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2009 Houston Astros: Spring Training news & notes


If Aaron Boone never again walks onto the fresh cut grass of the infield and plays the game of baseball in his life, I know he will forever be remembered for the walk off homer that he blasted against the Boston Red Sox in Game 7, clinching the pennant for the Bronx Bombers. That game, that home run, will be remembered as one of the most memorable moments in baseball. Boone was not a superstar or glory hound, but one of the great things about the game of baseball is that one swing can immortalize even the most obscure of players.

But with bad news, comes good news. Chris Johnson, long considered the best position prospect in the Astros organization, will continue to platoon with Geoff Blum through spring games. Johnson hasn’t exactly lit up the stats board or powered his way into the replays on ESPN, but he has been solid. He has been on of the more consistent Astros hitters throughout spring training, and will continue to get long looks by Cecil Cooper and his coaches. Johnson was considered by many to be a long shot to make the 25 man roster when training camp breaks, but with Aaron Boone now gone for the season, and possibly his career, the likelihood of Johnson becoming the everyday third baseman becomes a real possibility, and something that I have been clamoring for since spring training started.

Houston Astros hats & merchandise With Boone out of the picture and Chris Johnson staking his claim to the starting third base job, Blum becomes the ideal candidate to become the infield super-sub that Cecil Cooper has been looking for. Blum has the ability to play 3B, SS and 2B and is a capable bat off the bench that can provide some pop. He also has the ability to play a position for an extended period of time without having to sacrifice defense, which is a nice insurance policy for the oft-injured, Kaz Matsui, and aging SS, Miguel Tejada. If the Astros feel inclined to option Johnson to AAA Round Rock and have Blum start at third, the next best option to fill the utility infielder role could be long time journeyman, Jason Smith. Smith is having an excellent spring this year. Smith is pacing all Astros hitters with a .455 average, tallying 15 hits in 33 at bats and racking up 22 total bases through 16 games.

The best news of the week is the signing of veteran catcher and perennial all-star, Ivan ‘Pudge’ Rodriguez. Not one of the Astros catchers has proved capable to be consistent with the bat this spring. The signing of Rodriguez relegates Humberto Quintero back into the backup role, where he is best suited. JR Towles and recent rule-5 pick, Lou Palmisano will continue to fight for the backup catching job with Quintero, but Towles still has options in the minors and Palmisano can be offered back to the Brewers for $25,000.00, half of what the Astros paid to draft him in the Rule 5 draft this past off-season. Pudge will be a welcomed addition to a pitching staff that will be facing quite a few question marks entering the season. His bat will be extremely welcome, depending on which version of him shows up. We definitely don’t need the .220 hitter he was when he was traded to the Yankees at the trade deadline last year. If Pudge reverts to

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his usual averages, the Houston Astros will have one of the more complete lineups in the National League, helping keep the competition in the tough NL Central close and compensating for what is sure to be a mediocre rotation behind Roy Oswalt.

Here is the proposed lineup for the Astros this season:

  1. Kaz Matsui
  2. Michael Bourn
  3. Lance Berkman
  4. Carlos Lee
  5. Miguel Tejada
  6. Hunter Pence
  7. Ivan Rodriguez
  8. Chris Johnson
  9. Pitcher

The 3 through 7 spots in the order some of the best run producers in the past decade. If you add up and coming star. Hunter Pence to the mix, you have a dangerous lineup.

Cecil Cooper is about fed up with how the Astros have performed so far in spring, but he has to be absolutely giddy about the lineup potential he has this season, I know that I would be.


By: Jordan Fleck
MLBcenter.com Houston Astros correspondent

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