Posted: Friday February 24, 2006 6:31PM; Updated: Friday February 24, 2006 6:37PM
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There is little question that Bagwell still can hit. Throwing, though, is another matter. When the shoulder was at its worst, in the 2003 and '04 seasons, second baseman Craig Biggio sometimes shadowed Bagwell on foul popups so he could be there for a flip, just in case a relay back to the infield was needed. A throw home, or to third, or even a throw to second for a 3-6-3 double play was almost out of the question.
Friday, during fielding practice, Bagwell took grounders and lobbed the ball on a hop back to the plate, an easy throw of less than 90 feet. Bagwell wasn't particularly thrilled with the action -- "There feels like there's something still locked in there," he said -- but teammate Morgan Ensberg was practically giddy watching the drill. He insisted that Bagwell threw more easily than he did last year and could play effectively with just what he showed in the drill.
Manager Phil Garner disagreed. And it's his job to assess Bagwell over the next couple of weeks. If Garner says Bagwell's not well enough to contribute, the team will put him on the disabled list and try to collect the insurance. It's possible that, before it comes to that, Bagwell will come to the decision that he can't continue.
Nobody in baseball today has meant more to his team, for a longer time, than Bagwell has to the Astros. In an era of rent-a-stars and hyper-inflated egos, Bagwell has been a constant source of pride in Houston. If anyone deserves a chance to see if he has anything left, this is the guy.
Yet, by simply being in Kissimmee on Friday, Bagwell may have cost his team the chance to recover millions of dollars. But if that ends up being the case, the Astros will just have to chalk it up to the high cost of doing business.