Jesse Crain sat out the second half of the 2013 season because of a shoulder strain and then underwent biceps surgery this winter. He was hoping to be ready for Opening Day, but that’s not going to happen.
According to MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart, Crain — who signed a one-year, $3.25 million contract with the Astros in December — is at least two weeks away from his first mound work of the spring. That puts him well behind the other relievers in Astros camp and it’s a certainty now that he will open the 2014 campaign with a 15-day disabled list stint.
Crain owns a fantastic 2.10 ERA and 10.6 K/9 in 150 innings since the beginning of the 2011 season. If his health begins to cooperate, he should eventually move his way toward Houston’s closer role.
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.