ARLINGTON -- Through 10 games, the Astros' bullpen has been a bright spot, though the numbers certainly don't support it. Houston began play Friday with a 6.55 ERA from its relievers, but the Astros were 3-for-3 in save opportunities.
The Astros tied for the Major League lead in blown saves last year, but the addition of veterans Matt Albers, Anthony Bass and Chad Qualls has enabled them to save leads so far in 2014. The majority of the runs the bullpen has given up have come in games that have been out of hand, one way or another.
"I do think when we have leads, the bullpen is a lot more reliable than last year, and that's huge," general manager Jeff Luhnow said.
Astros catcher Jason Castro said the veterans in the bullpen, and even the younger pitchers who got experience last year, have a better idea how to attack hitters.
"They understand themselves and they know what they're trying to do, and it's a good feeling," he said. "You have confidence that when they're out on the mound, they're locked into not only who's up, but what the situation is and who's coming up behind them and what they need to do to get out of it. It's a nice thing they bring to the table."
Luhnow not surprised by Abreu's success in Chicago
ARLINGTON -- It doesn't come as a surprise to Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow that rookie Jose Abreu is off to a quick start for the White Sox, hitting .300 with four homers and 14 RBIs in his first 10 games in the Major Leagues.
The Astros made a huge push to sign the Cuban in the offseason and by all accounts came in second in the bidding to the White Sox, who signed him to a six-year, $68 million deal.
"I figured he was going to be a guy who could produce power," Luhnow said. "Usually, there's a transition when a guy comes over to this league, because this is the best pitching in the world. I do think that once more scouting reports get out there on him, he'll have to make some adjustments. I'm not surprised that he's showing early power."
There were four different rounds of bidding for Abreu, and the Astros were in the hunt until the end. Luhnow said it was a well-managed process, with each team getting an opportunity to stretch themselves as far as they felt comfortable financially.
"We stretched ourselves further than we intended to and we came pretty close," Luhnow said. "When you factor in the tax advantages of Texas vs. other markets, the gap was really only a couple of million dollars at the end of the day.
"It's one of those things, should we have pushed a little harder? Possibly. When you're in negotiations like that and you're in a bidding war like that, you have to have limits or you'll be the one that overpays. That's one I do think we came close. He's going to be a good player, and that's why we put all that effort into it."
Albers rejoins Astros after paternity leave
ARLINGTON -- As expected, veteran reliever Matt Albers rejoined the Astros on Friday prior to the series opener against the Rangers at Globe Life Park. He had been on paternity leave after his wife, Tara, gave birth to a son, Mason James, on Tuesday in Houston.
Albers, smiling from ear to ear, said mother and baby were doing fine back home.
"Everybody is doing great," he said. "I think I'm still kind of excited, so I'm going to go on that. I'll probably hit the hotel bed and sleep for about 12 hours straight tonight."
While being away from his newborn baby is tough, Albers said being away from his teammates for their series in Toronto wasn't easy, either.
"It's tough both ways," he said. "Luckily, her parents live right there, right down the street from us. That makes it real nice. It's not fun having to leave right away, but baby and momma are healthy, and that's what's important. It's just sinking in. It's definitely a life-changing experience."