The quest for a return trip to the World Series is officially underway as the Houston Astros are set for their first Spring Training game on Friday in West Palm Beach, Florida.
This offseason, the Astros have been at the top of the headlines, primarily due to free-agent shortstop Carlos Correa. Predicting where Correa will land has been an ongoing question that continues to be asked repeatedly this Spring. Will the Astros resign, Correa? That remains to be determined, but the buzz around Correa has carried over into Spring Training, and the Astros are trying to handle it the best they can by having their ace Justin Verlander take the ball in the first action of the Spring.
Getting Verlander back on the mound is something Astros fans have longed to see. Since 2020, Verlander has been working his back after having Tommy John surgery. Verlander said that he “feels great” and called himself “a case study in a recent interview.” Most pitchers that return after having Tommy John are a lot younger than Verlander, who is 39. The Astros will continue to monitor Verlander closely through the Spring, and baring no setbacks, Verlander will get the ball on Opening Day.
The rest of the rotation for the Astros will be very similar to what it was last season. With Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia, Jose Urquidy, and Jake Odorizzi filling out the rest of the rotation. Still, the only difference will be Lance McCullers Jr.’s uncertainty of his status; it is more than likely that McCullers will miss Opening Day. Due to the lockout, McCullers said he was behind on his rehab but reassured fans that he would be back and that his injury was a flexor tendon strain and not his UCL.
The line-up for the Astros will be virtually the same. For apparent reasons, the notable difference is at shortstop is Jeremy Peña. According to manager Dusty Baker, Peña is considered the “front runner” to take over at shortstop coming into Spring Training. The Astros also have Aledmys Díaz, who is also competing for the position. Last season’s batting champion Yuli Gurriel, Jose Altuve, and Alex Bregman will round out the infield.
Taking a look at the outfield, the Astros know that Michael Brantley and Kyle Tucker will play the corners, but who will get the start in center field on Opening Day has yet to be determined. As Jake Meyers continues to rehab, the position will be open to Chas McCormick and Jose Siri. Both are capable of playing the position, so it will come down to who Baker decides to put out there. It is no surprise that Yordan Alvarez will be back as the designated hitter.
According to FanGraphs, the Astros will head into the 2022 season as one of the favorites to win the AL West and a Top Five favorite to win the World Series.
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