HOUSTON – Finally the wait is over for the Astros. Spring training came to a halt back in the middle of March and little did anyone realize that it would take over three months to get the guys back together again.
During this CoVid 19 pandemic lives have been turned upside down and frustrations have mounted but along the way the Astros have managed to stay in shape as best as they could to prepare for the start to the 2020 season.
The Astros have arrived at Minute Maid Park this week to begin camp and the countdown to the new season beginning on July 23 or 24 is on. This camp will be odd to watch. It’s new to everyone and it’s all about staying safe and keeping the players and staff healthy and virus free. The team has done a great job preparing for workouts and using as much of MMP as possible.
Here’s what to look for as Astros camp gets rolling Friday:
How will workouts at camp be divided up?
As I stated every scenario has been covered by the Astros coaching staff. The Astros work Friday from 10:30am until around 1pm and will be broken into groups. The Pitchers and catchers will be on the field first in staggered groups to get their conditioning and work in before yielding to the position players in the early afternoon. Social distancing will be in place and equipment will be sanitized between sessions each day for the next few weeks. Per MLB this marks Phase 1 and as it progresses into Phase 2 and Phase 3 things will gradually develop as camp progresses.
Is Justin Verlander healthy again?
Last time we saw JV was early in the spring when he injured his groin that required surgery. If the season would have stayed on track the Astros would have been without their ace for likely a couple of months. This break has allowed Verlander to get healthy again. The groin and lat injury appear to be in the rear view mirror. Barring a setback, the reigning AL Cy Young winner who went 21-6 last season will be good to go.
Can Dusty Baker adapt and learn his new team?
He was well on his way until camp ended in March. During this three month period he has stayed in touch with the players without nagging them too much. Baker really likes the makeup of this team and feels they can make a title run. Managing is not a problem for Baker as he’s a veteran but doing so in this current situation will be a challenge and one that I know he can handle. Now it’s about a 60 game sprint and decisions during games with his pitching staff will be crucial. Starters won’t go deep early so the use of the bullpen will be critical.
Those are just three questions that will certainly be answered in due time. Add in the likes of a healthy Lance McCullers Jr, and the likely impact this powerful lineup full of stars like Altuve, Bregman, Correa and Springer will bring to the table and this should be a fun few months of Astros baseball.
It all starts with the three week camp run in Houston and then it’s go time and finally we can all say it together: PLAY BALL !