Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie remained hopeful Thursday afternoon that he could be in the lineup for Friday’s Opening Day game against the Rockies at Minute Maid Park. Lowrie hit soft toss and hit off the tee Thursday and fielded grounders on the field and says his sprained right thumb is feeling better by the day.
“I felt great today,” he said. “It’s another step in the right direction, so I’m encouraged. It’s just one of those things that you just continue to go down that road and continue to progress.”
Lowrie sprained the thumb eight days ago and hasn’t played since. The Astros are debating whether to put him on the disabled list to start the season and activate Brian Bixler or keep Lowrie on the active roster with hopes he can play this weekend.
“I don’t want to count it out,” Lowrie said. “I want to wake [Friday] and see how it feels. They want to see me do a few things before they give it the OK and I’m in the same boat. I need to get into a few rounds of batting practice. Let’s just take steps forward every day.”
Astros manager Brad Mills said he’s made out his lineup for Friday’s game with Lowrie being ready to play.
“With as much as it has improved these last couple of days, there’s definitely a real good chance,” he said.
If Lowrie can’t play, rookie Marwin Gonzalez, a Rule V pick, will start at shortstop.
Here’s a different breakdown of the Astros’ roster:
By the numbers:
13 — Pitchers
2 — Catchers
6 — Infielders
4 — Outfielders
27.3 — Average age of the roster
28 — Average age of the pitching rotation
5 — Players 30 or older (Brandon Lyon, Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, Carlos Lee and Chris Snyder)
21 — Age of youngest player (Jose Altuve)
35 — Age of oldest players (Carlos Lee)
1 — Players remaining for 2005 World Series team (Wandy Rodriguez)
Where the players are from:
18 — United States (Brian Bogusevic, David Carpenter, Jason Castro, Matt Downs, J.A. Happ, Lucas Harrell, Chris Johnson, Jed Lowrie, Brandon Lyon, J.D. Martinez, Brett Myers, Bud Norris, Fernando Rodriguez, Jordan Schafer, Chris Snyder, Kyle Weiland, Wesley Wright, Travis Buck)
3 — Dominican Republic (Fernando Abad, Rhiner Cruz, Wandy Rodriguez)
2 — Venezuela (Jose Altuve, Marwin Gonzalez)
1 — Nicaragua (Wilton Lopez)
1 — Panama (Carlos Lee)
How they were acquired:
9 — Free agents (Fernando Abad, Jose Altuve, Carlos Lee, Brandon Lyon, Brett Myers, Fernando Rodriguez, Wandy Rodriguez, Chris Snyder, Travis Buck).
5 — Draft (Brian Bogusevic, Jason Castro, Chris Johnson, J.D. Martinez, Bud Norris).
5 — Trade (David Carpenter, J.A. Happ, Jed Lowrie, Jordan Schafer, Kyle Weiland).
3 — Rule 5 (Wesley Wright, Rhiner Cruz, Marwin Gonzalez)
3 — Waivers (Matt Downs, Lucas Harrell, Wilton Lopez)
Here it is. The Astros have set their 25-man roster (players in italics are on an active Opening Day roster for the first time):
Fernando Abad (L)
J.A. Happ (L)
Wandy Rodriguez (L)
Wesley Wright (L)
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager Brad Mills held a brief meeting with shortstop Jed Lowrie prior to Wednesday’s exhibition game against the White Sox at Minute Maid Park to get a health update.
Facing a 4 p.m. Wednesday deadline to set the 25-man roster, the Astros are deliberating whether to put Lowrie on the disabled list to start the season. He’s been dealing with a sprained right thumb for a week and would miss the first six games of the season if he’s disabled.
Lowrie said Wednesday he was encouraged after hitting off a tee Tuesday.
“You know what, it feels a lot better than I thought it was going to at this point,” he said. “It’s only a week out and it feels like it’s been about two months. I’m very happy with the progress it’s made, and I think it’s just because it’s a muscle strain it’s about getting soreness and stiffness out.”
Luhnow said that if Lowrie is only going to miss the first couple of days of the season, the team won’t put him on the DL to start the year.
“If we thought it was going to be just a couple of days and get him back Sunday, we’ll probably keep him active,” Luhnow said. “We could set the roster today with him on it, which is the most likely event, and continue monitoring it day-to-day before we make the [DL] decision. If we knew he was going to go on the DL, we’d probably do it today, but since we don’t know we have some options.”
When asked if he was likely to go on the DL, Lowrie wouldn’t say.
“I’m not going to make those decisions, and the bottom line depends on how my thumb progresses,” he said. “Once again, it’s day to day. We’ll take it at that and leave it at that.”
As as the progression goes, the last few days have gone really well.
“I hit a couple off a tee yesterday and it reacted a lot better than I thought it was going to,” Lowrie said. “It surprised [hitting coach] Mike Barnett as well, so I’ve been able to take grounders and play catch and that last thing is just hitting. Obviously, the bat being right where the muscle is strained is the last hurdle.
“Considering how swollen it got and how bad it hurt, I’m really happy where it’s at. I’ve made a ton of progress in a short time. Four days ago, I could barely grab the bat. It’s bouncing back and that’s the idea, just to continue to take steps forward as opposed to doing something drastic and maybe having a setback. I want to keep that momentum going.”
Lowrie wants to be on the field when the Astros open the season Friday against the Rockies, but he’s not going to rush it and cost him time into the season.
“You work all spring and that’s what you’re getting ready for is Opening Day, but this is a marathon,” he said. “It’s 162 games. Friday is going to be exciting and I want to be out there, but I think it’s in my best interest and the club’s best interest to make sure it’s ready to go for the long haul.”
The Astros have set their preliminary 2012 minor league rosters for four of their affiliates, Triple-A Oklahoma City, Double-A Corpus Christi, Class A Lancaster and Class A Lexington. The announcement was made by Astros director of player development Fred Nelson.
These rosters are subject to change and will not be officially finalized until the Minor League Opening Day. Rosters do not include Disabled List players.
ENERIO DEL ROSARIO
* – denotes left-hander
# – denotes switch-hitter
JORGE DE LEON
Teams must have their 25-man rosters set by 4 p.m. CT Wednesday, and it’s likely the Astros will have made their final decisions prior to Wednesday afternoon’s exhibition game against the White Sox at Minute Maid Park.
After announcing Sunday they were optioning Brett Wallace to Triple-A, the Astros officially have 31 players remaining in camp. One of those, pitcher Sergio Escalona, is going to be out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery on Wednesday, meaning the Astros have five remaining cuts to make.
If shortstop Jed Lowrie (sprained right thumb) and center fielder Jordan Schafer (nerve in left hand) aren’t ready to go, they could also be put on the DL, opening up two more spots on the Opening Day roster.
With only a few days until Opening Day, let’s take another shot at the projected roster. And for the purposes of this exercise, we’re going to assume Lowrie and Schafer won’t be disabled.
Position player starters are listed in bold:
Catchers (2) – Jason Castro, Chris Snyder.
- Analysis: This is set.
Infield (6) — Carlos Lee (1B), Jose Altuve (2B), Jed Lowrie (SS), Chris Johnson (3B), Marwin Gonzalez, Matt Downs.
- Analysis: When we did this about 10 days ago, we had Wallace as the sixth infielder. The four starters and Gonzalez are set, and I still think Downs lands a spot because of the year he had last year and the fact he can do so much. Brian Bixler, who was sent out of camp and brought back, has had a nice spring, though, and is also versatile.
Outfield (5) – J.D. Martinez (LF), Jordan Schafer (CF), Brian Bogusevic (RF), Travis Buck, Justin Ruggiano
- Analysis: I’ve made one switch here from 10 days ago, giving Ruggiano a backup outfield spot over J.B. Shuck. I just think Ruggiano’s ability to go deep on occasion and the fact he swings from the right side of the plate in an outfield full of left-handers makes him valuable. Of course, If Schafer isn’t ready to go, that opens up a spot for Shuck.
Starting rotation (5) — Wandy Rodriguez, Bud Norris, J.A. Happ, Kyle Weiland, Lucas Harrell.
- Analysis: With Livan Hernandez out of the picture, I believe that solidifies Weiland in the rotation. He’s had a very good spring. The other spot comes down to Lucas Harrell and Jordan Lyles. I’m giving the nod right now to Harrell, who pitches tonight in Corpus Christi. At 21, Lyles could benefit from some time at Triple-A.
Bullpen (7) — Brett Myers, Wilton Lopez, David Carpenter, Fernando Rodriguez, Brandon Lyon, Wesley Wright, Rhiner Cruz.
- Analysis: The changes I’ve made here are Wright getting the left-handed spot over Fernando Abad and Rule 5 pick Cruz making the club. Cruz has been hit or miss, but the more I hear general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager Brad Mills talk about him, the more I think they want to keep him. And there’s a spot open in the bullpen. If Lyles makes the rotation, Harrell could get the last bullpen spot as a long reliever. But the Astros have had a few of their relievers pitch two consecutive innings this spring in an effort to minimize the need for a long reliever.
Brett Wallace, who began last season as the Astros’ Opening Day first baseman and was competing for a backup infield spot this spring, was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City in a series of roster moves announced by the club
Wallace was hitting .271 with one homer and seven RBIs in 48 spring at-bats entering Sunday’s Grapefruit League finale against the Tigers. He played both first and third base this spring in an effort to increase his versatility, but will start the year in the Minor Leagues.
The Astros also announced shortstop Marwin Gonzalez had made the Opening Day roster, along with outfielders J.D. Martinez and Brian Bogusevic, second baseman Jose Altuve and catcher Jason Castro. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said the five players — all of whom are on an Opening Day roster for the first time — were notified prior to Sunday’s game by manager Brad Mills.
The only surprise in the group is Gonzalez, a Rule 5 pick who hasn’t had a good spring at the plate but has played terrific defense, including a pair of nice plays Sunday.
The moves leave the Astros with 31 players in camp ahead of Wednesday’s deadline to set the 25-man roster. Considering left-hander Sergio Escalona is still on the roster and is facing Tommy John surgery on Wednesday, the Astros have five remaining cuts to make.
As a Rule 5 pick, the Astros must keep Gonzalez on the 25-man roster all season or risk losing him.
Wallace, acquired by the Astros at the Trade Deadline in 2010, got off to a terrific start at the plate last April, but slowly watched his average decline. He was sent to the Minor Leagues at the end of July and return to the big league club when rosters expanded in September, but Carlos Lee was entrenched as the starter at first and rookie Jimmy Paredes had taken over at third.
Wallace will remain with the team through this week’s exhibition games and play third base in Oklahoma City.