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Astros Spring Notebook

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Happy St. Patrick's Day!

UPDATE: The Astros cut 12 players from camp Wednesday, reassigning Fernando Abad, Brian Bogusevic, Evan Englebrook, Chia-jen Lo, Matt Nevarez, Yordany Ramirez, Lou Santangelo, Wladimir Sutil, Polin Trinidad, Jose G Valdez and Henry Villar to minor league camp. The team also gave Alex Romero his unconditional release, meaning he becomes a free agent immediately. Any surprises here?

Let's lead this off with another note from Morgan Ensberg's excellent blog. In this one, he responds to a user's question about whether he used steroids with a very well-thought out and insightful answer.

The only thing I saw in the clubhouse was "greenies" which I have done about 10 times. Greenies are basically "uppers" and they didn’t do anything to me. I am not sure if that is a good thing.

I drink a ton of coffee and would drink something like 2 redbulls before a game if I felt sluggish.

I always use this analogy. In Hermosa Beach, where I grew up, there were a bunch of kids who smoked weed. I was asked if I wanted to smoke, but I said no and that was the end of it.

I eventually smoked in college about 30 times and I liked it. But I noticed that it made me eat a lot and I didn’t need any help in that department.

Back to the point, I didn’t smoke so I wasn’t in "that club". If you are not in the group then you have no idea what guys are doing it. The same thing happened in college with cocaine. I have never done cocaine, but some of my buddies did and I had no idea. I just thought that they were really hyper.

My opinion is this. I can’t fault anyone for doing steroids because they are trying to do everything they can to get to the big leagues. I played in the Dominican and Venezuela and nothing you say will change my opinion on a guy making a decision to feed his family. This isn’t apples and apples.

I don’t even think that those guys who did do steroids pushed me out of the game. I had the ability to play the game at the highest level and that is really cool to me.

It's an interesting analogy made about the pot smokers and the non-users. Extrapolating it out further, doesn't it make sense that guys who were 'in the club' like Jose Canseco would want to paint more people with the same brush stroke? What was the real percentage of users in baseball? My guess is that it was lower than the Mitchell Report would have us believe but higher than they admitted at the time.

Another interesting point is made about Latin American players. How many of these guys have been popped for steroids? Miguel Tejada is the only one I can think of off the top of my head. I know there have been some minor leaguers recently hit with 50-game bans for taking controlled substances, but was there anyone from that late 90's era? Just an interesting point to ponder.

The more major leaguers and former major leaguers we can get to talk about these things, the better. This blog by Ensberg is the one thing baseball fans lack lots of time: first-hand interaction with guys playing the game at its highest level. I can't wait for more posts!

Vallejo optioned: Jose Vallejo cleared waivers Tuesday and was outrighted to Round Rock. The 24-year old second baseman is still recovering from surgery to repair the tendons in his hand, which he sliced while cooking at his home in the Dominican Republic.

Obviously, no team was going to claim a player who will already be missing the season. What I wonder is what the Astros have planned for that extra spot on the 40-man roster. That's exactly the kind of flexibility that gives Ed Wade the chance to make a shrewd trade or waiver pickup.

It also gives them the chance to keep a non-roster guy on the big league roster with Berkman's injury. More likely, this is a move to keep a guy like Chris Shelton on the roster if Berkman needs to be put on the DL to start the season. That way, as clack said earlier this week, Blum and Shelton could split playing time for the first couple of weeks.

Lyon throwing Thursday: I mentioned it in Tuesday's game thread, but Brandon Lyon was cleared to pitch in a real, live game on Thursday and will be making his Astros debut against his old team, the Detroit Tigers.

Considering Lyon had his 'Controlled' game pushed up to Tuesday, I wonder if he saw the Tigers on the schedule and pushed Brad Mills to get him ready to face them. While there may not be bad blood between Lyon and the Tigers' front office, being dumped just isn't very fun. Here's hoping he's healthy and effective to show them he deserved that 15 million dollar deal...Wait, shouldn't he be trying to show US the same thing?

Johnson and Johnson: In case you missed it, Astros minor league third baseman Chris Johnson got to play against his dad, Red Sox first base coach Ron Johnson, on Tuesday. The two got to exchange lineup cards before the game and Chris was able to make a couple good defensive plays not five feet away from his father, who was able to coach at third for this game only.

From Alden Gonzalez' story on

"It was a weird feeling. It really was. Because it's different. I've never been in a situation where you look out there and go, 'Well, he's a good player, I like the second baseman, and I love the third baseman -- literally! It's kind of strange."

Every now and then, you get a spring training story that has no bearing on the season, won't affect anything else, but could only happen in Florida or Arizona. Like Garth Brooks playing in the outfield for a charity. Or Tim Raines and Tim Raines Jr. both playing in the same outfield one spring. It's getting to see legends like Sandy Koufax up close or future stars like Stephen Strasburg. My wife asked me the other day why I like spring training so much better than football preseason. I don't know that I have a good answer, but I think it has something to do with stories like these.

Roy looks good: Another strong outing for Roy Oswalt on Tuesday means the Astros may have their ace back. Oswalt got nine ground ball outs, which tells me that he's not only confident in his defense, but that whatever changes he and Brad Arnsberg made are working.

Oswalt's start also put him in line to pitch on Opening Day. Assuming that Wandy pitches tomorrow, does that mean Brett Myers will be the third guy, or will Bud Norris slot in there? Technically, the No. 3 starter doesn't have to pitch right behind your Nos. 1 and 2. it's all about performance, right? At the same time, this week's pitching order could tell us a little more about the new skipper.