Feb 16, 2023 - Sports
Astros pitchers and catchers report for spring training
Baseball is back. Well, sort of.
Driving the news: Astros pitchers and catchers reported Wednesday to West Palm Beach, Florida, for spring training, ahead of their 2023 campaign to become the first team to win back-to-back World Series since the Yankees won three in a row from 1998 to 2000.
State of play: Four significant league changes this season — all aiming to either increase action or speed up play — will debut in spring training.
- Shift restrictions: Defenses must have a minimum of four players on the infield dirt, with at least two on either side of second base to increase the batting average on balls in play.
- Pitch clock: A 30-second timer between batters and 15-20 seconds between pitches depending on whether the bases are empty.
- Limited pickoffs: Pitchers may only attempt two pickoffs per at-bat when there's a runner on first, which should increase stolen base attempts.
- Bigger bases: 15-inch bases have been replaced with 18-inch bases. Bigger bases mean shorter base paths, so expect more infield singles and successful steals.
State of the team: The majority of the team will return in 2023, save for a few familiar faces.
- Ace Justin Verlander was traded to the New York Mets, catcher Christian Vazquez to the Minnesota Twins, utility player Aledmys Diaz to the Oakland Athletics and designated hitter Trey Mancini to the Chicago Cubs.
- The Astros also acquired first baseman José Abreu from the Chicago White Sox, raising concerns about free agent Yuli Gurriel's return to the team.
What we're watching: The rest of the Astros squad reports next week.
- Opening Day is March 30 against the White Sox, but Grapefruit League play begins Feb. 25.
- Spring-training and regular-season games will be streamed on AT&T SportsNet.
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