Astros set to sport new-look lineup
KISSIMMEE, FL -- As they prepare for their final season in the National League, the Houston Astros have at least one thing in common with their expansion predecessors, the 1962 Houston Colt .45s: They have a new player at every position.
Not one player from the Astros' opening-day lineup of 2011 is likely to be on the field at the same position on April 6 when Houston opens its season at home against the Colorado Rockies. The only possibilities are pitcher Brett Myers and catcher Humberto Quintero. Carlos Lee, who played left field in last season's opener, will be at first base if he is still on the roster.
The Astros held their first full-squad workout of spring training Sunday with a pretty good idea who will be in the lineup at most positions.
After going 56-102 and finishing 40 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central last season, the team has undergone a complete overhaul, on and off the field.
"I don't know if it's the most changed (roster) inside the locker room, but definitely outside the locker room," said Chris Johnson, who is in his fourth Astros training camp. "There'll be a lot of new people going around, a lot of new coaches and front-office people, a lot of new people everywhere."
Johnson, the opening day third baseman last year, is behind Jimmy Paredes now, and the Astros will also check him out at first base this spring.
"I'm going about it as my first camp," Johnson said. "There's so many people seeing me for the first time and I want to make that good first impression. That's kind of the way I'm going about it."
The Astros traded for shortstop Jed Lowrie, who played in 256 games over four years with the Boston Red Sox, and Lowrie is as close as anyone to being established as a regular as camp opens.
"Obviously they're going in a new direction and I'm excited to be a part of it," Lowrie said. "I feel like I'm a quality shortstop and I believe I'm a .300 hitter from both sides of the plate."
Manager Brad Mills indicated Lowrie will get the chance to show it.
"He's coming into a situation now where he's the shortstop," Mills said. "Hopefully he just takes the bull by the horns."
Angel Sanchez started the 2011 opener at shortstop because Clint Barmes was injured. Sanchez is still in Houston's camp as a non-roster player. Johnson and Brett Wallace, last year's starter at first base are backups. Jose Altuve takes over at second base, where Bill Hall started last year's opener before being traded.
Catcher Jason Castro appears to be recovered from the knee injury that sidelined him last year. If he is not, Quintero might repeat as the starting catcher.
J.D. Martinez will continue as the left fielder after a solid 53-game rookie debut. The other outfield positions are up for grabs after the midseason trades of Hunter Pence to Philadelphia and Michael Bourn to Atlanta.
"It's definitely a different situation than when you had Carlos, Michael and Hunter with the spots locked down," said Brian Bogusevic, a candidate in right field. "Now there's open spots and a lot of guys looking to take those open spots."
Jordan Schafer, Jason Bourgeois and J.B. Shuck are among the candidates in center field.
The 35-year-old Lee is making $18.5 million in the final year of his contract, the kind of contract the Astros have been trading for prospects.
"He's in a position where he wants to show not just this franchise, but other franchises, too, that he's a good player and wants to keep playing," Mills said.
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