Million-dollar questions

Ocs_signYesterday, we were invited once again to talk Astros baseball with Uri Berenguer in the Solamente Pelota show at XM Radio’s MLB en español. If you haven’t heard it yet, you should. Three hours a day, five days a week of nothing but baseball in Spanish. Those hours fly by, if you will.

We were there for half an hour, and to be honest, those questions Uri did to us didn’t fly away from our minds. 24 hours later, we still try to get to them. They look quite simple; although, the more you think about them, the tougher they become.

We’ve been reading the fine job Alyson Footer and Jim Molony are doing at astros.com; and Joshua at Crawfish Boxes (this picture is his, by the way). They give us an idea of the mood at Kissimmee (sometimes cold, ouch).

So in that same sprit, we take on those question Uri asked us yet again:

Will Roy Oswalt rise to the occasion as new leader of the pitching staff?

I know what you’re thinking. It’s not just the consistency, which he already has. Not the numbers. He has showed them already. It’s something beyond his mere performance on the mound. It’s becoming mentor to those new kids on the block (eventually a Troy Patton, Matt Albers, Lincoln Holdzkom, etc), the new arrivals (Jason Jennings, Miguel Ascencio, Woody Williams) and those who sorta know their way around (Fernando Nieve, Ezequiel Astacio). Being the glue that holds it all together.

It’s not easy to think about Oswalt as such. He’s very reserved and private for that. Nothing wrong with being that way, but many of us, especially Latinos, have this image of the flamboyant and loud "team leader". He doesn’t have to bring a boom box to the clubhouse to do just that. But it is also true that Oswalt is a true pro and is quite conscious of his current state of being at the Astros. Who knows. Maybe we’ll be surprised.

How do you see the rotation stacking up today?

Hold your horses here. It’s merely a few days since pitchers and catchers reported, with a level of expectation rarely seen, and do you want me to give you already who I think will be the starting five for Opening Week?

Not a chance. It wouldn’t be honest from me, and really, it’d be quite a waste if I try to come up with things out of nowhere. I don’t think anyone knows. No one has a sure place, except for Oswalt, at least for Week 1. It’d be quite logical to think of a rotation of Oswalt, Jennings, Williams and two prospects to be named later or two guys who know a thing or two (Nieve or Wandy).

Even worse yet: Maybe Jennings and Williams will not be there for that initial week. They will be for sure, but it’s uncertain that they’ll be there from the starting point. I talked to a friend yesterday and she agreed with me. No one has a sure place in this mix, for now. The rotation looks like an ever-changing work in progress, from what I see.

A position player who will make the difference?

Another toughie. It might be Carlos Lee. In fact, he was hired to do just that, help bring a new pace to an anemic offense. It might be Luke Scott, who arrived to camp in an improved, corrected Men’s Health version. Or Chris Burke. Richard Hidalgo came to give an intriguing twist to the case of the Congested Outfield. A man who returned to his best shape, maybe even better than when he hit jackpot with the Astros in 2000, looking for a new chance with a lot of hunger. It’s almost like American Idol, without the sadism and the lousy singing.

There’s so many out there we don’t know who will stay (or who could become trade bait). Even Jason Lane and Morgan Ensberg are there for a chance. And this competitive Spring Training must bring the best in them. Or else. And this is what makes it fun.

Prospects who could shine?

Holdzkom. Patton. Pence. Should I go on?

It’s pretty hard to complete this Astros puzzle. We’ll sure be having a lot to talk about for the next few days.

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