As the dust (sand?) settles on the Astros spring time in the Sunshine State, I think it's safe to say that the team ended things on a good note, after a disastrous start. A 1-16-3 start had us all thinking that this was going to be the season where Drayton's ineptitude would finally cost him more than just another season where the Astros did not make the playoffs.
Thankfully, a rebound occurred right about the time we started playing our regulars more often and pitching our starters deeper into games. Since beginning slowly, we managed to win 10 out of 12 games, and finish with a slightly more respectable record. There were a great many twists and turns to get to where the team is today:
- The loss of Aaron Boone to heart surgery
- Acquiring Jeff Keppinger to fill the void at third base
- Brandon Backe's intercoastal muscle strain that eventually landed him on the DL
- The resurgence of Russ Ortiz, Mike Hampton and Brian Moehler
- Jose Capellan, Jeff Fulchino and Alberto Arias emerging as viable major league pitchers
- Pudge Rodriguez joining the team to stabilize a group of "not ready for primetime" catchers
- Chris Sampson returning successfully from an off season elbow surgery
- The injury concern about Lance Berkman and his bicep tendinitis
- Jason Smith beating out Edwin Maysonet for the utility infield job
Chris Johnson will most likely be sent down to Round Rock to start 2009, which is a good thing. He has shown spurts of his potential, but still strikes out too much and appeared over matched at the plate and sloppy in the field. He struggled in his time last season in AAA, and with Keppinger's addition, he hopefully won't be needed before he's ready to produce against big league pitching. Round Rock will for the first time in my memory have an extremely interesting roster heading into the season: Chris Johnson, Edwin Maysonet, Drew Sutton, Alberto Arias, Jose Capellan, Bud Norris, Brad James, Brian Bogusevic are the most notable names that will be playing in central Texas this summer.
What excites me most for the big league club? Michael Bourn has shown the same patience in the spring that he did in the Dominican Winter League. As pointed out by Entropic Soul, Bourn leads the team in walks this spring (11). His OBP should end up around the .330 mark, despite a relatively low batting average. He's struck out once in roughly seven ABs this spring as well. All good signs heading into the season. Brian Bogusevic has drawn rave reviews, and rest assured that if Bourn falters for too long, the competition is ready in Round Rock.
The final two games before the regular season will be against Cleveland at the Juice Box today and tomorrow. Four days and counting till the Cubs invade and the regular season begins...