Florida may be in the rear view window, but the games still don't count.
The problem, from many Astros fan perspectives, is that the reason they got smacked around may not be blamed on being a "spring training" thing. Three pretty big bullpen additions all got rung up by KC. Pat Neshek, newly-minted closer Luke Gregerson and James Hoyt gave up nine runs in the final two innings, turning a 2-0 Royals lead into a blowout.
The damage in the eighth came on the longball, as Eric Hosmer and The Woodlands native (and former Astros unsigned draftee) Brett Eibner each went deep off Neshek. In the ninth, the Royals put together a conga line around the bases off Gregerson, striking blows with doubles and singles before Hoyt took over and got rocked himself.
Hoyt and Gregerson each struck out one and none of the three gave up more than three hits or more than one walk. But, the implication is unsettling.
Houston's bullpen was supposed to be fixed. These type of late-inning losses were supposed to be a thing of the past, now that the Established Veterans were in hand. Yet, how many games just like this did Houston suffer through last year?
It's too soon to know whether that kind of hyperbole is warranted. What we do know is that relievers are generally fungible, since there is so much volatility in their performance. Guys get hurt. Guys lose effectiveness and others come out of nowhere to steal back-end spots.
What I'm saying is that anything can happen with the bullpen this year. Gregerson and Neshek may pitch well, or they could flop badly. Chad Qualls could fall apart while the other two stay solid. Josh Fields could stay hurt all year. Tony Sipp could turn back into a pumpkin. Luck could play a role in how effective this 'pen will be. Certainly, though, Friday was an inauspicious start to the new era.
As for the rest of the game, the Houston offense stayed a little too quiet. El Oso Blanco hit one real far. Jed Lowrie did nice things. Hank Conger came in and got a double. Ton Kemp pinch-ran. Carlos Correa drew a walk.
At least no one got hurt.