JJO's article today shows what the rotation looks like heading to Spring Training:
It reads: Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez, Mike Hampton and Brian Moehler. Then the list skips a slot before continuing to Brandon Backe, Jose Capellan, Russ Ortiz, Clay Hensley, Felipe Paulino and Fernando Nieve.
JJO goes on to say that the first five would be your rotation if the season started today, but you never know. If this list is actually ranked like a depth chart, as it seems to be, then Fernando Nieve needs to be prepared to head to waivers, and possibly not pitch for Houston.
"It’s a big camp for several people. We got some young kids that need to step to the forefront. They’ve been on the brink for two or three years, and they need to step up. Fernando Nieve, Paulino, these guys need to. It’s time for them to step forward. Even for that matter, Wandy Rodriguez. Wandy needs to continue to progress like he did a year ago. Some of these guys need to do the same."
Backe then looked into the camera and said:
“But ultimately I hope I’m the one because I really feel like I’m the one that can mesh with the rest of the team. I’m good with the team. And I just … feel like being healthy I can do what they need me to do, 180 or 200 innings, above .500. I can make all those numbers match.”
Then he encouraged all the little Backemaniacs to take their vitamins. But I do hope he's right. 200 innings and above .500 is a best-case scenario for the Best Man. Because three projections at Backe's Fangraphs page aren't so kind. Regard:
Bill James: 24 GS, 130 innings, 5-9 with a 5.49 ERA and a 1.57 WHIP.
CHONE: 20 GS, 104 innings, 4-7 with a 5.37 ERA and a 1.58 WHIP.
Marcel: 146 innings, 8-10 with a 5.33 ERA and a 1.57 WHIP.
What else can we learn from Fangraphs? Backe threw his slider more in 2008 than he had at any point in his career and he also used a cutter, which is basically new for him.
If the Astros hadn't missed out (or mailed it in) on Randy Wolf and apparently Braden Looper, there's no way they bring Backe back - but they did, and now Backe - who got tired late last season - has to hope that an off-season full of rest (except for that little thing in Galveston, and I don't mean Ike) brings him back.