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Astros begin spring training with title hopes after MLB lockout

While some fan favorites are missing due to their unresolved free agency, several familiar faces made their return on Sunday to kick off spring training.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — After the second-longest lockout in MLB history, the Houston Astros took the field on Sunday to start their abbreviated spring training.

Sunday marked the beginning of spring training across baseball with all players having to report to their respective clubs by March 13. But Houston is without several familiar faces.

First day of spring training impressions:

  • Everyone is happy to be back at the ballpark with fans and relieved the lockout ended
  • Justin Verlander seemed please with his simulated game/live BP he threw on Field #2. He tossed between 35-40 pitches (the equivalent of two innings) and was in the 95-96 mph range. He says he’s on “cloud nine” being back. Sounds like he’ll try and reach that 200 inning mark.
  • The team hasn’t closed the door on re-signing Carlos Correa. They’ll try to bring him back, but right now, who knows?
  • There’s little clarity – at least, publicly – regarding the outlook for Lance McCullers, Jr. in the short-term coming off his injury in the 2021 playoffs.

Fans hoping to get a glimpse of Correa or pitcher Zack Greinke will have to wait to see how free agency plays out with both players. Due to the lockout, both players were delayed in negotiating with clubs for the 2022 season.

One player not impacted by the lockout was Verlander, who officially signed his new one-year deal with the Astros on Saturday.

Verlander was rumored to be returning to the Astros prior to the lockout, with reports saying he would sign a one-year deal worth $25 million.

The 39-year-old Verlander spoke with reporters on Sunday about his free agency decision, as well as his rehab after spending all of 2021 recovering from Tommy John surgery.

On Sunday, Verlander threw about 35 to 40 pitches in a simulated game. He was reportedly very happy to be back throwing.

While the addition of a healthy Verlander to the rotation gives the Astros a boost, speculation around the return of Correa is still at the forefront of the team. In the meantime, Astros general manager James Click hasn't shut the door on re-signing the 27-year-old All-Star.

But with Correa out, Click sees it as an opportunity to evaluate the younger guys on the roster to see how they can manage.

If anyone was concerned about players being unable to train at team facilities or with coaches during the lockout, Astros manager Dusty Baker quickly put that to rest after seeing the players report on Sunday.

"Most of the guys I've seen here are in outstanding shape," Baker said. "I'm very impressed."

Jason Bristol and the KHOU 11 Sports team will have more on the Astros this week as spring training gets underway from Florida.

The Astros take on the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday, March 18 in their first game of spring training.

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