Brett Wallace’s seven-RBI day strengthens claim on ‘Stros job

Ian Casselberry
March 16, 2011

Brett Wallace apparently likes the spotlight. If there was any doubt as to whether he would be the Houston Astros' opening day first baseman, Wallace put in an assertive bid for the job on Tuesday with a 4-for-5, seven-RBI performance.

With the Astros' Grapefruit League game versus the Baltimore Orioles televised nationally on MLB Network, Wallace picked an excellent time for his first home run of the spring, as well. His grand slam off Kevin Gregg in the fifth inning was the highlight of his big day, which included a single and two doubles.

(Wallace surely wanted a triple on his last hit of the day, a double down the right-field line. But had he chosen to go for it, Orioles rightfielder Matt Angle probably would've thrown him out.)

Over the past two years, Wallace has been something of a baseball hot potato. In 2009, the St. Louis Cardinals traded him to the Oakland Athletics in the Matt Holliday deal. After the season, the A's shipped him to the Toronto Blue Jays in an offshoot deal from the big Roy Halladay trade. And then last year, Wallace was traded to the Astros in a swap indirectly related to the Roy Oswalt deal.

Naturally, some questions started following Wallace around lately: Why didn't anyone want this guy? Was some team willing to give Wallace a home? {YSP:MORE}

The Astros definitely have a need for a slugging first baseman, after trading Lance Berkman last season. Early in spring training, there were rumblings of moving Carlos Lee over to first base, just in case Wallace showed he wasn't ready for the job. Since then, however, he has capitalized on the opportunity presented to him. In 40 at-bats this spring, Wallace is batting .350/.600/.381 and his manager has noticed the effort.

From FOXSportsHouston.com:

"He came into camp swinging the bat very well," said [Astros] manager Brad Mills. "When we started to play games he didn't get any hits but he needed to make adjustments. He did and now sure enough he is (getting hits)."

Grapefruit League success might not translate to major league production, of course. So the Astros are covering themselves by giving Lee some time over at first base. He got the start there on Wednesday. But lefty Ross Detwiler pitching for the Nationals may have had something to do with that decision.

Or maybe Mills figured Wallace needed a day off after all his running around the bases on Tuesday.