Normally, the first day of Spring Training play is a happy occasion - a chance to begin the rhythm of the seven-month ordeal of a baseball season. For the Astros, a road loss at Joker Merchant Stadium in Lakeland, FL, might have been expected but a death in the Astros' family was not.
Astros lose a great.
(c) Houston Astros
Senior Vice President of Broadcasting and Alumni Relations Jamie Hildreth passed away Friday night at the age of 72 in West Palm Beach, FL. A popular contact with the media, Hildreth survived the management purge that took place when Jim Crane bought the ballclub from Drayton McLane to keep his job with the Astros, for whom he had worked since 1987. Before that, he worked for Houston radio stations KRBE and KTRK.
He is survived by a wife, two sons and five grandchildren. Astros Daily extends our condolences to his family and friends.
In the 11-4 loss to the Tigers on Saturday, starter Brad Peacock survived two scoreless innings before the Tigers teed off on the first reliever out of the Houston bullpen. Edison Frias probably won't be heading to Houston anytime soon but he knows how to get noticed.
Frias walked the first batter he faced then surrendered back-to-back-to-back homers from Andrew Romine, Ian Kinsler and Victor Martinez. To cap it off, Frias plunked Miguel Cabrera with a looping curve that failed to break. That was enough for umpire Hunter Wendelstedt to send Frias to the showers even if Manager A.J. Hinch wasn't ready yet to come get him. Detroit led, 4-0.
Justin Verlander got in his two innings of shutout work and the Astros cut the lead in half in the fourth when two walks and an error led to a pair of runs. Houston tacked on another pair of runs in the eighth during garbage time.
Most of the players that suited up for Houston aren't going to be regular players so don't panic. It is typical for the road teams to bring only a few noteworthy players with more name players appearing at home. The Astros started Alex Bregman because he'll soon leave camp to join Team USA at the World Baseball Classic.
Brady Rodgers will get the start Sunday at Lake Buena Vista against the Braves then the Astros will play at Port St. Lucie on Monday against the Mets and play their first game at home, although as the visiting team, when they oppose the Washington Nationals at their new shared home at West Palm Beach.
Keep reminding yourself that the goal this spring is to keep their veterans healthy while getting in the work to prepare for the long season. In that sense, they are off to a good start with talk of improved health by pitchers Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers as spring play opens.
- Bob Hulsey