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Who's on first? Who's on third? He's on third.

The title is in honor of a video at the end of this article.  But "who's on third?" is a bigger question for the Astros than "who's on first?"  Chris Johnson, the rookie, has a golden opportunity.  I suspect that if he has a great spring training, he may get the nod for 3d base duty.  (But, Cooper, please look at Johnson's minor league platoon splits--his splits are reversed-- before you put him in a platoon!) 

However, we have no idea if Johnson will end up hitting .350 or .185 on the spring.  If the latter, I think the Astros will be looking for additional help at 3d base.  At this point in the spring, each 0 for 3 or 2 for 3 will produce big swings in his batting average.  (I think he is in the .240 range right now.)

Cecil Cooper has said "no" to Tejada at 3d base, but he is mulling the possibility of Ivan Rodriguez getting some time at 3d base. (For his career, Pudge has a 40 point OPS advantage against lefties...if you were wondering about platooning.)  Pudge has never played 3d in the majors, but he did play 3d base a bit in the WBC.  Pudge, himself, has brought up the 3d base possibility as a way to increase his  playing time.  One has to wonder about I-Rod's defense at 3d base, but this might not be a bad idea for occasionally "resting" I-Rod from catching. Besides the obvious defense question, the other problem with this "solution" is that Quintero isn't necessarily a better hitter than Johnson, a utility infielder, or anyone else on the team, for that matter.

If the Astros go looking for a 3d baseman in a couple of weeks, I assume it will be a player released by another team or a low cost trade candidate.  At one time, I thought Loretta might become available, but I am doubting that now (it seems like the Dodgers will send last year's young starting 3d baseman to the minors).   The Brewers are another place to look, because they have several 3d basemen trying out.  Casey McGehee is another Quad-A 3d baseman who may be available.  He is a 27 year old 3d baseman who is one of the hottest hitters in the Brewers' camp.  But he doesn't fit a platoon with Bill Hall as well as Mike Lamb.  McGehee was called up by the Cubs in late season last year, and then signed by the Brewers when he was left off the 40 man roster.  His ceiling isn't very high, but he might be serviceable in a platoon with Blum.  If McGehee isn't available, then most likely Mike Lamb will be.  Astros'' fans know about Lamb's good and bad points.  He probably will hit well enough (he had a down year in 08), but his defense isn't good.  To top it off, he is a LHB, which means he isn't a platoon solution for the Astros.

Another team with an excess of 3d basemen is Colorado.  Jeff Baker is likely available in a trade, and probably would be cheap, given the crowd.  Reports out of Rockies-ville indicate that a Baker trade is probable.  At 28 years old, Baker has about 800 at bats in the majors, with success, and projects to have a high 700's OPS.  HLP brought this option up in a previous article, and I like it a lot, the more I think about it.  At one time, I thought an outside possibility existed that ex-Astros farmhand Ben Zobrist, a utility player, might become available.  However, that possibility seems less likely now that the Rays seem to be considering Zobrist as a CF replacement while Upton is injured.

UPDATE: The Astrosdaily' board mentions another interesting idea: Jeff Keppinger, who is out of options and could be traded by the Reds, according to this article.  The Reds have too many utility infielders, and Dusty likes Keppinger's competitor.  Keppinger isn't a good defensive shortstop, but his UZR is good in brief stints at 3d base. 

By the way, in unrelated news, Brandon Backe will placed on the DL when the season starts.  This means that his contract definitely will be guaranteed.  Any idea where he will fit in the scheme of things.

OK, in honor of "who on third? he is on third" here is the classic abbott & costello routine.

Who's on first? (via Swancourt)