Astro's concerns include the impossible task of replacing Gerrit Cole

<pre><pre>Astro's concerns include the impossible task of replacing Gerrit Cole

WEST PALM BEACH, Florida – Being the biggest fraudster at MLB isn't the Astro's only problem. You need to find a starter to replace Gerrit Cole, now the Yankees ace.

That means finding 20 wins, a 800 percent win, an ERA of 2.50, 212 innings and 326 Ks, not to mention four wins after the season last October.

Lance McCullers Jr., come on down. To make matters worse, McCullers leaves Tommy John's operation. Don't forget that the Astros still have Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke at the top of their rotation.

"You have to replace the victories, # 1," Baker told The Post in the Astros complex recently. "And they say victories are not important. They are very important. Then you have to replace his seven innings at the beginning. You have Verlander and Cole back to back, your bullpen is basically taking a break. Someone has to pick up these innings. That is why McCullers be so big for us. "

The 70-year-old Baker knows that he has a good job ahead of him, but he also knows how talented the Astros is. As for McCullers, who has come back from surgery at Tommy John, Baker has a front row seat for the progress that has been made with this surgery over the years.

"Tommy John was my teammate," said Baker. Yes, this Tommy John, 1976, 77 and 78 at the Dodgers. Tommy John underwent a TJ operation in 1974.

"(McCullers) comes from a good line," said Baker. "Imagine how good it will be even if it is better."

McCullers was 29-22 over 83 appearances and 80 starts before surgery. He is known for his nasty curve ball, but insisted that it wasn't the overuse of the curve ball that led to the surgery.

"I've come a long way in the past 16 months," said McCullers. “Not just physically, but also mentally. It felt like life, but here we are. I am very happy to contribute to the team and not just to go to the clubhouse to get water and bananas (for teammates). "

The rehab was difficult. As McCullers said, "There were times when you thought you were swimming in quicksand." McCullers will be limited to approximately 150 innings.

"Cole was one of the best in the game," Jose Altuve told The Post. "This is reality. We have to deal with reality and now we have to face it. But the faces change every year and this year we have McCullers and he will play a big, big role. You cannot compare the two "Cole is more fastball. McCullers is more curveball. They are two different types, but McCullers will be a big part of our success."

McCullers, 26, said he had changed and matured as a result of the operation.

"I am a father now and my priorities are very different from before," said McCullers. “You come out of the rehab process in a better state of mind. I am not interested in social media (media). "

Now it's about replacing Gerrit Cole.