Results tagged ‘ Opening Day ’
Another Opening Night is in the books, and the Astros are top of the baseball world — at least for one night — after beating the Rangers, 8-2, on Sunday at sold-out Minute Maid Park. The first game in the American League, the first game in their sharp new uniforms and the first game for new manager Bo Porter couldn’t have gone any better for the Astros, who snapped a six-game losing streak on Opening Day.
After the game, Twitter was alive with Astros inspiration:
Here’s are links to MLB.com’s coverage of Opening Day, which included tons of video by Alyson Footer and enough to keep you reading during Monday’s off day:
- Astros-Rangers rivalry is primed for the next level.
- Bo Porter makes sure everyone is “All in” as Astros begin new era.
- Astros want to share new spring facility with another club.
- Porter picks outfielder Brandon Barnes to address team.
- Friends, family and Iowans turn out for Porter’s debut.
- Seven Astros make their Opening Day debut.
- Porter makes his debut against former mentor Washington.
- Jim Crane provides update on TV negotiations.
Astros manager Bo Porter, general manager Jeff Luhnow and pitcher Bud Norris react to Wednesday’s announcement that Norris will start for the club on Opening Day.
Bud Norris said he was humbled to learn Wednesday he would get the ball to start the season for the Astros. Houston manager Bo Porter named Norris as his Opening Day starter, meaning he’ll pitch against the Rangers on March 31 when the Astros play their first American League game.
Porter chose Norris over Lucas Harrell, who will pitch the second game of the season on April 2.
“I’m very honored,” Norris said. “It’s something I’ve been working for my whole career, something everyone works for their whole career. It’s a childhood dream to have an Opening Day game like that. I know Lucas had a great spring and he can pitch. It was either/or. I wasn’t mad if he got it or what not. I’m excited to go out there and give this team every opportunity to go out there and win, and very excited to do it in Houston on a nationally televised game.”
Norris said he hadn’t thought too much about starting on Opening Day, but it was clearly something he wanted. Porter told Harrell the news first Wednesday afternoon, and when Harrell was walking out of the manager’s office and Norris was walking in, Harrell gave him a pat on the rear.
“Just excited to get and it’s great to have that accolade in my honor, but by the same token having a guy [Harrell] pushing me and supporting me is outstanding,” Norris said. “I’m at a loss for words at times, but humbled by the experience.”
Norris said it was one of the most meaningful things that have happened to him as a professional.
“You don’t have an opportunity all the time to throw the first pitch of the season,” he said. “When I mean childhood dreams come, that’s truly what it is. I remember listening on the radio Opening Day and it’s a big anticipation thing. Just to know that day is I get to go out there and play baseball in the city of Houston, it’s truly exciting and I’m honored.”
Harrell, the team’s Pitcher of the Year last year, was happy for Norris.
“He’s earned it, he’s been here the longest and proven he can do it,” Harrell said. “What better guy to lead us?”
Astros catcher Jason Castro understandably wanted to look at the bright side, saying it was pretty remarkable the Astros were in position to win Friday night’s season-opener in the ninth inning despite making a whopping four errors. He has a point, but it was surprising to see the Astros play so poorly on defense after playing so well on defense during Spring Training, where fields are not always in the best of condition.
Third baseman Chris Johnson made a fielding error in the second and pitcher Wandy Rodriguez was charged with an error in the third when he fielded a Dexter Fowler bunt and threw to first base — where Jose Altuve was a step late getting to the bag. That allowed three unearned runs to score. Altuve committed a fielding error in the fourth allowing pitcher Jeremy Guthrie to reach.
The fourth and most costly error came in the eighth when Castro — seeing pinch-runner Eric Young Jr. was caught between second and third — fired to second base to try to get the out, only to watch the ball skip off the glove of Marwin Gonzalez and into center field to allow Young to score the winning run.
“In that kind of situation, you pretty much have to make a decision right away,” Castro said. “He turned to go back to second and I had to make a throw. He took a hard step and turned around. I think with him being as fast as he is, he probably would have been safe regardless. It was one of those plays that was tough. In that situation, I had to make a decision pretty much in the blink of an eye. He’s that quick. I tried to get him at second and unfortunately we didn’t get him there.”
With Young scoring without a hit after stealing second base as a pinch-runner, it was a reminder how dangerous speed can be. The Astros had two similar players last year who could fly in Michael Bourn and Jason Bourgeois and both have been traded, so don’t expect the Astros to win games with speed.
They’ll have to win games with pitching and defense. The pitching was plenty good Friday with Rodriguez allowing no earned runs in 6 1/3 innings and Fernando Rodriguez throwing 1 2/3 innings with allowing an earned run, but when you pitch and don’t field, you’re doomed.
“We’ve got to avoid those mistakes, but it’s only one game,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to learn from it quick and fix it tomorrow and get back after it.”
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)
We’re two weeks away from the Astros having to set their 25-man roster in advance of the April 6 season opener against the Rockies at Minute Maid Park. The club still has 47 players in Major League camp following the trade of catcher Humberto Quintero and outfielder Jason Bourgeois, so there is still plenty up in the air.
Some things have come into focus, however, such as the catching situation. A lot could happen in two weeks — injuries and trades included — but let’s take a look at what the 25-man roster might look like on Opening Day. Remember, this is based on my observations.
Position player starters are listed in bold:
Catchers (2) – Jason Castro, Chris Snyder.
- Analysis: This one is pretty much set in stone with Quintero out the door. Unless there’s an injury, these are the catchers.
Infield (6) — Carlos Lee (1B), Jose Altuve (2B), Jed Lowrie (SS), Chris Johnson (3B), Matt Downs, Brett Wallace.
- Analysis: There’s little question about Lee, Altuve and Lowrie starting at this point, but third base isn’t as clear cut. Johnson has had a better spring than Jimmy Paredes, who was slowed by a wrist injury, and appears to be the front-runner. Paredes skipped over Triple-A last year, so it wouldn’t set his career back to start the season at Oklahoma City. Downs should be a lock based on his track record and versatility, but the final spot in the infield is a tough one. Wallace has had a pretty good spring, but has he distinguished himself from Brian Bixler or Joe Thurston? He’s certainly not as versatile, but I think he brings more to the plate offensively. I don’t see Rule 5 pick Marwin Gonzalez sticking. He’s been terrific on defense, but he’s 3-for-25 at the plate. Angel Sanchez has played well once he got healthy, but is it enough?
Outfield (5) – J.D. Martinez (LF), Jordan Schafer (CF), Brian Bogusevic (RF), J.B. Shuck, Travis Buck.
- Analysis: Despite Bogusevic’s recent struggles at the plate, he still appears to be the favorite to start in right field on Opening Day. There wasn’t much doubt Schafer would start in center, and the trade of Jason Bourgeois cemented that. Schafer, though, is battling a sprained hand injury, but he should be ready to play next week. The race for the two backup outfield spots really opened up following the departure of Bourgeois. I’ve been thoroughly impressed with Shuck’s all-around performance and give him a nod. Jack Cust (0-for-24 in Grapefruit League games) still has time to play his way onto the team, but he’s been limited to mostly DH duties because of a balky elbow. None of this bodes well for him. Travis Buck, another left-handed bat, has scorched the ball when healthy. Fernando Martinez has struck out way too much and has an option left, so he could be sent to Oklahoma City. I’m not sure the Astros are prepared to carry four left-handed-hitting outfielders, though. Keep on eye on Bixler, who can play infield and outfield.
Starting rotation (5) — Wandy Rodriguez, Bud Norris, J.A. Happ, Livan Hernandez, Kyle Weiland.
- Analysis: Rodriguez, Norris and Happ are locks for the rotation, and I think it’s safe to say Hernandez will be added to the 40-man and make the rotation. That leaves three guys for the final spot — Weiland, Zach Duke, Jordan Lyles. Weiland has pitched better than Lyles, who’s only 21 and could benefit from more time in Triple-A. I have Duke winning a spot in the rotation as the long man who has the ability to start, so I’m giving the final rotation spot to Weiland.
Bullpen (7) — Brett Myers, Wilton Lopez, David Carpenter, Fernando Rodriguez, Brandon Lyon, Fernando Abad, Zach Duke.
- Analysis: It’s safe to say Myers, Lopez (if healthy), Carpenter and Rodriguez are locks to make the team, leaving three spots. I’ve got Lyon making the team because of his experience, and I’m giving a nod to Duke to be the swing man on the pitching staff. The final spot, for me, comes down to the lefties — Abad, Sergio Escalona and Wesley Wright. Escalona has had only one appearance because of a hyper-extended elbow so he’s behind the others. Abad has quietly had a nice spring and could get a nod over Wright. As far as Rule 5 pick Rhiner Cruz is concerned, he hasn’t shown enough to make the team, and I have Henry Sosa starting the season in Triple-A, along with Lucas Harrell.
With Brett Myers having been moved into the closer role, Wandy Rodriguez appears to be in line to start Opening Day. In fact, Rodriguez probably deserves the honor more than any other pitcher considering he’s got seven years with the club and is third on the club’s all-time for wins by a left-hander and first in strikeouts by a left-hander.
Still, manager Brad Mills remains non-commital.
“We’re dealing with the situation with his back tightness and so forth right now, and we’re hoping to be able get that all taken care of so we don’t have to worry about that,” Mills said. “He’s got to be considered very heavily.”
Meanwhile, Mills said Jordan Lyles would start Monday against the Braves in Kissimmee in the team’s third Grapefruit League game of the year.
Much more to come later today from what promises to be a hot day in Central Florida.
One of the first things Astros manager Brad Mills spoke about following Friday’s gut-wrenching, 5-4 loss to the Phillies on Opening Day was how well his team played. Sure, the Astros coughed up three runs in the ninth and lost a game they should have won, but for 8 1/2 innings they played pretty much flawless baseball.
Mills is a stickler for doing things the right way on the field, being prepared and making the plays you’re supposed to make. For the most part the Astros did that, and that’s a good sign going forward.
For all those who were disturbed by what the Astros in Spring Training or the high ERA that Brett Myers had in Grapefruit League play, Friday should go a long way into reminding you how meaningless Spring Training results are. The Astros played as well for 8 1/2 innings Friday as they had at any point during the spring, and that tends to happen when your starters stay on the field for most of the game.
“It was a great game,” right fielder Hunter Pence said. “We came out and got in the fight and competed. They found some holes at the end and we weren’t able to get the final outs, but we’ve got three games here. We’ve got two more to go and we’re going to keep going up there battling and going hard. I’m pretty happy with what we did today.”
Here’s what stood out to me today:
- Brett Myers was downright terrific. I enjoy watching him pitch and compete. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said he’s not the same pitcher he was while he was in Philadelphia, when he was throwing in the mid-90s. He’s a true pitcher now, and has good command. He kept the ball down and never let the Phillies get in a rhythm at the plate.
- If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you’ll know I’m not a huge fan of the game of Angel Sanchez. I’ve said repeatedly that he’s slow and he’s not a good defensive player, but I have to admit the guy is growing on me. Those shortcomings are still true, but he makes the routine plays for the most part and he can hit. He’s not going to hit for much power, but he went 2-for-4 with two singles in the No. 2 hole on Friday. He’s a good guy to have on the team. It just took me a while to realize it.
- Humberto Quintero had a very nice spring at the plate, and he went 1-for-4 in his regular-season debut Friday. The most impressive thing about his game was throwing out Shane Victorino while he was trying to steal second base, and Quintero did it while he was still in his crouch. As the Phillies found out last year, his arm is a huge weapon. The Astros may be alright with him starting three days a week.
- Brett Wallace had a quiet game, going 1-for-4, but he went the other way for a single against a left-handed pitcher, which is an extremely encouraging sign. He looks like he’s picked up where he left off in Kissimmee. I don’t know if he’ll ever hit for much power — he just hasn’t shown that much at all — but the kid can swing the bat.
- The Astros didn’t strike out any batters on Friday. Unusual to say the least.
You can’t tell it by this photo, but at about 9 a.m. ET time it was snowing at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, about four hours before the Astros begin the regular season against the Phillies:
Here is the Astros’ starting lineup:
CF Michael Bourn — Fourth consecutive Opening Day start for the Astros.
SS Angel Sanchez – First career appearance on an Opening Day roster.
RF Hunter Pence — In 23 career games vs. the Phils, Hunter Pence has tallied 10 HR and 21 RBI while hitting .330 (30×91) with a .681 slg. pct. (ranks 4th among opp. since 2007)
LF Carlos Lee — Lee has 9 HR and 31 RBI vs. PHI since ‘07 with a .615 slg pct.
2B Bill Hall -- Hall is fourth different Opening Day starter for the Astros at second base in five years — Craig Biggio (2007), Mark Loretta (2008), Kaz Matsui (2009-10)
3B Chris Johnson — Making his first Opening Day start.
1B Brett Wallace — Wallace hit .377 and was among the Grapefruit League leaders with 18 RBI.
C Humberto Quintero — Led team with a .471 batting average in the spring.
P Brett Myers — This is Myers’ fourth career Opening Day start, all of which have come at Citizens Bank Park. He started for the Phillies from 2007-09.
Brett Myers, in his first public comments since he was told he was going to start on Opening Day for the Astros, downplayed the assignment, saying he didn’t want to get too worked up and lose focus of the task at hand.
Astros manager Brad Mills said Friday that Myers would get the ball April 1 when Houston begins the season in Philadelphia against the Phillies. Myers will be the first Astros pitcher other than Roy Oswalt to start on Opening Day since Wade Miller in 2002. Oswalt had made eight consecutive Opening Day starts, a club record.
“If I read too much into it, it’s like one of those things where you get too amped up for something and then you have to control your emotions and be able to pitch,” Myers said. “It is Opening Day and it’s kind of like a playoff game, but you’re starting the season. So you have to control your emotions and try to make pitches and don’t get too hyped up. I’m not thinking too much about it right now.”
This will be Myers’ fourth Opening Day assignment in five years. He was the Phillies’ Opening Day starter from 2007-09, and he said he doesn’t anticipate any extra emotions pitching against his former team.
“I won’t know until I get there,” he said. “I pitched there last year so I think I should be OK. It is Opening Day and there will be a lot of adrenaline going. I try not to think too much about it and go out there and make pitches.”