The Big Hoopla:
Hunter Pence has certainly opened up many eyes and got many tongues wagging in Kissimmee and Houston this month. Unfortunately it’s gotten to the point where some fans now believe Pence is the second coming of the Messiah.
From sports radio hosts to newspaper columnists’ blogs, everyone in Houston is on the Hunter Pence bandwagon. Phrases such as "a five-tool player like Carlos Beltran", "special player", "phenom", and "next super star" are flying all too wildly around Houston right now. Granted, Pence is hitting for an unbelievable average of .750 so far this spring. But, Hunter has also stood in the batter’s box only 12 times so far. The sample is too small to extrapolate greatness or bust from.
Too many people, fans and reporters alike, are calling for Pence to get a slot on the 25 man roster based on the 12 at bats in 6 games. No one is thinking of the pressure this will put on a kid who’s at his first major league spring training camp. Hunter Pence may be 24 years old and possibly ready to play at the major league level, but, I believe as the Astros management appears to do that he needs at least some seasoning at the AAA level.
Tim Purpura is publicly saying that they want him to get some exposure to better pitching than he’s seen so far in AA, but, my personal belief is that they remember the DWI incident in Phoenix last year and just want to give the kid some time to mature as a person before thrusting him into the limelight of having to perform at the major league level in Houston.
Houston fans may not be as bad as New York or Philly fans as far as booing their own players is concerned, but just ask Morgan Ensberg, Jason Lane and Brad Lidge how they felt as they went from hero to fall-guy in just a few months as they got booed by the fans at Minute Maid Park in 2006.
My opinion certainly isn’t popular with Astros fans right now, but, I do believe as do Tim Purpura and Phil Garner, that Pence needs to start and play regularly in Round Rock in April instead of riding pine in Houston.
While Pence is getting all the attention, a few of the minor league and non-roster invitee pitchers are quietly making a very strong case for being inserted into the number 5 slot of the Astros starting rotation. Paul (pronounced Pah-ool) Estrada (3 innings, 0.00 ERA), Matt Albers (4 innings, 0.00 ERA), and Rick White (4 innings, 0.00 ERA) have not only not given up any earned runs, but they have also looked very sharp with good command of their pitches.
Other Astros Notes:
Roger Clemens was once again pitching batting practice to the minor leaguers in the back fields at Osceola County Stadium today. One non-minor league batter that he pitched to was none other than Astros owner Drayton McLane. In other Clemens news, he’s expected to attend the Yankees game tonight to lend moral support to Andy Pettitte.