Astros will look for answers after Harrell, Norris

Astros will look for answers after Harrell, Norris
January 23, 2013, 9:15 pm
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Bo Porter excited about his young team

George W. Bush was the first to coin the term ‘fuzzy math’ but the Astros are perfecting it with a plan to make 10=2. Or 11=3 depending on your point of view.

A quick look at the top of the Astros rotation, as one could expect after a 55-107 season is pretty fluid. At the top of the rotation sits Lucas Harrell and Bud Norris. Jordan Lyles, who might have been an all-star if there were some way to eliminate the fifth inning from the scorebooks (2.97 ERA in innings 1-4), is the most likely candidate for the third spot, though he can’t be considered a lock because the fifth inning does count (16.38 ERA in fifth inning).

If those three have are considered locks right now, that leaves 10 starters on the 40-man roster and among non-roster invitees to Kissimmee to fight for the final two spots in the rotation. The group includes pitchers who saw time with the Astros last year (Keuchel), pitchers from the Astros system (Ross Seaton, Paul Clemens, Jarred Cosart, Brett Oberholtzer, Jose Cisnero) and pitchers acquired by the team (Philip Humber, John Ely, Alex White and Erik Bedard).

The Astros plan will be to turn those 10 into a serviceable pair by Opening Day. Bedard comes with the best pedigree of success in the Major Leagues. The lefty has won 63 games in the Major Leagues, though his ERA in 2011 was a full run higher (5.01) than it was in any season after 2004.

Keuchel flashed signs of belonging in his first action with the Astros last year, though he’ll have to improve his consistency to prove it. The lefty came to the team advertised as a good control pitcher but he averaged more than four walks per nine innings pitched. That contributed mightily to his bad starts, in five of Keuchel’s 16 starts he allowed at least five earned runs.

Seaton, Clemens, Cosart, Oberholtzer and Cisnero are still waiting for their first chance to face a Major League lineup and if there was ever a team built to give a young pitcher a chance it’s the 2012 Astros.

Humber, Ely and White are all pitchers who have previous Major League experience. Their collective experience is somewhat lacking, though. The three have a combined 25 wins in the Majors and neither has a career ERA below Bedard’s 4.87.

But that’s why there’s spring. At least two of the 10 will open eyes in the Grapefruit League and with any luck that success will extend into the regular season. If not, Astros fans shouldn’t worry, there’s still other eight candidates that will be waiting their turn.

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