Astros Spring Training: Six Straight Walks? Not Good.

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I'm sure that several of you saw the score of yesterday's Astros game. It was 12-2 spring training loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. It's spring training, and I'm one of those who believes that the final score is meaningless in spring - though Tampa's manager Joe Maddon did use the team winning last spring to get them in the right mindset for their surprising season.

That said, what happened yesterday can't be totally ignored.

For instance, the Astros gave up 10 runs in the third inning as, at one point, they gave up six straight walks, four with the bases loaded. Brandon Backe gave up the first two of the walks, and that was after he had surrendered a homer and a single. The Chron's Brian McTaggart thinks that Backe is about done with the Astros, especially since Russ Ortiz appears to finally be over his health issues and has had several good appearances this spring. I wouldn't write Backe off just yet, however, as he's a local product, and Drayton loves local products.

The other two pitchers of that inning were Sammy Gervacio and Polin Trinidad, and manager Cecil Cooper blamed their problems on slick baseballs which they couldn't grip. Cooper did say that he told them they could step off of the rubber and rub up the ball so as to get a better grip, but they didn't listen. Maybe he should have reminded Backe that he, too, could do that.

And it's looking like the Hunter Pence of this spring - that guy who puts up such numbers that he can't be ignored - is third baseman Chris Johnson who is hitting the ball. The assistant GM told Jose de Jesus Ortiz that Johnson is already a more than adequate major league third baseman, which puts him on par with Geoff Blum and Aaron Boone, who at this point in their careers are no better than average major league third basemen either. And Cecil Cooper is giving him good odds at making the team to start the season.


Wandy Rodriguez suffered a rib cage injury in his appearance last Friday and will miss at least his next two scheduled spring starts....Miguel Tejada, Roy Oswalt, and LaTroy Hawkins have left the Astros spring camp to join their respective national teams for the World Baseball Classic. Tejada is playing for the Dominican Republic after a little hissy fit last week when he discovered that the Dominican manager would rather play Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez at shortstop than him and he threatened not to play. Hawkins is a last minute fill-in on the U.S. team for Minnesota Twins reliever Joe Nathan who backed out over injury concerns. And Oswalt is joining up with his friend, San Diego Padre ace, Jake Peavy, to form the heart of the U.S. team's starting rotation.

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