Roster turnover is inevitable in Triple-A baseball. But being Houston's Triple-A affiliate the revolving door never stops which changes the dynamics in the RedHawks' pursuit of a playoff berth.
Oklahoma City opens a five-game series Friday night with Albuquerque, the Los Angeles Dodgers Triple-A affiliate. Those five games at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark could impact which team wins the American Southern division.
OKC owned a two-game lead over the Isotopes heading into Thursday night's action. Including Friday's series opener, both teams have 19 games remaining.
“Head-to-head is huge,” said RedHawks manager Tony DeFranseco. “When you have the lead they're chasing you. That puts pressure on them to try and sweep us or win at least four of the five. Right now we're in good position.”
DeFranseco and his staff are in a pennant race with a revamped roster.
Ten of Houston's current 13 pitchers, including all but one in the rotation, spent time with the RedHawks. Most of the Astros' bullpen spent time in OKC.
“That's what player development is all about,” DeFranseco said. “Some of the young guys are getting a chance in Houston. A lot of them have been doing a nice job.
“We're concerned with the guys here. They've stepped up. Overall we've been playing good baseball for an extended period other the tail end of this road trip.”
In the five-game series against Albuquerque, the RedHawks will start:
David Martinez, a 26-year-old right-hander who has spent most of the season in Double-A.
Paul Clemens, who has spent most of the season in Houston's bullpen.
Asher Wojciechowski, a rising star destined to join the Astros rotation.
Bobby Doran, who has spent most of the season in Double-A.
Jake Buchanan, who has split time between Double-A and Triple-A.
“We also have a whole new bullpen,” DeFranseco said. “It's about finding the right combination. In the bullpen we have (Jorge) De Leon coming back, a power arm, four righties and three lefties. We have a lot of options.”
The Isotopes will start former Southwestern pitcher Red Patterson, top 10 Dodgers prospect Matt Magill and three 30-somethings.
Jonathan Sanchez, 30, has made 137 Major League starts. Angel Castro is a 30-year-old minor league journeyman. Matt Palmer, 34, has spent most of his career in the minors but has 175 major league innings.
DeFranseco also will be limited with his lineup. The RedHawks currently have 11 position players. Three are catchers.
The revamped lineup is built around star center fielder George Springer; first baseman Jonathan Singleton, the Astros' top prospect; shortstop Jimmy Paredes, who has bounced between OKC and Houston; veteran outfielder Trevor Crowe and former OCU star Ruben Sosa.
“We don't have any depth,” DeFranseco said. “The guys know they'll be in the lineup every day. Hopefully we're good enough to make a run these last three weeks. We just need to play good baseball.”