moehler are old; Backe and Wandy are dubious for health reasons right now; and Hensley has been pushed to the bullpen.  So why on Earth are we not trying to cultivate a guy who has the promise of a starter to be a starter?