HOUSTON -- Astros manager AJ Hinch said he will wait until Friday to unveil his 25-man roster for the American League Championship Series against the Red Sox, which begins Saturday at Fenway Park. Hinch said Houston will add a 12th pitcher to the roster, which means removing one position player.In
HOUSTON -- Astros manager AJ Hinch said he will wait until Friday to unveil his 25-man roster for the American League Championship Series against the Red Sox, which begins Saturday at Fenway Park. Hinch said Houston will add a 12th pitcher to the roster, which means removing one position player.
In essence, the Astros have five relievers -- Josh James, Brad Peacock, Hector Rondon, Joe Smith and Will Harris -- in the mix for three spots. Of that group, James and Harris were the only ones on the roster for the AL Division Series against Cleveland.
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The hard-throwing James made his big league debut on Sept. 1 and faced the Red Sox in Boston in his second big league game a week later, striking out four batters and allowing one hit in 2 2/3 innings in relief. That will definitely be fresh on the minds of Hinch and the front office as they make their final roster decisions.
"I'm well aware of what guys have done," Hinch said. "You can believe in small samples, you can believe in large samples. Last series, I got asked about matchups that Justin Verlander struggled with the Indians, and it didn't deter me from starting him in Game 1 [of the ALDS]. I think you factor it in as part of any analysis you have. If you live and die by that, you'll have some successes and some failures. I believe in combining what you see with what you know."
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Childhood friends face off
They grew up playing baseball together in Albuquerque, N.M., and have cheered each other on during their path to the big leagues. Astros third baseman Alex Bregman and Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart will put their close friendship on hold for the next week while their teams meet in the ALCS.
"We definitely envisioned this when we were growing up in Albuquerque when we were 13 years old," Bregman said of meeting Swihart with a World Series berth on the line. "It's pretty cool."
Coincidentally, Swihart played shortstop and Bregman was a catcher when they were teenagers, and the roles have been reversed with Bregman at third and Swihart mostly catching. Bregman went to dinner with Swihart when the Astros were in Boston in September, but said he'll catch up with him after the ALCS is over.
The Red Sox drafted Swihart with the No. 26 overall pick in 2011. A year later, Boston drafted Bregman in the 29th round, but he had a firm commitment to LSU. Bregman attended LSU and was drafted second overall by Houston in 2015.
Swihart, who made his Red Sox debut about a month before Bregman was drafted by the Astros, is a career .256 hitter in 191 big league games.
"I'm definitely so proud of him," Bregman said. "We're going out there and competing and trying to get it done."
Morton, Keuchel throw sim games
Right-hander Charlie Morton, who didn't pitch in the ALDS, and lefty Dallas Keuchel, who pitched in Game 3 on Monday, threw simulated games Thursday afternoon at Minute Maid Park before the team headed to Boston.
Morton was in line to start a possible Game 4 in the ALDS, but the Astros swept the series. Hinch said neither Morton nor Keuchel would be available to pitch in relief in the first two games of the ALCS in Boston because the Astros have so much bullpen depth. Last year, Hinch turned to starting pitchers in several key spots in relief in the playoffs.
This year, Houston has a deeper bullpen. It only used five of its seven available relievers in the ALDS and will be adding another reliever for the ALCS, giving Hinch a rested bullpen that is full of weapons.
"Given the agony we're going through and these bullpen decisions and the options we're going through and the performance of our 'pen and the depth of our 'pen, I see it less likely than ever, initially in a series for me, to have to get that creative with our starters," Hinch said.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.