Day 38: Cuts are looming, Gervacio shines again

Before we get to Monday’s game analysis, which won’t be pretty, let’s talk roster cuts. The Astros have 38 players on their active roster, meaning they need to trim the roster by 13 prior to Sunday. The next round of cuts could come as early as Tuesday morning, prior to the home game against Philadelphia.

The cuts should help determine some roles, such as starting catcher (J.R. Towles or Jason Castro), closer (Matt Lindstrom or Brandon Lyon) and fifth starter (Brian Moehler or Felipe Paulino), all of which are up in the air. The Astros could choose to go with a four-man starting rotation and carry an extra relief pitcher the first couple of weeks of the season.

Most of the decisions will be made before the team leaves Florida on Thursday night, but there could be some loose ends to tie up this weekend. The Astros play exhibitions games against Toronto on Friday and Saturday at Minute Maid Park.

“We’ll probably make some moves in the next couple of days,” general manager Ed Wade said. “We may end up talking to some of the non-roster guys and talk to them about their status but have them go to Houston with us for the games against Toronto.

“We still have some decisions to make, there’s no question about that. We’re not locked down on the 25, particularly with some of the nicks and dents health-wise we have right now.”

Some quick predictions:

Closer: Lindstrom

Catcher: Towles

Fifth starter: Paulino

Fifth outfielder: Cory Sullivan

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The Astros lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates 13-1 on Monday afternoon in Bradenton, Fla., and it was as ugly as the score. They gave up four home runs, committed four errors and were held to six hits. They had no hits in the final four innings against four different Pittsburgh pitchers. Ouch.

Here’s the breakdown:

The good: Stop if you’ve heard this before, but right-hander Sammy Gervacio was terrific once again. The 25-year-old side-winder struck out three batters and didn’t allow anyone to reach base in two perfect innings, lowering his ERA to 0.82.

In 11 innings this spring, he’s allowed only three hits, one run, two walks and struck out 14. It would be hard not give him a roster spot at this point. And considering Moehler could be in the bullpen, that could leave Casey Daigle, Chris Sampson and Wilton Lopez battling for the final bullpen spot. That will go down to the wire.

“In a game when things don’t seem to be going well at all, he still comes in and throws well,” manager Brad Mills said of Gervacio. “That’s pretty special.”

Brandon Lyon threw two innings for the first time this spring and struggled a bit, giving up five hits and two runs. He did say he felt fine, though. Lopez allowed one hit and one walk in his sixth appearance, but still has not allowed an earned run this spring.

Also, Edwin Maysonet started in left field for the first time this spring, marking his fourth outfield appearance of the year. He’s an infielder by trade, but he’s trying to increase his value by getting more versatile. He went 1-for-4 at the plate and is hitting .295, and he swung the bat well last year with the Astros.

“Right now I’m very comfortable,” he said. “The first game playing the outfield in Spring Training I was kind of nervous, but now I have more work and I feel more comfortable at it.”

The bad: Left-hander Gustavo Chacin, a non-roster invitee to Spring Training, was hammered by the Pirates. He went two innings in his first start and gave up nine hits, including three home runs, eight runs (six earned) and two walks. In his defense, he gave up a two-run homer after first baseman Chris Shelton dropped a pop up that would have ended the second inning.

Chacin was a long shot to make the team, but his 12.96 ERA in five outings didn’t help his chances.

“He struggled with his fastball command, and when that happens it’s tough,” Mills said.

Chacin said if he doesn’t make the team, he wasn’t sure if he would go to the minors, if given the opportunity, or look for another team to latch onto.

“You see my ERA is very high, but I pitched good ballgames,” he said. “I got a couple of errors, routine plays we don’t make. I feel good because I’m healthy and my arm is in pretty good shape and I feel happy.”

What they said: “If he’s not at the point of getting into games in the next couple of days then I think the prudent thing would be to go ahead and disable him and give him time to get ready. We’re not there yet. He could come in tomorrow and say ‘I’m good to go on Wednesday’. We could leave him back here and he could play in [Minor League] games all the way through Sunday if it looked as if he were moving in a straight line and ready for Opening Day.” - GM Ed Wade on Lance Berkman, who is recovering from March 13 knee surgery.

What’s next: Right-hander Bud Norris will make his fifth start of the spring when the Astros return to Kissimmee to face the Philadelphia Phillies at Osceola County Stadium at 12:05 p.m. CT. Norris, who’s been considered a favorite to land a spot in the back end of the pitching rotation, threw 58 pitches in his longest outing of the spring Friday against Pittsburgh and gave up three hits and three runs in four innings. Lindstrom, Sampson, Fulchino and Tim Byrdak are scheduled to follow Norris.

Astro-notes: SS Tommy Manzella (strained quadriceps) and OF Jason Bourgeios (strained hamstring) were scheduled to get some at-bats in a Minor League game at the complex in Kissimmee on Monday, but those games were rained out and they hit in the cage instead. Mills said he’d like to get Manzella and Bourgeois into a Minor League game before putting them into a Grapefruit League game:  “Before we throw them into something like that, we have to get them in a game atmosphere. If anybody, [the rainout] probably pushes Bourgeois back a little bit. We’d like to at least see him get some more at-bats and see him a little bit more.” … C J.R. Towles was scheduled to play in a Minor League team to test his hamstring, but wit the rainouts he was in the starting lineup in Bradenton and went 0-for-4 to drop his average to .333. Mills said the hamstring is “probably not where we need to be… but at the same time we need to get him behind the plate and seeing pitches and swinging the bat.” … 1B Lance Berkman, who had minor knee surgery March 13, took batting practice again Monday, and Mills said he did well. The Astros plan to increase his activities. … Mills said RHP Brett Myers, who was slowed by a groin strain, threw a bullpen session Monday and had no problems. He’s scheduled to start Friday’s exhibition game against Toronto. … RHPs Alberto Arias (right rotator cuff impingement) and Yorman Bazardo (right shoulder strain) will continue with their respective throwing programs, which consists of throwing off flat ground at this stage.

3 Comments

Who is scheduled to pitch the exhibition game on Saturday afternoon?

Saturday will probably be Bud Norris. Friday will be Brett Myers.

Thanks for the info!

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