If there is one area where the Astros are a jumbled mess it’s in the bullpen.
Houston could have as few as one reliever from 2012 back in the bullpen on Opening Day and precious few spots have been claimed as spring training begins.
The Astros do seem to have free agent signee Jose Veras locked in as the closer, but that the only player whose spot seems secured. The right hander hasn’t closed in the Majors, he has just 17 saves in 327 career games, but he’s had two seasons with at least 25 saves in the minors so the situation isn’t completely new to him.
Wesley Wright also seems to have his teeth sunk into the left handed specialist role. Wright, who has been with the club longer than any other player, was solid last year in the bullpen. Left handers hit just .198 against him and his ERA against all hitters was 3.27 in 51.1 innings.
Xavier Cedeno and Rhiner Cruz are holdovers from last year’s team as well, though the Astros will look for more consistency from both for them to make the bullpen this year. Cedeno walked 14 batters in 31 innings while Cruz was even worse, walking 29 in 55 innings. If Cruz can cut down on his walks, he would likely be a leading candidate for the set up role.
Sergio Escalona earned playing time with the Astros last year as well, playing well enough to earn a non roster invite to spring training this year, but with Wright and Cedeno being left handed as well, the numbers may not be in his favor unless he’s blows it up in Kissimmee.
C.J. Fick also earned a non roster invite after pitching some for the Astros in 2012. Fick didn’t do much to distinguish himself last year, he gave up 24 hits and walked 17 in 18 innings of work.
One newcomer who the Astros might be eyeing for the eighth inning role is right hander Josh Fields. The former Oklahoma State quarterback was a Rule Five selection this offseason so he will have to stay on the Astros roster the entire season for the team to keep him. Fields has shown overpowering stuff, striking out 78 in 58 innings at Double A and Triple A in 2012. If he can keep that fastball working, the Astros might be set at the back end of the bullpen.
Hector Ambriz, Kevin Chapman, Sam Demel, Chia Jen-Lo, Rudy Owens, Jose Valdez and Josh Zeid are either farm hands or non roster invitees that would need to pull off something special in order to break with the big club at the end of spring training.
Long relievers will likely be a pitcher that wasn’t able to land a spot in the starting rotation.
Here is our projection of the Astros bullpen on Opening Day.