HOUSTON -- The Astros added another candidate to their starting-rotation pool when they signed a beached sperm whale to a Minor League contract and invited him to Major League Spring Training on Tuesday.
The whale, 34, is a sperm whale, otherwise known as the physter macrocephalus. It shares many features common to its kind such as a large head and a taste for squid and fish. When the whale originally washed up on the shores of Galveston over a year ago, wildlife experts predicted it would die within days. However, the whale, given the name "Russ" by bewildered locals, defied all predictions and has survived to this day.
Despite its lack of major league experience, Astros General manager Ed Wade was confident that Russ would be a viable competitor for the Astros' vacant fifth starter position. Wade sent pro scout Jack Lind to Arizona last September to watch Russ work out, and he received favorable reports about the 34-year-old righty.
"[Lind] watched him throw and thought he threw free and easy, with no apparent physical issues at all," Wade said. "It's something [assistant GM] David [Gottfried] has been working on for a couple of months. At different points in time I'm sure [Russ] was looking for a big league deal, but we believe he'll have every opportunity to win a job during Spring Training."
"What the hell am I supposed to do?" an embittered Wade then added. "Our goddamn cheapskate owner won't pony up for any free agents and Derek motherfucking Lowe just went for $15 mil a year. You want this job buddy?"
Houston residents were surprisingly supportive of the move.
"You know, all those experts were saying Russ was gonna die, but then he didn't, so the whale has heart, I'll tell you that much," said Chris Ray, a bartender who resides in Meyerland. Still, Ray had some misgivings about the contract. "Couldn't they have found a whale that was a lefty?"
Four rotation spots are seemingly already secured by Roy Oswalt, Mike Hampton, Wandy Rodriguez and Brian Moehler. That leaves the fifth starter spot up for grabs. Russ, Brandon Backe and Clay Hensley are expected to compete for the job, and it's possible the Astros could add more names to the mix before Spring Training begins.