Snapshots from Spring Training, Day Three.
A month ago, it looked as if catcher Jason Castro, who had two injury setbacks over the course of one calendar year, might not be ready to start the season when Opening Day rolls around on April 6.
Today, the level of optimism is much higher. It’s more likely than not that Castro, who had season-ending knee surgery last Spring Training and foot surgery this past December, is on track to start the season on time.
This isn’t to say that he’s maintaining the same workout pace as the other catches in camp. He’s not. He’s participating in drills and catching bullpens, but on a slightly lesser scale than the rest. The goal is for him to build stamina without overextending himself, even if it means not being quite ready to play when the Grapefruit season gets underway in another 10 days.
Regardless of when Castro appears in his first spring game, the catching situation this year, so far, is light years ahead of where the team was a year ago. There is no stat line that can truly describe how valuable a catcher is to a team. He’s top lieutenant on the field and can provide a huge sense of security to pitchers. On the flip side, if a catcher is inadequate in his ability to call games and block pitches in the dirt, it can wreak havoc on a pitcher’s psyche.
Castro’s return will be a big lift for the team, and the addition of Chris Snyder, a veteran catcher, should not be overlooked. The Astros now have three catchers in a pool that also includes veteran Humberto Quintero, giving them experience, depth and a plan B. They pretty much had none of those things a year ago.
A couple of housekeeping notes:
* The final Houston-based Astroline will air on Thursday at Buffalo Wild Wings in Midtown. Former outfielder Kevin Bass will join Milo Hamilton for the hour-long show, which can be heard on 740 KTRH and Astros.com.
Astroline will resume the following week on Feb. 29 at the Disney Boardwalk in Orlando. Keeping with tradition, the first Florida-based show will feature manager Brad Mills.
* The first full-squad workout will be held Feb. 26, and as always, workouts are free and open to the public. Gates open around 9:30 a.m. The first Grapefruit League game will take place at Osceola County Stadium on March 3 vs. the Nationals. Workouts on home game days are closed.
* Two spring games will be televised this year: March 20 vs. the Cardinals and April 3 vs. the White Sox (at Minute Maid Park).
And we conclude with images from Day 3 on a cloudy but rain-free morning at the spring complex: