HOUSTON – The Houston Astros are just three weeks away from starting the shortened 2020 baseball season. The players are working out at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
Here are four of the most interesting things that happened Saturday.
The hitters are ahead of the pitchers
While it may not be fair that the top of the Astros lineup was the ones to face the pitchers throwing live for the first time, mostly the hitters got the best of the pitchers.
Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel were able to hit balls that would have fallen for hits if there were a defense easily against Chris Devenski, Lance McCullers and Blake Taylor. Bregman also looked good in live batting practice.
Gloves on both hands
While outfielders shagged balls, they wore a latex glove on their throwing hand as part of the Astros distancing and cleaning protocols. Some players, including Josh Reddick, wore masks in the outfield.
According to Jose Altuve, the big focus is to avoid doing things like handshakes and hugs with teammates.
The MLB is strongly aiming to eliminate spitting during games this season. However, there was plenty of it during the Astros practice Saturday. Ballplayers have a hard time breaking this habit.
McCullers throws live batting practice
Lance McCullers Jr. is in a unique position. The coronavirus pandemic may have been helpful to McCullers’ Tommy John recovery, providing extra time for him to recovery without missing any innings.
McCullers has never made more than 22 starts in a season, with exactly 22 starts in three of his four MLB seasons. If a five-man rotation is intact for the Astros, McCullers would be asked to make no more than 12 starts.
McCullers’ live batting practice results Saturday were a mixed bag, with some fastballs and breaking balls looking sharp and others missing their spots.
Blake Taylor may serve as a lefty bullpen arm
Lefthanded relievers can always be useful, and the Astros may have found one in Blake Taylor.
Taylor came over from the New York Mets in the Jake Marisnick trade. He was not far from the major leagues in New York’s system. Taylor gave up a hard hit to Yuli Gurriel in live batting practice but otherwise looked good.
With a lack of viable lefties in the bullpen, a look for Taylor is a real chance with the Astros.