Tuesday morning Astros update
The Astros brought a shell of a team to Bradenton to face the Pirates on Tuesday, and it had little to with injuries. Michael Bourn, Tommy Manzella and Lance Berkman are injured, but with five long road trips in the next seven days and players ailing, manager Brad Mills doesn’t want to ride anyone into the ground.
For example, outfielder Cory Sullivan, who had played six days in a row, didn’t travel to Bradenton, and neither did Carlos Lee or Hunter Pence. The Astros had 11 players from Minor League camp travel with the Major League club Tuesday: pitchers Daniel Meszaros, Erick Abreu and T.J. Burton, catcher Federico Hernandez, infielders Michael Garciaparra, Mark Ori and Matt Kata and outfielders Collin DeLome, David Cook, Drew Locke and T.J. Steele.
Mills said Pence and Lee would make the trip Wednesday to Port St. Lucie, Fla., to play the Mets.
“Just because they’re healthy, we still have to be able to give them their time,” Mills said. “Those guys need to stay on schedules so we’re going to see a lot of Minor League guys.”
Mills didn’t really have much to report on the health front Tuesday, saying the club was still waiting on MRI results from right-hander Alberto Arias, who has a right shoulder strain. Mills said Bourn (strained oblique) and Manzella (strained quadriceps) felt better Tuesday, but Bourn still isn’t taking swings in the cage.
Mills said Berkman felt much better Monday, meaning the swelling had gone down. That will enable him to do more rehab. When asked if he had a better idea of Berkman’s availability for Opening Day, Mills said: “We want to make sure he’s 100 percent and gets back to playing with confidence and they’re no health issues.”
He didn’t have an update on outfielder Jason Bourgeois (left hamstring strain) or infielder Oswaldo Navarro, who left Friday’s game with a strained right hip flexor.
Mills said some positions battles are starting to clarify, but he wouldn’t give any specific details. Jason Castro and J.R. Towles are competing to be the starting catcher and there doesn’t appear to be a front-runner. Brandon Lyon or Matt Lindstrom will begin the season as closer, and with Lyon appearing in only his second game of the spring on Tuesday, it’s not crazy to assume Lindstrom might have the leg up at this point. Lindstrom has thrown the ball well, too.
There could be another backup infield spot open if Manzella and/or Berkman start the year on the disabled list, and the bullpen battle is intriguing. Sammy Gervacio and Wilton Lopez have put themselves in the mix with their superb springs and could push a veteran like Gary Majewski out of the way.