Astros weighing left-handed relief options

Veterans, rookies both in mix; several big-name position players already in camp

February 16th, 2018

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- There will be an open competition in camp for the Astros to find a left-handed relief pitcher, though there's no guarantees they would carry one. Veteran is in the final year of his three-year deal and has to pitch well to make the team, while the club picked up for depth this offseason.

Beyond that, there's , who allowed 14 earned runs in 16 innings last year with the Astros, and Rule 5 pickup , who's a longshot. Astros manager A.J. Hinch says he wants a bullpen that gives him options, regardless of which side the pitcher throws from.

"I think, going into this camp, the hope is Tony Sipp returns to form and that he has the stuff that made him a high-leverage reliever a couple of seasons ago (2015)," Hinch said. "He has the capabilities to do that. We want to take the best team we can."

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Sipp is trying to reconnect with his split-fingered fastball, which is the key to his success. He had a 5.79 ERA in 46 games last year and was left off the playoff roster.

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Boshers, who tops out at 90 mph, went 1-0 with a 4.89 ERA in 38 relief appearances across four Major League stints for the Twins last season. He held left-handed batters to a .224 (13-for-58) average and a .258 on-base percentage.

"We faced him a couple of times, and obviously we're trying to create as much left-handed competition as we can," Hinch said. "We're just trying to find some options, and Boshers is going to be one of them. He's got good stuff. He's had some better performance in the Minor Leagues than the big leagues so far, which is not uncommon. If we can untap a few of his strengths and match them up accordingly, he's going to be in the mix for that last bullpen spot at the beginning of camp, and we'll see how it factors in later."

Some position players already in camp

Astros position players don't have to report until Monday, which is the first day they will work out with the entire team, but several big names began trickling into the clubhouse at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on Friday, including , and .

"I miss spending time with them," Correa said. "The offseason was great, but now it's time to get back to baseball."

The early arriving position players, which also includes , , and , can go through their workouts separate from the pitchers and catchers, who completed their third day of camp on Friday. and had been working out at the facility earlier in the spring, but aren't in camp now.

"Even though we see each other a lot during the winter, there's something about showing up at Spring Training," Hinch said. "The buzz starts and it starts to feel like the team is starting to show up. The pitchers have been here a couple of days, but position players make it feel a little more complete."

Bregman, coming off his first full season in the Majors, missed significant at-bats last spring when he left for the World Baseball Classic, and he said being in camp all spring will be beneficial.

"Huge, huge. Super excited," Bregman said. "This is going to be like my first Spring Training. It's going to be good. I'm excited to get plenty of at-bats before the season starts this year. It's going to be fun."

Correa, Springer and Bregman spoke confidently about the team's expectations this year coming off the 2017 World Series championship.

"We don't want to be just a team people are going to remember for one year," Correa said. "We want to be able to build a dynasty and be able to win, two three years in a row if we can do that. We have the team to do it. It's just on us to put in the work and do what we need to do to win again."