With March Madness quickly coming to a close, that means only one thing: Baseball season is about to begin.
In just about a week, it will be time to open ballparks across the nation as the 2010 MLB season gets underway.
Right in the National League Central mix will be your Houston Astros—and regardless of what you may hear on the radio or TV, Houston’s 2010 team will contend for the NL Central title.
But before we jump the gun on next season, let’s quickly address seven burning issues facing the Astros as spring training comes to a close...
Oswalt is the club’s ace, and he’s bound to bounce back after what I’m sure Roy would call a disappointing 2009 season.
In addition, according to MLB.com Astros beat writer Brian McTaggart, Oswalt is slated to be on the hill for Opening Day after receiving an injection in his lower back on Monday.
Unfortunately, Berkman will be beginning the 2010 season on the DL.
But he will likely only miss the first four games of the season.
“Obviously, it stinks to have to start the year on the DL, but I’ll get off quick and never look back,” Berkman told McTaggart on Wednesday.
There are a lot of question marks surrounding newcomer Myers, including his reputation of being a hothead with a rocky ride in Philly.
However, Houston general manager Ed Wade originally drafted the right-handed pitcher in 1999 and believes he can be a big help to the Astros rotation.
“His fastball isn’t what it was when he was 22, but his breaking ball and changeup are still above average,” Wade told Sports Illustrated writer Albert Chen.
Norris turned in a pretty remarkable season last year after being called up to the Astros.
However, this will be Bud’s first full season in Houston, and it’s unclear how he will handle the heavy load of a full MLB season with the Astros.
Slated to be the No. 4 pitcher in Houston’s rotation behind ace Oswalt, solid lefty Wandy Rodriguez, and newcomer Myers, Norris has a chance to truly soar in 2010 with the Astros and could give them a solid shot at contending in the NL Central.
This has been a major issue surrounding the Astros organization for quite some time now, and upon losing Miguel Tejada from last year’s squad, the offensive power remains unclear.
But if young guys like Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn, along with veterans such as Carlos Lee, can step up and produce, Houston should have enough pop in their lineup to contend in a fairly weak NL Central.
The battle remains ongoing for these two spots in spring training, though it’s basically come down to two newcomers: Brandon Lyon and Matt Lindstrom.
Where each will fall into the big picture has yet to be seen, but hopefully the additions of Lyon and Lindstrom will prove to be solid parts at the back end of Houston’s bullpen in 2010.
Being a first-year manager can be tough, especially when walking into the disaster that was the Houston Astros organization.
However, Mills has done a phenomenal job already of turning things around both on and off the field of play.
“Clearly, he’s made a huge impact to this point, and I think obviously how that transfers into success remains to be seen, as far as wins and losses,” Berkman told McTaggart.
“He’s been great. He just has a great feel for what he’s supposed to be doing and how he can help guys. It’s very impressive.”
Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org