The Astros signed pitcher Russ Ortiz to a minor-league deal today, reports the Chronicle.
Ortiz had double-digit wins in six straight seasons, from 1999-2004 for the Giants and Braves - including a 2003 season in which Ortiz went 21-7 and finished 4th in Cy Young balloting. Things kind of went to hell when he signed with the Diam'n'bac's, and then the Orioles. From 2005-2007 his ERA wasn't below 5.50. He has dealt with injuries - including Tommy John surgery - and missed all of 2008. However, says Easy Eddie:
Jack Lind, one of our pro scouts, saw Russ work out in September and was pleased with what he saw. By all accounts, Russ has rebounded well from Tommy John surgery, and we have no doubt that a healthy Russ Ortiz should be able to come to camp and be a serious contender for a spot in the big league rotation. He’ll have every opportunity in Spring Training to win a job.
You know who's crapping their pants right now? Brandon Backe. Count 'em, that's three pitchers not in the rotation who are competing for a spot: Easy Eddie mentioned Wesley Wright could be a candidate, as will Clay Hensley and now Ortiz. Don't forget Sampson can start, too. Backe needs to be perfect this spring training to stay in the rotation.