Notes: Astros to set roster on Tuesday
Houston may opt to carry 15 position players for postseason
HOUSTON -- The Division Series between the Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves begins on Wednesday, which gives the front office a little extra time to decide on a 25-man playoff roster.
The club has until the morning of the first game to set the roster, but general manager Tim Purpura will likely have an announcement either during or after Tuesday's workout at Turner Field.
They have some decisions to make, including whether they want to carry 10 or 11 pitchers. They may lean toward 10, which would give them clearance to carry 15 position players.
Several players who were September callups and not eligible for postseason play will not accompany the team to Atlanta. That list includes Scott Strickland, Brandon Duckworth, Travis Driskill and Charlton Jimerson.
Players eligible for postseason play who are on the bubble include Luke Scott, Charles Gipson and Wandy Rodriguez. Humberto Quintero and Mike Burns were called up after Sept. 1, but they could replace a player in case of injury. It's likely all will make the trip to Atlanta, even those who do not make the final roster.
One player not on the bubble is Jeff Bagwell, who will serve strictly as a pinch-hitter. His gimpy right shoulder will prevent him from playing at first base, but after a good showing as a pinch-hitter in crucial situations through the September run, his presence in that role is warrented in the playoffs.
He started as one of Garner's last choices to come off the bench, but by Sunday's regular season finale, Garner was turning to Bagwell when the club was facing its best chance to score.
Bagwell, who will spend the offseason strengthening his shoulder with hopes of returning to first base in 2006, admitted pinch-hitting has been a big change from his preferred job of playing every day.
"It's difficult," Bagwell said. "It's probably the most difficult thing to do in the game. You're just thrust into a situation where the game speeds up real quick. When you play every day, it's easy to slow it down. It's been a difficult adjustment."
Smoltz or Hudson? Pick your poison: The news that John Smoltz will start Game 2 instead of Game 1 of the Division Series created barely a ripple of excitement in the Astros' clubhouse on Monday prior to their workout.
After all, the Astros haven't had much luck against Tim Hudson, who will pitch Game 1 on regular rest. The right-hander was 14-9 with a 3.52 ERA over 29 starts this year, and in 16 career innings versus Houston, he's allowed one run.
"I saw Tim a lot when he was in Oakland, and he's real good -- as good as they come," said Andy Pettitte, who will face Hudson in Game 1. "He's going to be tough on us, no doubt about it. We'll have our work cut out for us no matter who we face."
But Smoltz is Smoltz, and his reputation, his playoff history and his incredible numbers speak volumes. If there is one positive the Astros can draw from the Braves' shuffled rotation, it's that whoever they face in Game 1, they'll also face in Game 5, if necessary. No one is sad that they won't be seeing Smoltz twice.
"We won't have to face somebody as good as John Smoltz, who's been through the wars, is the No. 1 starter on anyone's staff, who's done all the things he's done in this game," Mike Lamb said. "Having to only face him once in a five-game series is huge.
"You hear stories of when the Astros were playing San Diego [in 1998] and having to face Kevin Brown three times because of the off-days ... that's the kind of stuff you don't want to run across. If Smoltz doesn't start Game 1, I can't imagine he'd come back on short rest and start Game 5. That's encouraging."
Lance Berkman had a different take on the Smoltz vs. Hudson debate:
"Would you rather be shot in the head or shot in the gut?" he asked rhetorically.
Proud papa: Purpura is in his first year as GM, but he's known many of the Astros players for a lot longer than some of their teammates have.
Purpura directed the farm system for over a decade, and he has watched several players progress through every step of the player development program, from the day they were drafted to the day they were called up to the big leagues for the first time.
That made Sunday's Wild Card clinch that much sweeter for the rookie GM.
"There's absolute pride in what we've been able to accomplish," Purpura said. "I saw Brad Lidge out there, and I just thought about what he's been through: the surgeries, the setbacks, 100 innings pitched in four years in the Minor Leagues.
"When you go through that with those guys, you appreciate the struggles. You still have to be objective about them. That's the hard part. You have to be objective about their talent. But you're subjective when it comes to the feelings you have toward them.
"You see guys come into the game at 18 or 20 years old, progress, have success, get married, have kids. ... It's a great part of the game. That's why we love it so much."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.