Astros to make bullpen help priority for 2015

Astros to make bullpen help priority for 2015

ARLINGTON -- Veteran reliever Jesse Crain will miss the entire 2014 season following surgery last October to remove his biceps tendinitis, but he was able to get on the mound and throw a simulated game on Monday in to test his right shoulder.

"Once he loosened up, he threw the ball halfway decent," interim manager Tom Lawless said before Monday's series opener against the Rangers.

Crain's recovery took longer than expected, which certainly was a disappointment to the Astros. He and Matt Albers were two of the club's big free-agent acquisitions last winter, and Albers pitched in eight games before being shut down. He missed most of the season, too.

Crain, who signed for $3.25 million this year, will be a free agent at season's end, and the Astros have a $3 million option on Albers for 2015 with a $200,000 buyout. General manager Jeff Luhnow said the club will pursue relief pitching this fall as a priority.

"Those two players were going to be two of our three best relievers," Luhnow said. "Albers had a great start and got injured, and Crain we never saw. That was huge. If we have a healthy Albers and a healthy Crain, this team is closer to 75 and 80 wins as opposed to 70, and I think that's a big difference.

"We've reflected on our process last year and made some improvements and we feel good about that. It's always a risk with relievers because there's a lot of variables year to year, but we feel good we'll identity the right guys [in the offseason] and go after them, and hopefully get a good roll of the dice this time in terms of the health side of the equation."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.