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Astros set to bring back a familiar face

Astros set to bring back a familiar face
Castro is back! Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

MLB.com's Brian McTaggart is reporting that Jason Castro will rejoin the Astros after agreeing to a two-year deal with Houston for $7 million which also includes 2 million in incentives. Martín Maldonado and Castro will split the catching duties, which gives the Astros lineup flexibility by having a right-handed and left-handed hitting option at catcher.

Castro was drafted by the Astros 10th overall in 2008 and left in free agency after the 2016 season. Last year, Castro hit .188 and is a career .230 hitter. Keep in mind, Maldonado's contract will be up after this season and Castro could be the main catching option for the Astros in 2022 if they don't bring him back. Plus, the Astros drafted catcher Korey Lee with the 32nd overall pick in 2019 and Castro is a nice safety net if Lee is not ready for the majors next season, which seems likely.

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Cristian Javier is in better shape this season. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

As the Astros prepare to play their first game of spring training against the Nationals this Saturday, we're starting to see reports about how the players approached the offseason, and what tweaks they made to improve in the 2024 season.

Cristian Javier is a player Astros fans are hoping bounces back this year, as his ERA jumped from 2.54 in 2022 to 4.56 in 2023. Workload was thought to be one of the main factors causing his regression, he dealt with a dead arm last season and threw more innings than ever before (162).

Another explanation could be the pitch clock. This was another new element all pitchers had to deal with last year, and that also likely played a role in his struggles.

But according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome, Javier believes he was carrying some extra weight last season. Add that to some mechanical issues he was experiencing, and his struggles in 2023 make a lot more sense. And to be fair, he wouldn't be the first person to get a little fat and happy after winning a World Series.

In an effort to get back on track in 2024, Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. With the pitch clock not going anywhere, pitchers need to be in better cardiac shape than ever before.

Hopefully this modification helps Javier return to form and put up jaw-dropping numbers like he did in 2022. This rotation needs Javier to be the dominate pitcher we all know he's capable of being. With Justin Verlander behind schedule and Framber Valdez trying to bounce back from his own down year, Houston will depend on Javier like never before.

The Astros are certainly counting on it after giving him a 5-year, $64 million contract last season. Javier will definitely be a player to watch this spring.

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