Bud Norris on the Astros: “They are definitely the outcast of major league baseball right now”

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Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle has a very interesting and in-depth piece on the Astros’ radical rebuilding plan. While the team’s farm system is brimming with young and exciting talent, their progressive approach is drawing some criticism from both outside and inside the organization.

Bud Norris, who was traded from the Astros to the Orioles last year, had some pointed comments about how the team is being perceived in the industry:

“They are definitely the outcast of major league baseball right now, and it’s kind of frustrating for everyone else to have to watch it,” said former Astros pitcher Bud Norris, now with the Orioles. “When you talk to agents, when you talk to other players and you talk amongst the league, yeah, there’s going to be some opinions about it, and they’re not always pretty.”

Some of this criticism is centered around the team’s perceived approach to analytics and service time. Look no further than the George Springer contract situation as a significant example. Put it all together and you have some unhappy players.

“I don’t think anybody’s happy. I’m not,” one Astros player told the Chronicle recently on the condition his identity not be revealed. “They just take out the human element of baseball. It’s hard to play for a GM that just sees you as a number instead of a person. Jeff is experimenting with all of us.”

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow spoke with Drellich and said that he expects some unhappiness and resistance to their approach, but insists that they are doing what they are doing “for the right reasons” and won’t divert from their plan unless it starts to affect them in “a meaningful way.” Ultimately, he expects winning to cure all ills, but they obviously still have some work to do on that front.

There’s a lot more to Drellich’s piece, so I recommend you all go and check it out. Great stuff about a fascinating organization.

Video: Andrew Toles hammers grand slam in Cactus League win

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Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.

Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).

Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.