* LF Colby Rasmus is happy in his new digs with the first place, ahead-of-schedule Houston Astros, off to their best start since 1986. ....
By Bob Elliott
HOUSTON _ If you could read between the lines ...
(Right about now if Mike Flanagan was still around he would chirp in with “I tried to read between the lines of the newspaper once, but it’s difficult ... there’s nothing there but white space.”)
As we were saying ... if you read between the lines, Colby Rasmus has some lingering bitterness about his 3 1/2 seasons with the Blue Jays and the way it ended: one start in the final month a team which spent 61 days in first failing to advance to October.
The former Jays centre fielder and the new Houston Astros left fielder is a veteran on the first place Astros enjoying their best start since 1986.
Among other things Rasmus told reporters before the opener of the four-game series how he was:
Enjoying Houston “just being myself, without anyone judging him.”
How smiles at the Rogers Centre “ain’t as friendly, but here is a good environment.”
How in Houston “everyone is pulling on the rope in the same direction.”
How he’s able to be “himself rather than people expecting him to hit .330.”
And how he was “blamed for last year”
Asked about who had blamed him -- the general manager, the manager or players? -- he answered with a question.
“What are we digging for here anyway?” Rasmus asked. “We’re going for the sweep.”
Sweeping a four-game series is tough, but the Jays have lost eight of 10 in Minute Maid under the retractable roof where the wind never blows, the train tracks in left run straight and Tal’s Hill climbs gently towards the centre field wall 436 feet from home plate.
“I’m focussed on the Houston Astros. Toronto is in the past, I don’t watch baseball (when not playing), I don’t even know how they are doing,” said Rasmus.
Rasmus, signed for a one-year $8 million US deal, is a veteran on the young-buck Astros. All you have to do is look at his locker ... or rather lockers.
Players with the longest service time get two lockers until the September call-ups are promoted.
Reliever Chad Qualls is the most experienced Astros with 10 years service time. Starters Roberto Hernandez, who went in the opener, and Scott Feldman, who pitches Saturday, each have eight years, infielder Jed Lowrie and Pat Neshek each have more than 6 1/2 years
Luke Gregorson has six years of service time like Rasmus. The Jays pursued both Gregorson and Neshek this winter.
Now he tutors youngster like former Jays pick centre fielder Jake Marisnick, 24 and right fielder George Springer, 25, both in their first full year in the majors, but he says he doesn’t boss them around.
Rasmus’ old team is sputtering a game below .500 heading into the opener of the series.
“I played hard in Toronto, my body was beat up,” Rasmus said. “Last year was unofrtunate. The team was good and then not being able to play.”
Rasmus met with Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter before signing with Houston.
“I looked around at teams to see who the veteran presence was going to be, it was clear Baltimore had a good vibe going on in their clubhouse,” said Rasmus. “Buck seemed to be running a good show there.”
Rasmus said he played 60 straight games for the Jays, charged into walls and dove for balls and still he was “blamed.” By whom he was not saying.
“Then, I go on the disabled list and the smiles ain’t as friendly,” said Rasmus, sidelined by a strained side and hamstring strains in both legs as well as a hip injury.
Rasmus says he is having fun with the Astros -- fun or rather a lack of, was the knock the outfielder put on his former Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa in his first stop with the St. Louis Cardinals.
With the Jays he hit .225 or under twice in three full seasons blames his average in 2014 on too many line drive outs into defensive shifts and too many first-pitch strikes he took.
Heading into Thursday’s game Rasmus was hitting .232 with five doubles, a triple, six homers and 13 RBIs with a .788 OPS.
Last year he found Jesus Christ.
“It helps me let go of things, leave them on the field,” said Rasmus, “now after a game I go home and hug my little girls. Once in a while I fail, but I’m human.
“I focus on my family and I don’t get caught up in all that stuff like I used to. My time in Toronto the fans were always good to me.”
The thing we remember about Rasmus besides his wonderful God-given abilities (his gait, sweet swing and chasing down balls in the Kauffman Stadium and Comerica Park gaps) was an interview with Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, who asked him about his desire to be a great player.
“I guess I don’t want the responsibility of being one.”
He might not have any choice playing for the first place Astros.