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Houston Astros Opening Day Primer

2011 Record: 56-106 Manager: Brad Mills

The Astros have a new owner, new front office people, and next year, a new league as the Astros will move to the American League next year. As a National League fan living in Texas, that stinks, as the closest NL team to Texas is either St. Louis or Denver. Billings, Montana and Fargo, North Dakota are closer to National League baseball than most people in Texas. Think about that.

Player in the spotlight: Carlos Lee 1B

Lee is quite simply, the only recognizable name in the everyday lineup for the Astros on opening day. Lee is now famous for his albatross contract that has essentially anchored him in Houston with very little chance of being traded. Lee is due $19M this season and only near the trade deadline might a market develop to acquire Lee’s bat. If the Astros are to avoid another 100 loss season, Lee will have to hit like he did near the beginning of his contract from 2007-2009.

Biggest question mark in the lineup: Jed Lowrie SS

Lowrie would be another “name” in the Astros lineup if he wasn’t, surprise, injured again. Lowrie comes over from the Red Sox DL where he occasionally came off and played for weeks at a time. When healthy Lowrie is a good defender and a decent bat for a shortstop, but those days are few and far between. The likely outcome here is that the Astros try to rehabilitate Lowrie’s image durability-wise and move him for some more prospects. He certainly won’t be the cornerstone of a playoff team.

Pitcher in the spotlight: Wandy Rodriguez

Wandy represents, possibly, the only tradable commodity that Astros haven’t moved in the past two seasons. It would be shocking if he were to be in Houston when August 1st arrives. But until then, he’ll be the cornerstone of a young, developing pitching staff as they try to avoid 100 losses again.

Biggest pitching question mark: Brett Myers   Closer

Wait, there’s another pitcher who could be moved. Myers moves back to the bullpen for reasons unknown. It’s hard to believe that Myers will be more tradable as a reliever than a starter. For a team that should treasure each opportunity to win games and will need to finish those games strong, Myers will have to be good in those rare opportunities.

Prospect with a chance to make an impact this year: Jonathan Singleton 1B

This is a little bit of a stretch to expect Singleton to impact this year, but he should get a chance in September if he continues to progress as expected. Singleton came over in the Hunter Pence deal with the Phillies last summer and gives the Astros fans some hope for the future.

Prediction: 6th in NL Central

The goal for the worst team in baseball is avoiding 100 losses for the second consecutive season and for only the second time in club history. Unlike 1991, there aren’t any Craig Biggio’s already on the roster and it’s doubtful that they have Jeff Bagwell ready to burst upon the scene. This rebuilding job is going to be a long, hard slog. They acquired a boatload of prospects over the past two seasons, many from the Phillies, and they will need to have a solid success rate to get this team back into contention by 2014, at the earliest. The goal here is to find optimism with a team, and the Astros look like a winner by 2015. Other good news, this will be their last 6th place finish until MLB expands again.

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MLB Daily Balk Morning Rundown 4/19

"The Freak" matched the great Christy Mathewson last night for the Giants

Best of Yesterday April 18

Dice-K shuts out the Blue Jays for 7 innings (1H, 1 BB, 3 K) and Jed Lowrie goes off again (4 for 5, HR, 4 RBI) for the Red Sox on Patriot’s Day at Fenway. Lowrie is now hitting .516 on the season.

David Price and the Rays shut out the White Sox. Price went 8 innings with 9 Ks and 2 BBs. Cult hero Sam Fuld went 4 for 4 to raise his average to .396.

Tim Lincecum was filthy on the mound for the Giants as he didn’t give up a hit through 6 1/3 until Carlos Gonzalez singled in the seventh. The Freak had 10+ strikeouts for the 29th time in his career. That ties Christy Mathewson for the most in Giants history.

The Giants Nate Schierholtz blasted a homer into the 3rd deck at Coors Field on Monday night. His brother, who is a cadet at the Air Force Academy, was at the game and tracked down the 467 foot blast.

Brewers rookie Brandon Kintzler got his first career win by pitching two scoreless innings as the Brewers win 6-3 in 12 innings. John Axford blew the save in the 9th for the Brewers, but manager Ron Roenicke feels that Axford’s control problems are fixable.

Joe Blanton finally pitched well for the Phillies as he went 7 innings and gave up 2 earned runs. His success will make it easier for the Phillies to trade him later in the season to free up money.

Kevin Correia of the Pirates pitched a complete game (3R, 2ER) to claim his third win of the season as the Pirates beat the Reds in 3 of 4 to win their weekend series.

The Reds Aroldis Chapman hit 106 MPH on the GABP radar gun. But that has been adjusted by more “accurate” readings down to 103 MPH. That’s still better than the mid 90s he was throwing last week.

CJ Wilson gave up 1 run over 7 innings as the Rangers beat the Angels 7-1. Wilson overpowered the Angels with 9 Ks and only walked one to go to 2-0. Adrian Beltre hit his 5th HR for the Rangers and is now tied for the AL lead in RBI with 16.

More inches of snow in Chicago on Monday, 1.2 inches, than runs scored at Wrigley during the Cubs 1-0 win over the Padres.

Carlos Zambrano has 10 Ks and only 1 walk in 8 inning of shutout ball for the Cubs. Tim Stauffer went 7 innings for the Padres. Tyler Colvin provided the walk off double for the Cubs.

Tigers Ryan Raburn alledgedly became the first player to hit the roof at Safeco Field in Seattle. He did it on a foul ball.

Ted Lilly threw 7 scoreless innings for the Dodgers in their win over the Braves 4-2. Lilly got his first win of the season.

AL News/Notes

The A’s reacquired pitcher David Purcey from the Blue Jays. Purcey had been traded from the A’s to Jays in the offseason and was designated for assignment last week.

The Yankees are going to be cautious regarding Alex Rodriguez’ injuries. That’s easier with Eric Chavez filling in the way he has so far this season (.467 AVG, 2 2Bs).

The Mariners OF Franklin Gutierrez is heading to the Mayo Clinic for tests to help figure out why his stomach is continuing to be an issue.

The Angels are trying to do everything to get lefty starter Scott Kazmir back on track. Now he’s off to Arizona for extended spring training.

NL News/Notes

Jason Bay could return to the Mets on Thursday. Bay is scheduled to play in minor league rehab games on Tuesday and Wednesday.

After his leadoff homer on Sunday, the Pirates Andrew McCutchen now has seven leadoff homers in his career.

The Brewers aren’t ready to activate setup reliever LaTroy Hawkins yet despite rejoining the team in Philly. He might be activated on Wednesday or Friday. Also, RF Corey Hart is beginning an AAA rehab assignment on Tuesday and could be back in a week or so.

The Giants could activate OF Cody Ross on Tuesday if everything went well during his rehab start at AAA Fresno on Monday night. Rookie 1B Brandon Belt could be sent down when Ross returns according to manager Bruce Bochy.

The Braves reliever Peter Moylan has a bulging disc in his back and is looking to avoid surgery. The Braves finally moved Jason Heyward to the 2 hole in the lineup and dropped Nate McLouth to 8th in the order.

The Phillies lefty reliever JC Romero strained his right calf and could be heading to the DL. That will make fellow lefty Antonio Bastardo even more important in the Phillies bullpen going forward.

Dodgers rookie OF/1B Jerry Sands debuted with a double against Tim Hudson and the Braves. Manager Don Mattingly said that Sands, who started in LF, could see time at first base if James Loney struggles.

Streak of the Day

The Baltimore Orioles have now lost 8 straight games after starting the season 6-1.

Top Tuesday Matchups

6:40 EDT White Sox (Danks 0-1, 3.15) at Rays (Shields 0-1, 3.98)

7:05 EDT Brewers (Wolf 1-2, 4.32) at Phillies (Halladay 2-0, 1.23)

7:07 EDT Yankees (Burnett 3-0, 4.67) at Blue Jays (Drabek 1-0, 1.93)

8:40 EDT Giants (Sanchez 1-1, 3.24) at Rockies (Jimenez 0-0, 7.50)

Last night’s balks: 0