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Struggling Bud Norris wins Opening Day job

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Doug Pensinger

Bud Norris isn't a real good pitcher, and hasn't pitched real good this spring. He gets lots of strikeouts, but also gives up lots of walks and home runs. He's pitched almost identically in 2011 and 2012 -- with identical strikeout-to-walk ratios and home-run rates in both seasons -- so there's no reason to think he'll pitch any differently in 2013.

Entering camp, here were the Astros' other options for Opening Day: Phil Humber (1.29), Lucas Harrell (2.08 ERA), Alex White (6.97) and Jordan Lyles (17.74).

Yes, Jordan Lyles has a 17.74 ERA this spring. In 11⅔ innings, he's given up just one walk ... and 36 hits. If that's not some sort of record, I don't want to know what is. So Lyles is heading to the minors, with White joining Brad Peacock and Erik Bedard -- who's looked good in limited duty -- in a battle for the last two slots in the rotation. Realistically, then, Norris's only competition for the No. 1 slot was probably Harrell, who a) has out-pitched Norris this spring, and b) out-pitched Norris last season.

Really, the only thing Norris has going for him is Experience. Which is one of the three things that can get you an Opening Day start, the others being History and March Brilliance. And it seems that Experience often counts more than the other two combined.

Ultimately, the Astros are in trouble if Lyles doesn't find his fastball command, but ... well, actually the Astros are in trouble regardless of what Lyles' fastball. But there actually is some pitching talent on this roster. There might not be a legitimate ace here, but there are five or six guys who could start for a lot of clubs. And so I remain unconvinced that the Astros are going to lose 140 games this season.

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