WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Right-hander Cristian Javier, last year’s Astros Minor League Pitcher of the Year, will start the team’s Grapefruit League opener on Saturday night against the Nationals at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, manager Dusty Baker said Thursday. The Nationals will start Max Scherzer in a rematch of last year’s World Series, won by Washington in seven games.
Javier, the Astros' No. 9 prospect per MLB Pipeline, began last season at Class A Advanced Fayetteville and spent most of the year at Double-A Corpus Christi before ending the season with a pair of outings at Triple-A Round Rock. In all, he posted a 1.74 ERA with a 0.97 WHIP and 170 strikeouts in 113 2/3 innings and led all Minor League pitchers (minimum 100 innings) in opponents’ batting average (.130).
“He has good stuff,” Baker said. “As far as I’m concerned, he’s probably in the mix for some things. I haven’t seen him live against a hitter on an opposing team. He has outstanding stuff you see down here in the spring. I’ve been watching his ‘pens and I talked to a couple of catchers and they tell me he has excellent stuff. That’s where it starts.”
Scherzer went 36-13 with a 2.75 ERA in 65 starts while Baker was managing Washington from 2016-17, including a 20-win season in '16 and back-to-back National League Cy Young Awards. Scherzer faced the Astros twice in the World Series, allowing two earned runs in five innings in both Game 1 and Game 7.
“I like some Scherzer. Scherzer’s cool.” Baker said. “He’ll be the same old Scherzer whatever side I’m on.”
Others scheduled to pitch for Houston are Nivaldo Rodriguez, Enoli Paredes, Andre Scrubb, Kent Emanuel and Riley Ferrell.
Baker set to manage against Nats
Saturday’s game against the Nationals -- the Astros are the home team -- will be the first game in uniform for Baker since he managed the Nats. Baker keeps in touch with several players and some of the coaches on the Nationals.
“I’ve talked to a couple of the guys already,” Baker said. “I left my heart over there when I left. I’m looking forward to seeing some of them, from seeing the trainers to now the first-base coach, Bobby [Henley]. I talked to them almost regularly. Different guys over there will call and ask how you’re doing. I have pleasant memories with those guys.”
Baker watched the Nationals closely the last two years and never thought he would manage again before the Astros opportunity came up. When he was hired by Houston, he said he was rooting for the Astros in the 2019 World Series.
“What am I supposed to say?” he joked.