Keep an eye on Kyle Weiland.
Brett Myers’ move to the bullpen opened up a lot of innings, some 200 or more, that need to be accounted for by someone else this season. Livan Hernandez will take care some of that, of course, but opportunity is wide open for another pitcher — presumably, one of the Astros up-and-comers — to grab one of the spots in a rotation that has at least one opening.
Assuming Bud Norris, Wandy Rodriguez, Hernandez and J.A. Happ take up the first four spots, one job remains. Jordan Lyles, who made 15 starts for the Astros in 2011, would have to be considered a front-runner to win the job. But keep an eye on a few others, including Kyle Weiland, who is quietly putting together an impressive Spring Training.
Weiland, who was traded to the Astros from the Red Sox during the offseason, threw four no-hit innings against the Yankees Monday night in Tampa. Add that to the four scoreless innings he combined for in his first two spring appearances, and that equals a nearly perfect spring so far: eight innings, three hits, no runs, two walks, four strikeouts.
Spring Training games should, and will, be viewed with the understanding that while it’s largely the only way by which we can judge players at this point, it’s not the sole indicator of how that might translate to the regular season. That said, Spring Training is also designed to give players a chance to force their way onto a team. Weiland, who is going to continue to be groomed as a starting pitcher as he develops through the Astros’ system, wasn’t labeled as a sure-fire contender to win a big league job when camp began. But he wasn’t definitively ticketed for Triple-A, either.
Rather, Weiland was considered one of those “interesting” types to keep an eye on. If three weeks ago I had to bet large amounts of my salary on where Weiland would end up after Spring Training, I would have said Oklahoma City. Now, I’m not so sure.
If the Astros are looking for someone to pull away from the pack, they may have to look no further than the pitcher who handled the Yankees with a tidy 49 pitches Monday night in Tampa.
Weiland, on his outing:
* To make up for Sunday’s rainout, Wandy threw four simulated innings in the batting cage as soon as the game was called. The next morning, Norris and Aneury Rodriguez also threw four-inning simulated games. Norris was pitching on his normal four days of rest. The simulated games are in an effort to give “starts” to all potential starting pitchers this spring, and obviously, they have more than five who need innings.
* Brad Mills said he is trying to schedule a “B” game to make up for the innings lost by the rainout Sunday. While Spring Training games look casual and not terribly intense, there is a lot of work being done behind the scenes during the exhibition season. The schedules are mapped out by the coaching staff days in advance, and everyone — especially pitchers — have a regimen they need to stick to. Rainouts are a bummer for the fans, but they create even more headaches for a manager and staff trying to make sure 60-some players are all getting their work in. It looks easy from the outside. It’s not.
* Owner Jim Crane flew to Tampa with several board members to watch the Astros play the Yankees. It was Crane’s first Spring Training game, but presumably, it won’t be his last. He looked like he was thoroughly enjoying himself:
Other pregame sights from George M. Steinbrenner Field: