Reservations for Six: Astros start season with strong team
The Major League Baseball season officially began when the Boston Red Sox split two games with the Oakland Athletics last week in Tokyo and games kicked off in the U.S. when the Washington Nationals opened their new ballpark Sunday night with a 3-2 win over the Atlanta Braves.
The Houston Astros packed their bags and headed back from Kissimmee, Fla. last week and opened their season Monday in San Diego against the Padres.
Roy Oswalt will make his sixth-consecutive opening-day start, a team record, squaring off against last season’s National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy.
The Astros will play seven consecutive games on the road to begin the season, heading north to play the Chicago Cubs before their home opener Monday against the St. Louis Cardinals. The team will then play 10 of its next 13 games at Minute Maid Park. The Florida Marlins come to town following the Cardinals’ series, and the defending NL Champions the Colorado Rockies and the Padres come to town the following weekend.
Cecil Cooper will begin his first full season as Houston manager after going 15-16 on an interim basis last season, replacing the fired Phil Garner.
The 25-man roster was set Saturday after veteran pitcher Woody Williams, relief pitcher Chad Paronto and speedy outfielder Reggie Abercrombie were all cut by the team.
The Astros front office decided to keep 13 pitchers, giving the final starting pitcher spot to Chris Sampson. Sampson just beat out the 41-year-old Williams during spring training. The pitching rotation is a bit suspect after Oswalt, with Brandon Backe, Wandy Rodriguez, Shawn Chacon and Sampson rounding out the order. Jose Valverde will be the closer and Doug Brocail, Oscar Villarreal and Geoff Geary will anchor the middle relief.
Veteran utility players Darin Erstad, Jose Cruz Jr., Geoff Blum and Mark Loretta also made the team.
Second basemen Kazuo Matsui will start the season on a 15-day disabled list with an anal fissure, giving the 37-year-old Loretta the opening day start. Cruz Jr. is the son of Astros legend and current first-base coach Jose Cruz.
The Astros have a very dangerous lineup, with outfielder and UH product Michael Bourn leading off, followed by experienced players in Kaz Matsui, outfielder Carlos Lee, first baseman Lance Berkman and newly acquired shortstop Miguel Tejada.
The Astros will play the New York Yankees at home June 13-15 and the defending World Champion Boston Red Sox on June 27-29 during interleague play. This will mark the first time either team has visited Houston.