McCullers

What’s on Tap: Previewing Friday’s Action

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The baseball weekend already began today with an afternoon tilt at Wrigley Field. The Cubs lead the Pirates late. The Cubs lead everyone.

Otherwise, we have the return of Lance McCullers, who  the Astros definitely need to be like the Lance McCullers of 2015 given the state of their pitching. And given that the Red Sox lineup he’s facing tonight is en fuego. We have the worst team in baseball facing off on the road against the defending World Series champs. This being baseball, however, Atlanta could take two of three and all we’d really be able to do is to shrug and go “welp, baseball.” There are two knuckleballers in action tonight, which doesn’t happen too often these days. A pity they aren’t facing one another.

Here are the matchups and times. Have a good weekend, y’all.

Chicago White Sox (Chirs Sale) @ New York Yankees (Luis Severino), 7:05 PM EDT, Yankee Stadium

Cincinnati Reds (Brandon Finnegan) @ Philadelphia Phillies (Jeremy Hellickson), 7:05 PM EDT, Citizens Bank Park

Detroit Tigers (Justin Verlander) @ Baltimore Orioles (Chris Tillman), 7:05 PM EDT, Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Miami Marlins (Tom Koehler) @ Washington Nationals (Gio Gonzalez), 7:05 PM EDT, Nationals Park

Houston Astros (Lance McCullers) @ Boston Red Sox (Steven Wright), 7:10 PM EDT, Fenway Park

Minnesota Twins (Ricky Nolasco) @ Cleveland Indians (Josh Tomlin), 7:10 PM EDT, Progressive Field

Oakland Athletics (Rich Hill) @ Tampa Bay Rays (Jake Odorizzi), 7:10 PM EDT, Tropicana Field

Toronto Blue Jays (R.A. Dickey) @ Texas Rangers (Martin Perez), 8:05 PM EDT, Globe Life Park in Arlington

San Diego Padres (Christian Frederich) @ Milwaukee Brewers (Junior Guerra), 8:10 PM EDT, Miller Park

Atlanta Braves (Julio Teheran) @ Kansas City Royals (Edinson Volquez), 8:15 PM EDT, Kauffman Stadium

New York Mets (Matt Harvey) @ Colorado Rockies (Jon Gray), 8:40 PM EDT, Coors Field

San Francisco Giants (Jeff Samardzija) @ Arizona Diamondbacks (Shelby Miller), 9:40 PM EDT, Chase Field

Los Angeles Angels (Nick Tropeano) @ Seattle Mariners (Nathan Karns), 10:10 PM EDT, Safeco Field

St. Louis Cardinals (Michael Wacha) @ Los Angeles Dodgers (Ross Stripling), 10:10 PM EDT, Dodger Stadium

Astros owner Crane expects to hire new manager by Feb. 3

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HOUSTON (AP) — Houston Astros owner Jim Crane expects to hire a new manager by Feb. 3.

The Astros need a new manager and general manager after AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow were fired Monday, hours after both were suspended by Major League Baseball for a year for the team’s sign-stealing scandal.

Crane said Friday that he’s interviewed a number of candidates this week and has some more to talk to in the coming days.

Crane refused to answer directly when asked if former Astros player and Hall of Famer Craig Biggio was a possibility for the job. But he did say that he had spoken to Biggio, fellow Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell and former Astros star Lance Berkman in the days since the firings.

“We’ve talked to all of our Killer B’s,” Crane said referring to the nickname the three shared while playing for the Astros. “They’ve contacted me and they’ve all expressed that they would like to help. Berkman, Bagwell, Biggio have all called and said: ‘hey, if there’s anything I can do, I’m here for you.’”

“So we’ll continue to visit with those guys and see if there’s something there.”

Crane says his list is still rather extensive and that he hopes to have it narrowed down by the end of next week. He added that he expects most of Hinch’s staff to stay in place regardless of who is hired.

Crane has enlisted the help of three or four employees to help him with the interview process, including some in Houston’s baseball operations department.

“We compare notes,” he said. “I’ve learned a long time ago that you learn a lot if four or five people talk to a key candidate and you get a lot more information. So that’s what we’re doing.”

Crane’ top priority is finding a manager with spring training less than a month away, but he said he would start focusing on the search for a general manager after he hires a manager. He expects to hire a GM before the end of spring training.

“We should have another good season with the team pretty much intact … so I don’t know why a manager wouldn’t want to come in and manage these guys,” he said. “They’re set to win again.”

The penalties announced by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday came after he found illicit use of electronics to steal signs in Houston’s run to the 2017 World Series championship and again in the 2018 season. The Astros were also fined $5 million, which is the maximum allowed under the Major League Constitution, and must forfeit their next two first- and second-round amateur draft picks.

The investigation found that the Astros used the video feed from a center field camera to see and decode the opposing catcher’s signs. Players banged on a trash can to signal to batters what was coming, believing it would improve the batter’s odds of getting a hit.

With much still in flux, Crane was asked what qualities are most important to him in his next manager.

“Someone mature that can handle the group,” he said. “Someone that’s had a little bit of experience in some areas. We’ve just got to find a leader that can handle some pressure and there’s going to be a little bit of pressure from where this team has been in the last few months.”

Despite his comment about experience, Crane said having been a major league manager before is not mandatory to him.

“We made some mistakes,” he said. “We made a decision to let that get behind us. We think the future is bright. We’ll make the adjustments … people think we’re in crisis. I certainly don’t believe that.”