The Astros dugout on Saturday: lots of people, very little elbow room.
The first week of Spring Training games are probably most challenging for two groups: the official scorer (a job that belongs to a member of the media relations staff during exhibition season) and the announcers, who have to keep up with the dozen or so lineup substitutions and a half-dozen more pitching changes while figuring out who everyone is AND knowing where they’re hitting in the lineup.
That’s pretty universal for every Major League team, but it can be especially challenging for people covering or talking about teams that have more than 60 players in camp. Other than the pitchers who are not scheduled to throw during the game and therefore are on their own morning program and then free to go home, the dugout is packed with just about every other player at Spring Training. That’s why the Astros’ dugout looked like this before their Grapefruit League opener on Saturday against the Nationals:
Jason Castro threw out a runner, pretty handily, in the first inning. Castro, whom the Astros are counting on to be the front-line catcher they tabbed him to be a while ago, played three innings and looked comfortable behind the plate. His throw to eliminate former Astro Jason Michaels from the basepaths was quick and accurate. All good.
Mills: “He’s healed and everything’s fine and you have to be happy with that. I don’t care if it is the first day of spring. He missed all of last year. This was good to see.”
Livan Hernandez looked good on a windy day, allowing three hits and striking out two over two innings of work. Kyle Weiland, the pitcher the Astros received in the Mark Melancon trade with the Red Sox, gave up a double and then retired the next six batters he faced. Six of seven pitchers did not allow a run, and there were no walks issued.
Again, let’s not place too much importance on, or be too dismissive about, what happens in the first game. What we should be looking for good individual performances by key elements of this team. Castro throwing a runner out, Livan holding his own on the mound, Weiland blowing through two innings and Chris Johnson launching a two-run home run is a good start.
Meanwhile, back to the cramped dugout. By popular demand (no, not really), here is an array of photos from the scene in the dugout pregame, in addition to up-close, behind-the-scenes video of Astros players sandwiched in on the home side like several cans of sardines: