Carlos Beltran played zero innings in center field last season, but he was out there for today’s spring training game and the Cardinals are considering giving him some regular season starts.
Jon Jay is the primary center fielder, but manager Mike Mathney told Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com that he’d like to occasionally sub Beltran in versus left-handed pitchers.
That may not happen very often early on, but once Allen Craig returns from knee surgery and Matheny wants to get him in the lineup alongside Beltran, Lance Berkman, and Matt Holliday shifting Beltran to center field and Jay to the bench against lefties is an easy solution.
Assuming, of course, that Beltran’s knees hold up at age 34. He won three straight Gold Gloves in 2006-2008, but graded out poorly according to Ultimate Zone Rating in 2009 and 2010 before taking last season off from the position.
No surprise here: The Astros are headed back to the postseason to defend their title following a landslide 11-3 win over the Angels on Friday. This figures to be their third playoff run since 2015, though they have yet to wrap up the AL West with a division title.
First baseman Yuli Gurriel led the charge on Friday, smashing a grand slam in the first inning and tacking on a two-run homer in the second and RBI single in the fifth to help the Astros to a seven-run lead. The Angels eventually returned fire, first with Mike Trout‘s 418-foot homer in the sixth, then with an RBI hit from Francisco Arcia in the seventh, but they couldn’t close the gap in time to overtake the Astros.
On the mound, right-hander Gerrit Cole clinched his 15th win of the year after holding the Angels to seven innings of three-run, 12-strikeout ball. His sixth strikeout of the night — delivered on an 83.1-MPH knuckle curveball to Kaleb Cowart — also marked the 1,000th strikeout of his career to date. He was backed by flawless performances by lefty reliever Tony Sipp and rookie right-hander Dean Deetz, both of whom turned in scoreless innings as the offense barreled toward an 11-3 finish with Jake Marisnick‘s sac bunt and George Springer‘s three-run shot in the eighth.
Despite having qualified for the playoffs, the Astros still carry a magic number of 6 as they look to clinch a third straight division title. They’re currently up against the Athletics, who entered Friday’s contest against the Twins just four games back of first place in the AL West.