Hey, lots to talk about over the weekend, so let's just get into all the news fit for three Monday items...
1) Brett Wallace heads to Triple-A - This wasn't a terribly surprising move, as the Astros announced Sunday afternoon that Brett Wallace was getting sent down to Oklahoma City, where he'll be the everyday third baseman.
That last part is a bit surprising, as the Astros apparently intend to stick with Brick at third. That's partly because they have no depth at the upper minors at the position and partly to boost his value as a player. A first baseman who doesn't hit for power will not stick on a major league team for very long. A third baseman with no power but a decent bat can have a nice major league career.
Look at a guy like Ryan Roberts, who hit .249/.341/.427 last season for the Diamondbacks. That's a terrible line for a first baseman, but a very good one for a guy manning the hot corner. Jeff Cirillo, a guy that I brought up on the podcast Sunday night, hit .296/.366/.430 for his career.
If Wallace can walk 8 to 9 percent of the time and use that gap power he's shown, he's an asset at third base. That's assuming he can play the position decently, that is. The jury is still out on that one.
2) Injury updates - No Jordan Schafer this weekend and no Jed Lowrie for the time being. Schafer was supposed to make progress on returning from his hand injury, but it's looking more and more like he may not be ready for opening day. Does that add significance to Houston playing Brian Bogusevic in center and batting leadoff on Saturday? Or does it open a chance that J.B. Shuck makes the roster for a week or so as the de facto center fielder?
As for Lowrie, his thumb isn't responding as it should, and it seems more and more likely that he'll have to be DLed too, but may only miss six or seven days. The fact that he can't pick up a bat right now is worrisome, and why I think he probably won't be ready to go by Friday.
Still, the fact that the team kept Marwin Gonzalez around is a good sign that we may not have to see Angel Sanchez make his second consecutive start at shortstop on Opening Day. He would be the thirteenth Astros shortstop to start at least two ODs, joining the likes of Sonny Jackson, Roger Metzger, Craig Reynolds, Dickie Thon and Adam Everett.
Of course, he'd also join Julio Lugo, Orlando Miller and Ricky Gutierrez, so the bar may not be as high as I made it out to be.
3) Bullpen matters - No spring can be complete without a heated competition in the bullpen. Indeed, even for teams who have pretty set rosters, there will be some sort of movement among those six or seven guys.
The Astros are no stranger to that, but who's actually in the competition? Let's look at three guys and how likely they are to make the 25-man roster:
Rhiner Cruz, RHP - The Rule 5 pick has pitched well lately, but still is on the outside looking in. He's got the big arm and has shown that off in stretches this spring, but the control has not been there. I know I've been dismissive of spring stats, but 10 walks in 9 1/3 innings this spring is pretty bad. Of course, the 10 Ks is the reason he hasn't been cut before now. Cruz probably gets offered back to the Mets, but I wouldn't be surprised if Houston tries to fit him in.
Henry Sosa, RHP - Can Sosa make it as the long man out of the bullpen? I'm not sure that Houston has many other options now. Unless they decide to keep Jordan Lyles in the big leagues and in the bullpen, who's left to fill that stretch role? That's why I think Sosa has a good chance to make the OD roster. That and he's out of options. He hasn't pitched poorly this spring, and had enough good moments last season to feel good about starting out in the 'pen.
Wesley Wright, LHP - Here's the big question: who gets to be the lefty out of the bullpen? Wright has pitched well this spring. He's got a bunch of scoreless outings, hasn't walked hardly anyone and has good strikeout numbers. He's also got experience in the majors, which has to be a plus for Mills. If not Wright, the Astros would have to turn to Fernando Abad, who has been similarly stingy with the walks or Xavier Cedeno, who would have to be added to the 40-man roster. I'd say it's a coin flip between Abad and Wright at this point.