Astros Spring: Please Save Jordan Lyles from This Club

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Is Jordan Lyles this season's savior of the Astros?
The news from Astros camp last week was that Carlos Lee had to DH in some games because he had a tired shoulder. Which begs the question of don't you actually have to use the shoulder for something before it can become tired? Is this what comes from shoveling too much food up towards your mouth?

Otherwise, there doesn't appear to be much of anything going on at Astros camp. That tends to happen with bad teams. There's not much to be excited about once the season starts, so there's really not much exciting going on at camp. After all, that battle for the fifth outfield spot just really isn't important on a team that's competing for last place in a division. And as the Houston Chronicle makes clear, the starting roster is settled. It's a bad starting roster, but it's still settled.

Though frankly, the continued talk about Carlos Lee playing at first base must be discouraging to Astros fans everywhere. Though it's possible that watching the Astros field the worst infield in major league baseball might be entertaining, especially if Brett Myers, not exactly known for his cool and calm demeanor, were to snap after Clint Barmes, Bill Hall and Carlos Lee not only failed to turn another double play, but instead turned into a run because they can't field or throw the ball worth a damn.

Bill Hall meanwhile says he's thrilled to have a starting job with the Astros, though his preference appears to be for third base instead of second base, where he was signed to play. Of course he's thrilled to have a starting job. He's not a good player and he was able to convince the Astros to give him a decent contract to be a butcher in the infield and at the plate.

And why is it that Red Sox manager Terry Francona is the go-to guy on all things Bill Hall? The guy played there one year. And while it's nice to hear Francona talk about what a great player Hall is, one can't help but wonder: If Bill Hall's such a fantastic player, then why didn't the Red Sox want to keep him? And with the way that Francona has been pimping Hall, one can't help but wonder if Francona is actually doubling as Hall's agent while also managing the Red Sox.

There does seem to be one battle going on with the team, and that's for the fifth spot in the starting rotation. There has been some talk about Jordan Lyles winning this spot. And while some people seem excited by this opportunity, the question is whether this is what's best for Lyle.

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Get used to this Bill Hall "I just butchered another easy grounder" pose
Lyles was a first-round draft choice of the Astros in 2008. And with Jason Castro out for the season and Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence established in the big leagues, Lyles is the closest thing the Astros have to a minor league phenom who is ready to make a splash in the big leagues.

But why the hurry? As good as he's looked in camp, Lyles is no Dwight Gooden-type phenom. He doesn't have a blazing fastball. His stuff's not overwhelming. If the Astros' starting rotation wasn't so damn bad, there probably wouldn't even be any discussion of Lyles making the roster.

The truth is, there's no reason to rush Lyles into the majors. The guy has yet to pitch a full season in AAA, and what time he did spend in AAA wasn't that great. He didn't blow AAA batters away in his stint there, and despite his spring numbers, there's nothing to indicate that Lyles absolutely has to be on the major league roster pitching in that fifth spot. The Astros are a bad team, and they're going to be a bad team whether or not Lyles is on the roster, so why not let him get in a full season of pitching at the AAA level and let guys like Ryan Rowland-Smith or Nelson Figueroa flail away in the fifth spot.

Yeah, it's hard to be excited about this upcoming season. But hey, at least Bill Hall's happy, and at least Carlos Lee's still getting paid. There's hope for Jordan Lyles, but the hope is he gets another year in the minors instead of getting stuck on the major league roster of one of the worst teams in baseball so that he gets another year to work on his stuff and his confidence while proving that he can get batters out. If he shows he can handle AAA hitters this season, then pencil him in for the 2012 rotation.

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