The Astros play tomorrow.
*Top pitching prospect Forrest Whitley was suspended 50 games for "violating Major League Baseball's drug prevention and treatment program." Whitley apologized, the Astros are "still hopeful and optimistic" that Whitley will dominate in the Majors at some point.
The language of the statement is interesting. First of all, it wasn't a "drug of abuse," which is usually in the press release. To get suspended for 50 games means it wasn't a performance-enhancing drug - the first offense for that is 80 games, and MLB will name the PED in those instances, as well. Back in 2012 Marcus Stroman was suspended 50 games for using a banned stimulant, which seems to be the substance for which Whitley was suspended. KABB's Chuck Miketinac reported this:
Source tells me Whitley was at an out of state college baseball game as a fan after his season was over and was given an unknown stimulant by a friend in order to help keep him awake on his long drive home.
I mean, setting aside how silly it seems that a dude who recently got a $3m+ signing bonus didn't stop at a Motel 6, this doesn't really set off any alarms. Should the KABB report be accurate, his buddy needs to apologize and Whitley likely now knows to be more careful.
I'm not going to jump on the "Luhnow is playing 3-D Wizard Chess because this limits his innings!" train, though. Any suspension is a black eye to an organization and the player itself (though I don't think Stroman's 2012 suspension caused any lasting repercussions). Luhnow:
On the pitching side I don't have any concerns, he's going to continue to develop and this is part of maturity. When you're a high school player and you get drafted and you're a top prospect there's a lot of pressure that goes along with that role. And I don't know if that had anything to do with this, but there's a maturation process going from high school and the big leagues and this is one step along the way for him.
Pretty dumb to miss 35% of your season because you took some of your buddy's spiked No-Doze.
*Hinch said he plans to play Yuli Gurriel at 1B, 3B, 2B, and SS this season. Hinch:
When I get greedy, I want to have every option available. If we want to make a decision, I want to feel prepared they're to be fine. Anybody I put at second base, I don't intend to play at second base [full-time] other than Altuve, but you have to be ready for everything if you want to be able to react to any situation.
Training versatility is going to be key for Hinch this season as he manages injuries, gives guys days off, etc. Marwin can play left field and be an usher in the Crawford Boxes at the same time. Bregman can play 3B or SS. J.D. Davis is going to get some outfield reps, and so on.
*Correa is working on ironing out the weaknesses in his game, and says of his teammates:
When you have such a good chemistry with these guys, you want to be around [this] group of guys. We love every single one of these guys in this clubhouse.
*Brian T. Smith: McCann and Gattis are a perfect combo.
*Having watched the World Series run with a fractured thumb, Jake Marisnick is ready to go.
*Hitting coach Dave Hudgens still thanks Negro League star Joe Black for his career.
*Rogelio Armenteros will start tomorrow's Grapefruit League opener.
*Oh cool, it's now called the FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.
*Former Astros Great Carlos Gomez signed a 1-year deal with the Rays.
*Rich Eisen said on his radio show that MLB is "kicking around an idea" to let the losing team send their best hitters to the plate in the 9th inning.
*The Ringer: Baseball's economics aren't as skewed as you think.
*Ben Lindbergh has an interesting piece on Sherri Nichols: The Sabermetric Movement's Forgotten Foremother.