Day 33: Could the Astros be considering a four-man rotation?
The biggest news that came from Thursday’s game against the Phillies in Clearwater was starting pitcher Brett Myers leaving in the sixth inning with a mild groin strain. Myers doesn’t seem to be too worried about it, but we should know more Friday when he shows up at the ballpark.
Until then, don’t panic.
Instead of doing my usual breakdown, I’m going to discuss another direction the Astros could be going when it comes to the composition of their roster. There’s been so much talk about the fifth starter, but the reality is with three off days in the first 15 days of the season, the Astros won’t need a fifth starter until – and I think my math is now correct after being wisely alerted by a reader – April 18.
Could the Astros carry 11 pitchers to start the season – with Felipe Paulino making a few starts in Triple-A Round Rock the first few weeks – and carry an extra infielder? We know Lance Berkman had knee surgery nearly two weeks ago and could start the year on the disabled list and shortstop Tommy Manzella is trying to recuperate from a strained quadriceps, which are both issues that could play into roster composition.
If Berkman starts the year on the DL and the Astros carry an extra infielder, that could open spots for Edwin Maysonet and Chris Shelton, who smacked a three-run homer Thursday. Chris Johnson is also have a great spring, but he’s not going to a bench player. He’ll probably go to Round Rock and start at third base.
Or they could carry the standard six infielders and 12 pitchers, giving them an extra reliever. That would allow Chris Sampson, Sammy Gervacio and Wilton Lopez all to make the club.
The Astros haven’t announced any plans for their rotation behind Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez and Myers, whose status is now in doubt. Bud Norris will pitch in a Minor League game Friday, but the Astros have not said he’s made the team. Paulino and Brian Moehler are competing for the fifth spot, but Moehler will be working in the bullpen the rest of spring.
Manager Brad Mills said that’s not an indication Moehler will begin the season in the bullpen, so we’ll just have to wait and see. As of now, he’s still in the mix as a starter.
The injuries to Berkman and Manzella and the lack of a need for a fifth starter until the third week of the season certainly make any roster speculation more difficult. Whatever the case, we should know within the next week what the 25-man roster will look like.
To reiterate a post from earlier today, Berkman can’t play in any more games during Spring Training in which an admission is charge — i.e. Grapefruit League or the April 2-3 exhibitions against Toronto at Minute Maid Park — without it affecting how long he would be on the disabled list. That’s if he starts the season on the DL.
Friday is the retroactive date, meaning players who don’t appear in games beginning Friday can be placed on the 15-day DL and return to action April 10 when the 15 days are up. If Berkman plays, say, the April 1 spring finale and then is put on the DL, he couldn’t return until April 17, missing 10 games instead of four.
So when it’s time for Berkman to get on the field and test his knee, it will likely be done in a Minor League game.