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Astros Face A's In 7 Of First Nine Games

Greinke: First up
(c) Associated Press
Longsuffering Astros fans begin to get answers about their 2021 club tonight as the Spacemen begin their regular season with four games in Oakland and two in Anaheim before returning home. All MLB clubs (excluding Toronto) will host partial crowds but there will be crowds this year, which has some players pumped.

Zack Greinke will pitch the 9:07 CT opener against Chris Bassitt. Friday, Cristian Javier squares off against Jesus Luzardo. In a pair of afternoon tilts, Lance McCullers and Jose Urquidy will pitch Saturday and Sunday respectively. Oakland has not officially named their two starters for the weekend as this is posting.

Also uncertain, as of this posting (11 am CT Thursday), is whether a contract extension has been worked out with shortstop Carlos Correa but it is looking doubtful. It doesn't help that the Mets disclosed they were extending their new shortstop, Francisco Lindor, to a 10-year $341 million contract which blows anything the Astros might be able to offer Correa out of the water.

It would be sad to see the former top overall draft choice who has been a clutch playoff performer go but the current luxury tax parameters would seem to make extending him untenable. The recent signing of free agent pitcher Jake Odorizzi probably sealed Carlos' fate.

The next question would be whether to trade Correa before the July 31st deadline or let him have a postseason farewell just as George Springer and Gerrit Cole before him. The payout in talent would likely be better in trade than to get the draft compensation after he is signed by another team. The Astros seem to be lacking in solid reserves at many positions where a trade could help.

In other news, center fielder Myles Straw has been cleared from the COVID protocols and will be able to play this week. Abraham Toro and Garrett Stubbs were also cleared but are beginning the year at Corpus Christi while they rehab.

Pitchers Pedro Baez (COVID), Josh James (hip), Andre Scrubb (shoulder) and Justin Verlander (elbow) are beginning the year on various injured lists.

The Astros are hoping that a recovered Yordan Alvarez makes up some of the offense lost when Springer signed with Toronto. Straw will get the first crack at replacing the slugger in center field. The rest of the batting order returns intact from the 2019 American League champs and they may need to carry the club in the early going as the pitching staff heals up and gets into a groove.

Oakland lost shortstop Marcus Semien, also to Toronto, as well as former slugger Khris Davis but they re-signed infielder Jed Lowrie to fill the gap at shortstop. The Athletics also lost their closer, Liam Hendricks, in free agency so they would expect to be weaker in the bullpen.

The A's dominated Houston during the regular season last year, winning 7 of 10 games, but Houston got their revenge in the division series, dismissing Oakland in four games.

The opener is expected to be on national tv through ESPN but it will be blacked out in the Astros' and Athletics' regular tv markets where it will be broadcast on regional sports networks.

The Astros are undefeated (8-0) in season openers since they were switched to the American League. While Greinke is a veteran of Opening Day starts, this will be his first one in an Astros uniform.

- Bob Hulsey