Backup catcher Humberto Quintero has left Astros camp and traveled to Houston to have his injured back examined by team doctors.
Quintero told Brian McTaggart of MLB.com that he’s “feeling better,” but players tend not to leave spring training and fly to another state unless the injury has people worried.
He’s hoping to get a cortisone shot and return to camp Thursday, but McTaggart reports that Astros trainers believe Quintero “could have some inflammation in one of the disks in his back, which could be pinching a nerve and causing discomfort down his right leg.”
Projected starter Jason Castro missed all of last season following knee surgery and is now coming back from a broken foot suffered in the Arizona Fall League, so the Astros can hardly afford to lose more catching depth.
The wave of defensive shifts we’ve seen over the past few years has led to a lot of armchair hitting coaches demanding that players bunt to beat it. This is easier said than done, however.
The shift happens because certain hitters tend to pull the ball. Certain hitters tend to pull the ball because pulling the ball is what happens when one gets a strong, quick swing on a pitch one identifies early and which one endeavors to send as far away from home plate as possible. Which is to say that pulling is a skill that is good to have and which is strongly selected for among hitters.
In light of that, “why not just bunt to beat the shift” takes are kind of lazy. Bunting is hard! And it is not a thing guys who get shifted a lot are good at. Most of the time asking a player to do a thing he is not well-equipped to do is a bad idea. Indeed, a hitter voluntarily going away from his strength is something the defense would much prefer.
Most of the time anyway.
Last night Matt Carpenter made those armchair hitting coaches happy by laying down a bunt to beat the shift. And he laid it down so well that he ended up with a standup double:
One batter later Carpenter scored on a Starlin Castro error.
The shift giveth and the shift taketh away.