Offseason Of Change Could Pay Off For Astros' Nevarez

Righthander Soaks Up Spring Training Experience





HOUSTON  Matt Nevarez's eventful offseason off the field should lead to an eventful 2010 season on the field.

Nevarez was traded just three weeks before the 2009 season ended, was added to the Astros' 40-man roster in advance of the Rule 5 draft and injured his shoulder early this spring—costing him a chance at pitching in his first big league spring training games.

Still, the 10th-round draft pick of the Rangers in 2005 out of San Fernando (Calif.) High, tried to benefit from lockering not far from Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez and the other established Astros pitchers.

"You learn a lot of things from these guys up here," Nevarez said. "How to present yourself and how to be a professional baseball player."

Nevarez gave the Astros little choice but to protect him. Nevarez served as low Class A Lexington's closer after being acquired from the Rangers as part of the Ivan Rodriguez deal last year, and he yielded no runs on three hits in 8 1/3 innings. Neveraez struck out 13 without a walk.

The big righthander, who turned 23 during spring training, threw 43 innings total for the Rangers and Astros affiliates in the South Atlantic League in 2009 and posted a 2-4, 2.28 record with 13 saves, 63 strikeouts and 15 walks.

He opened the 2010 season at Double-A Corpus Christi with his sore shoulder feeling better.
Assistant general manager Ricky Bennett said that Nevarez would likely be part of a committee of closers in a bullpen with Danny Meszaros, Chia-Jen Lo and Henry Villar as well.

"I want to get all of them experience pitching late or closing," Bennett said.

SPACE SHOTS

Jason Castro, the top position prospect in the Astros system, returned to the minor leagues. He became the everyday catcher for Triple-A Round Rock after losing the battle with J.R. Towles to start for the big club. Castro hit 10-for-32 (.313) with one double in major league spring training as a non-roster invite.

Wilton Lopez, who was out to make the Astros as a relief pitcher, will transition back to starting after being optioned to Round Rock. Lopez went 4-5, 4.73 mostly as a starter last year in Corpus Christi and pitched mostly in relief in his brief stint with the Astros.