Cubs vs. Astros at Houston Preview, Friday 3/29, 7:05 CT

USA TODAY Sports

Two more practice games and then the season begins! The Cubs are spending the weekend in lovely downtown Houston.

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- The last time these two teams played, they were divisional rivals who had both lost 100 games; it was the first time two 100-loss teams had played each other after they had both lost 100 in 50 years.

Now, the Cubs and Astros sit with similar spring records (16-18 for the Cubs, 14-16 for the Astros) and the Cubs are visiting Houston as they their first games at Minute Maid Park as a member of the American League West, although these games are simply practice affairs.

The Cubs will also host the Astros at Wrigley in June as an interleague opponent. We just can't seem to get rid of these guys, although that will probably be the last time the two teams play for two or three years.

Here's all you really need to know about this year's Astros:

Alex Rodriguez will make more this year than all the Astros combined — a lot more.

And he won’t even play the first half of the season, if at all.

A-Rod’s $29 million salary tops the major leagues for the 13th straight season, according to a study of major league contracts by The Associated Press.

With teams due to set opening-day rosters Sunday, the Yankees’ payroll will be nearly 10 times the spending of the Astros, who have shrunk their payroll to about $25 million.

To give you an idea of how little that is, check out this list of team salaries from 1998-2013. Houston's team payroll that year -- 15 years ago -- was almost double what they're paying this year's club. The only question about this year's Astros is whether they'll threaten the 1962 Mets' 120-loss year.

Cubs lineup:

DeJesus CF, Castro SS, Rizzo 1B, Soriano LF, Schierholtz RF, Castillo C, Valbuena 3B, Barney 2B, Navarro DH

There's your Opening Day lineup, except with a DH (Dioner Navarro) in the nine spot instead of a pitcher.

Astros lineup:

Altuve 2B, Wallace 1B, Pena DH, Carter LF, Ankiel RF, Maxwell CF, Castro C, Dominguez 3B, Gonzalez SS

A few recognizable names there -- including former Cub Carlos Peña -- but that's still not a very good team.

Tonight, Edwin Jackson gets the call for the Cubs; Alex White will go for the Astros. Other Cubs pitchers on tonight's list: Michael Bowden, Shawn Camp, Blake Parker, Kyuji Fujikawa and James Russell.

MLB.com Gameday

Tonight's game is a webcast on cubs.com; audio should be up around 6:50 CDT. You can also watch on MLB.TV -- it's being carried by CSN Houston.

Here is the complete MLB.com Mediacenter for today.

For spring-training games, we'll have a first-pitch thread at game time and one overflow thread, 90 minutes after game time (because I know how you all like overflow threads!). For today, that will be 7 p.m. CT and 8:30 p.m. CT. These threads will not post individually onto the front page; instead, you can find links to them in the box marked "Chicago Cubs Game Threads" at the bottom of the front page. They will also appear in this StoryStream™. The pitcher box and regular-season stats will return on Opening Day.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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