Astros Are Looking Like A Hospital Ward....That's Not A Good Sign

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Can you feel it yet? That tingling that comes from Opening Day? It's just around the corner, so to speak, as the Houston Astros open the season and immediately fall out of contention, next Monday night when Roy Oswalt supposedly faces off against Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants.

Supposedly, that is, because the Astros flew Roy Oswalt home over the weekend after he tweaked a hamstring in a spring training start on Friday. Oswalt assured all of the press and anybody who would listen that all was fine, and that if this had been a regular-season start, he would have continued pitching. But there's just something about a team sending a pitcher who claims to be healthy home for a medical examination that just doesn't sound right. And it doesn't help when you read yesterday's report from Brian McTaggart. McTaggart writes that all is fine with Oswalt, but that he did receive an injection in his lower back, the result of a bulging disc problem with which Oswalt's been dealing since the 2007 season.

Now I'm confused -- probably because I'm an idiot. But if his problem was his hamstring, why was he receiving a shot in his back? And if Oswalt's already having problems with his back, which has caused him to miss lots of time the past several seasons, then how can I believe the assertions that all is fine?

Oswalt isn't the only member of the proposed starting rotation who has a hamstring problem. Injury-prone free-agent pick-up Brett Myers also left a start early last week with a hamstring problem. Myers, as best as I can tell, hasn't had hamstring problems before -- most of his injuries seem to deal with his pitching arm. But it doesn't say much good about Ed Wade's latest genius signing that he is already injured and the team's yet to get to the regular season.

So an injured two-fifths of the starting rotation -- even if the injuries are minor -- doesn't leave much room for optimism with the season about to start. But they're not the only injured players.

Lance Berkman had minor surgery on a knee a couple of weeks ago, and his status for Opening Day still isn't known. Starting shortstop by default Tommy Manzella strained a quadriceps a couple of weeks ago and has yet to return to action. Michael Bourn has been dealing with a strained oblique. J.R. Towles, who looks to be the starting catcher, also has a hamstring issue. And big money free-agent closer Brandon Lyon still isn't ready to close because he's still recovering from an arm injury last season.

So if you're keeping count, that means that half of the everyday starting lineup is suffering from an injury as we come into the regular season. Not that the starting lineup is that great, but seeing as how the bench consists of Geoff Blum, Jeff Keppinger, Humberto Quintero, and Jason Michaels, one really has to hope that these guys are all healthy and ready to go come next week.

Still, Opening Day is coming. Who cares how injured the Astros are when you can head out to Minute Maid Park -- plenty of tickets are still available for Monday night I've been told -- and watch the Astros go against one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. Along with Lincecum, the Astros will have to deal with Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez. True, the Astros might get swept to start the season, but at least you should get to see one good team play some baseball.

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