Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow did an interview with 790 AM KBME Matt Thomas on Wednesday to talk about the current state of the team. The interview proved to be of great interest to Astros fans in multiple ways.
Here is the segment:
Luhnow on the start of the season:
They could be better. Hanging in there. Some positives but we clearly gotta get our act together and put some wins up on the board.
What is most disappointing about the start of the season?
Pitching isn't up to where it was last year. It's early. We need to get our starters deeper into games and relievers need to do what they're out there to do. Had hard hit balls last night and bloops on their side dropped. Can't control that. Our pitching staff as a whole needs to pick it up a notch.
Is it time to hit the panic button?
We did win a series at home against Detroit and still have 2 more in Texas. One series at a time. Positive storylines out early. Tyler White at 1B, Springer has gotten hot, Altuve as hot as anyone. There some good things to look forward to as the summer comes.
On second baseman Jose Altuve's start:
Jose is stronger now than he's ever been. He has some pop in his bat. It's not coming at the expense of taking good at-bats. He has that line drive swing. The opposite field HRs are indications that he's getting stronger.
On playing time splits
It's tough. Guys like Marwin, Marisnick & Gattis all do better with regular time but can we afford to give them the time to get into a rhythm and at who's expense? It's a conversation AJ has daily with his staff. He's communicating frequently with the players. They'll get frustrated. AJ is going with the guys he thinks who gives us the best chance on any given night and that's all you can ask.
On rookie reliever Chris Devenski:
Right now, we'll see him in increasingly high important situations. Last night he was so efficient. We'll start to see him in more important situations because he can handle them. He'll probably be a reliever for the most of this year. Long term, he's a starter. He'll be effective one way or another.
On Lance McCullers return:
He threw a bullpen yesterday and felt good. We'll take it one step at a time. Another bullpen in a few days and then back in game action and see how it goes. It's frustrating for fans. We want him back but we want to keep him there in the rotation all year and deep into October.
On McCullers' soreness:
He'll learn how to manage it as he gets deeper into his career. Not worried about it. Not an injury there. This is him getting built up and feeling strong enough to come into our rotation and hopefully that happens in the next couple of weeks.
Ken Giles' performance against the Tigers:
That was the highest leverage part of the game. You had the meat of Detroit's order. Big confidence boost. HRs have been an issue but strikeouts:walks to IP, he's the guy we thought we were getting. Turn those HRs down a little bit and he'll be good for us.
On Alex Bregman:
He's been terrific. This guy was at LSU last year and now in AA. The other guy keeping people excited is Colin Moran. Off to a tremendous start.
On Colin Moran:
We had a discussion. If White did not have the spring he had, there would have been a legitimate discussion about Valbuena at 1B and Moran at 3B to open the year. Who knows, we'll see how it goes. One injury or slump and Moran could very well be up here. He's on my shortlist.
There are many takeaways that a savvy fan can glean from this interview. Some chief ones:
- Luhnow and the front office are even higher on Colin Moran than most Astros fans realized.
- Chris Devenski is still viewed as a starter over the long-term, despite his stuff playing up in relief, by the front office. He will also likely see an increased role in the bullpen going forward, which begs the question: who will be jettisoned when Lance McCullers returns?
- Alex Bregman was noted as being terrific, but Luhnow quickly shifted the focus to Colin Moran. That's partially about Moran, of course, but may also indicate a slower track (slower than "IMMEDIATELY!", that is) for Bregman reaching the Major Leagues than some Astros fans would prefer.
- Luhnow also noted, as several commenters here have, Ken Giles' home run rate against. He stopped short of citing home runs per fly balls, but the implication was there that it was expected for Giles' performance in this regard to rebound quite a bit.
- Lance McCullers is getting closer, and we shouldn't be overly concerned with his health. Luhnow appears confident that the young man will be fine and back in Houston sooner rather than later.
- Luhnow does talk about playing time some and noted names of concern in his mind are Marwin Gonzalez, Jake Marisnick, and Evan Gattis. One has to wonder if a trade to clear some wiggle room at the Major League level might be coming at some point.
- The pitching is indeed a concern for the front office. Even with a bit of regression expected this season over last, the alarm bells and their klaxon call have reverberated throughout Astros fandom, and it appears the front office shares a much more measured, controlled, lower level of anxiety about it too.
What do you think? Which piece of the interview was most illuminating and/or surprising?