A weekly look at all things Houston sports from the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority: Stars will be out at awards

A weekly look at all things Houston sports from the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority: Stars will be out at awards
Jose Altuve is up for athlete of the year. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Insider will take you inside Houston Sports each Friday because #WeAreHoustonSports!

It’s a #HoustonStrong red carpet that we’re pretty sure will outshine the ESPYs. And maybe even the Oscars.

You already know the Legendary 34s will be on hand – Nolan Ryan, Earl Campbell and Hakeem Olajuwon – along with Academy Sports + Outdoors Sportsmanship Award winner J.J. Watt, Executive of the Year Jeff Luhnow and Lifetime Achievement winner Leslie Alexander.

But have you seen the finalists for some of the other awards?

We’re talking a ballot filled with your favorite H-listers and some of the nation’s best athletes, all of whom will be on hand for the inaugural Houston Sports Awards February 8 at the Hilton Americas.

Take the finalists for Papa John’s Athlete of the Year. American League MVP and batting champion and one of Sports Illustrated’s cover boys Jose Altuve may top the list, but he’s got some impressive competition in Houston Astros teammate and World Series MVP George Springer. Add two of the best in their respective games in Houston Rockets guard James Harden and Houston Texans wide receiver Deandre Hopkins and, well, it has the making of a close race.

POWERADE’s Coach of the Year finalists are a diverse group which includes Astros manager A.J. Hinch, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, Houston Dynamo rookie coach Wilmer Cabrera and two high school coaches -- Cy Falls’ Richard Flores, who coached his team to the state basketball title, and Cy Fair’s Ed Pustejovsky, who coached the Bobcats to a perfect 15-0 season and the state title.

Houston sophomore defensive tackle Ed Oliver, the 2017 Outland Trophy winner and Westfield grad, will be challenged for College Player of the year by OU sophomore softball player Nicole Mendes, who was homeschooled in Houston, and ACC Player of the year  Justin Jackson, who led North Carolina to the 2017 NCAA title.

The Event of the Year ballot is stacked. Starting with Super Bowl LI, which featured an overtime comeback win by the New England Patriots and continuing through the fall with the Astros’ incredible run to the team’s first World Series win and a ticker-tape parade downtown to celebrate that drew more than a million fans.

And there’s moment of the year finalist list, which has a little bit of something for everyone. Jeff Bagwell’s weekend in Cooperstown where he was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame. Pearland Dawson’s kicker and homecoming queen Claire Jeffress, who kicked five PATs in the homecoming game, then nailed a winning field with 1:08 to play the following week. And for World Series fans, you can choose from Game 5’s wild twists and turns and George Springer’s exclamation point of a walk-off single, or Game 7, which clinched the title and led to a long-into-the-night celebration filled with selfies, a marriage proposal and a champagne soaked locker room.

And that’s a start. We still have more finalists to reveal. Both the CBS Sports Radio Fan of the Year and the Texas Sports Nation High School Player of the Year finalists will be revealed early next week.

To see the finalists and details on their seasons, go to www.houstonsportsawards.com

The ballot will be voted on by a select group of sportswriters and sportscasters who have collective decades of experience covering Houston Sports.

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The Astros rotation looks like a strength moving forward. Composite Getty Image.

The Houston Astros are coming off a much-needed series win over the White Sox, but have a quick turnaround as they host the Orioles on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

The 'Stros dropped the first game of the series with Framber Valdez on the mound, but were able to rebound with Hunter Brown and Spencer Arrighetti starting the final two games.

Brown was brilliant once again, and Arrighetti bounced back after a disastrous start against the Tigers over the weekend. Despite all the injures to the Astros staff this season, their young pitchers are stepping up when they need them the most.

Brown has six consecutive quality starts and is beginning to show signs that he can be the top of the rotation pitcher the club always hoped he could develop into.

Arrighetti has stepped in and shown that he belongs in the big leagues, and has provided innings Houston desperately requires with so many pitchers on the injured list.

Speaking of which, with Justin Verlander on the IL, Double A prospect Jake Bloss will make the start for Houston on Friday night. Bloss has quickly progressed through the farm system, having been drafted just a year ago.

We'll see how he performs in his MLB debut, but the club seems to have a lot of quality pitching options moving forward, especially with Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers scheduled to return in late July and early August respectively.

And as we look at the Astros rotation moving forward, perhaps they will go back to a six-man rotation during certain stretches in the second half of the season.

Which could prove to be vital to the team's success. As good as Ronel Blanco has been, he's never pitched as many innings as he'll be asked to pitch this year. Same goes for Arrighetti. And let's face it, sending Verlander out to pitch on four days rest consistently at 41 years old doesn't sound like a wise decision. He's already been on the IL twice this year.

While some see Garcia and McCullers as wild cards to help the team this season, Astros GM Dana Brown doesn't see it that way. He told the Astros flagship station this week that he's counting on those guys to make big contributions when they return. And he's counting on their postseason experience should they get there.

Keep in mind, Garcia has a 3.61 career ERA and has been durable outside the Tommy John surgery. And McCullers has always been good, it's just the health that causes concern.

Garcia is also an example of how a player can skip Double A and Triple A and have success right away in the big leagues. Hopefully, Bloss can follow in his footsteps, since he's bypassing Triple A to make his first start.

So what's the short and long-term outlook for the Astros rotation? And should we expect Verlander to return in 2025?

Be sure to watch the video above as we address those questions and much more!

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