Astros Opening Day is just over a week away! Houston is a combined 10-18 in its Spring Training games, but of course, wins & losses are meaningless right now as the focus is on preparing for the immense work-load of a 162-game season while developing a clear understanding of the kind of team you have and can become.
Part 1: Astros Set Rotation
Manager Brad Mills has made a ‘safe’ decision in choosing to give the team’s fifth and final rotation spot to veteran righty Nelson Figueroa. It’s the right one. As a result of the move the Astros top prospect, 20-year old pitching stud Jordan Lyles, will begin the season in Oklahoma City with the new AAA affiliate Red Hawks.
The debate between Figueroa and Lyles for rotation inclusion is now being analyzed to death by fans and analysts. It doesn’t need to be. The team’s stance is relatively simple. Lyles is very raw. If a young pitcher is not completely ready for the big-league level, he should not be rushed on to the scene. Meanwhile, Figueroa has earned the right to pitch every fifth day. After being acquired from the Phillies amid last season, he posted a 5-3 record with a 3.22 ERA in 10 starts down the stretch. He gives the Astros a legitimate chance to win a ballgame each time he pitches.
Figueroa is 2-0 with a 3.86 ERA in Spring Training. Lyles posted a 1.98 ERA in 5 appearances, but will benefit from additional preparation in the minors. Besides, he will surely see significant time in Houston this season if he progresses at the pace the Astros are hoping he will, anyways. For now, Figueroa deserves the opportunity to prove himself as a dependable major-league pitcher and by all indications will be exactly that this year.
On the heels of Mills’ decision to name Brett Myers the Opening Day ace, here’s how the Astros rotation will look (including age & 2010 stats) to start the season:
Brett Myers, 29 14-8 3.14 ERA
Wandy Rodriguez, 31 11-12 3.60 ERA
Bud Norris, 25 9 -10 4.92 ERA
J.A. Happ, 27 5-4 3.75 ERA
Nelson Figueroa, 36 5-3 3.22 ERA