Saturday, August 11, 2012

Minor League Recaps

Friday's Results

DSL Astros 6 DSL Cardinals 7 (11)
The DSL Astros came from behind to tie the game with two, 3-run innings in the fifth and sixth Friday but ended up falling in extra innings.  Leading the offensive charge was Luis Reynoso, who hit 4 for 5 with a double, 2 RBIs and a walk.  Yonquelys Martinez (2-3) took the loss after coming on in the seventh and pitching 4 innings.  Martinez was one of 3 pitchers used in the 11th inning (only one, Victor Mesa recorded an out).  Martinez finished the day with 1 run on 1 hit, 4 walks and 5 Ks.

GCL Astros 4 GCL Nationals 5
This was an close game for the GCL Astros until an error in the 9th sealed the loss for them.  Rodney Quintero (0-2) picked up the loss after going two outs into the ninth Friday.  Quintero walked a batter with 2 outs that went around to score on a missed catch error at first 2 batters later.  Quintero ended up with that run on 1 hit, 1 walk and 1 strikeout.  Wallace Gonzalez had a nice game swinging the bat, Friday.  Gonzalez ended up 2 for 3 with 2 RBIs that came on a big homer in the 3rd to start the scoring for the Astros Friday.  Gonzalez now has 2 homers this year, 1 of a LHP and 1 off a RHP.   

GCL Astros 1 GCL Nationals 2 (7)
The Astros got on the board first, early in the first inning, but never scored again in the game.  The Astros 2-hit their opponents in this game and they still lost by a run.  Brett Phillips and Carlos Correa both hit 2 for 4 this game and Correa scored the team's only run.  Jandel Gustave (2-1) took the loss after pitching the first 4 innings, giving up both runs on 1 hit, walking 3 and K-ing 3. Gustave had a tough outing, giving up walks to start both innings he allowed runs in; also by throwing a wild pitch and hitting a batter. Ambiorix De Leon came on for the final 2 innings and allowed just 1 hit, walked 1 and struck out 1 as well, retiring the first 4 batters he faced in a row.

Greenville Astros 5 Princeton Rays 0
In a word, wow.  The Greenville Astros 1-hit, shutout their opponents Friday and on the offensive side collected 13 hits (4 guys with multi-hit games) in a road victory.  Daniel Minor (1-2) earned the win Friday after starting the game and going 7 frames.  Minor had a special night, allowing 1 hit, walking 1 and striking out 11.  Tanner Bushue clocked in for the final two frames and did his part, keeping it hitless, walking a pair and striking out a trio of his own.  Greeneville didn't score until the fifth inning in this game and didn't have a hit until the third.  Once they got started offensively though, they were on a fire and gave Minor and Bushue more than enough run support. 
Here's the box, straight from

Tri-City ValleyCats 11 Staten Island Yankees 1
In another word, routed.  Routed is exactly what the ValleyCats did to the other guys on the road in Richmond County Bank Ballpark.  Thanks in large part to Preston Tucker.  Tucker was on a tear, hitting 4 of 5 with 3 runs scored and 6 RBIs.  5 of those RBIs came by way of his 2 long balls.  Ryan Dineen got in on the action, clubbing a 2-run homer of his own with his only hit of the night.  Jesse Wierzbicki didn't have a hit Friday, but scored 3 runs due to the fact that he also drew a trio of walks in the game.  On the mound Lance Day (4-0) took the "W" after going the first 6 innings and giving a lone run on 6 hits, walking 1 and striking out a pair.  Juan Minaya and Travis Ballew combined for the last 3 innings and only gave out a total of 3 hits, striking out 1 each.

Lexington Legends 4 West Virginia Power 2
Lexington scored a 4 of their runs in the third inning Friday and then coasted to a victory behind their pitching staff.  Jonas Dufek (6-2) was on for the first 6 and a third frames and allowed 2 runs on 4 hits, walked 3 and sent 7 back to the dugout with Ks while earning the win.  Murilo Gouvea earned hold number 15 after coming out for the next 1.2 innings. Gouvea allowed 1 hit and struck out 2.  Dayan Diaz earned his 19th save in the ninth inning, keeping it scoreless and hitless and striking out 1.  The bats weren't particulary hot in this game (there were only 4 Lexington hits) but Nolan Fontana did pick up his 5th double of the season with his only hit in 3 ABs.  Fontana also drew a walk in the game Friday.  In 30 games Fontana has walked 41 times and struck out 22 times.

Lancaster JetHawks 7 San Jose Giants 3
The Jethawks scored all 7 of their runs before they gave any up on Friday and coasted to a win of their own, like Lexington.  Something else Lancaster had in common with Lexington on Friday was the addition of Delino DeShields in his debut, after being promoted from the Legends earlier in the day.  DeShields went 2 for 5 at the dish.  Domingo Santana had his own multi-hit game, going 2 for 5 at the plate with a triple and scoring 2 runs.  Erik Castro (1X4) collected his 89th RBI of the year.  Nicholas Tropeano (3-3) picked up the win after going the first 7 innings on the bump and allowing just a run on 5 hits.  Tropeano also struck out 6 on Friday.  

Arkansas Travelers 12 Corpus Christi Hooks 6
The score looks bad, but the night wasn't a total loss in Corpus Christi on Friday.  To start, Kike Hernandez and George Springer both made their debuts out of Lancaster.  Their were 2 hooks long balls in the game as well.  Jonathan Singleton (2X5, 2 RBI) hit the first, a 2-run satellite, in the sixth inning and Robbie Grossman (2X4, RBI, BB) hit the other, a 2-out, solo-jack in the seventh inning.  Singleton's 2 RBIs moved him to 65 on the season.  Up on the hill Bobby Doran took the tough loss, going 4 and a third with 8 runs on 7 hits, 3 walks and 3 Ks.

Sacramento River Cats 3 Oklahoma City RedHawks 0
The RedHawks got shut out on 3 hits Friday at home, but, as in Corpus Christi, there was a silver lining.  Brett Oberholtzer was that shiny lining.  Oberholtzer (4-5) took the loss, but not before pitching 7 good innings in which he allowed only 2 runs on 5 hits, 2 BBs and sent 6 packing.  Mark Hamburger came on for the final 2 frames and gave up 1 run, 1 walk and struck out a pair. On the offensive side of the plate, there wasn't much going Friday for Oklahoma City.  As mentioned already, the RedHawks were 3-hit and they didn't have a hit at all after the fourth inning.  Jason Castro had one of those hits and stretched it into a double, his 14th of the year (minors and MLB combined).   

Player of the Day:  This has Preston Tucker written all over it.  The guy hit 2 HR's and batted in 6 runs while having a 4 for 5 game.  Simply put, he was a one man wrecking crew.

Pitcher of the Day:  Daniel Minor and Tanner Bushue share the honor today, but Minor gets a bigger piece of the pie.  Both of these guys combined for the 1-hit shutout and that's a big deal.  Minor went 7 frames and K-ed 11, however.  That pretty much earns him as much pie as he can handle. 

No Birthdays Today But ...

I was poking around to see what might have happened on this date that was Astros-related. It was one year ago today that Tommy Manzella was claimed off waivers by the Diamondbacks. Tommy was a third round pick by the Astros in 2005.

He started the 2012 season with the Diamondbacks, but was released after only 15 games. He then played in 62 games for the Brewers organization before he was once again sent to the curb. He was just signed by the White Sox organization on July 31st and is currently playing for their AAA team.

What a year it's been for Tommy.

Tweet of the Day

Joe Bircher
Joe Bircher@Joe_Bircher
View from the field in Staten Island baby!
Embedded image permalink

Friday, August 10, 2012

Roster Moves

Houston/Oklahoma City
IF Brian Bixler was designated for assignment to remove him from the 40-man roster to make room for IF Tyler Greene who was obtained in a trade with St. Louis for a PTBNL or cash.
OF J.D. Martinez was optioned from Houston to Oklahoma City (report date not set).
IF Matt Downs was optioned from Houston to Oklahoma City (report date not set).
2B Jose Martinez was assigned from Corpus Christi to Oklahoma City.
OF Fernando Martinez is being called up to Houston.

Corpus Christi
CF George Springer was assigned from Lancaster to Corpus Christi.
2B Kike Hernandez was assigned from Lancaster to Corpus Christi.

2B Delino DeShields Jr. was assigned from Lexington to Lancaster, not Corpus Christi. DDJ made a mistake in the tweet he sent out early this morning. Moving him directly to Corpus Christi didn't make sense to me so I waited for confirmation before posting.
LHP Kenny Long was assigned from Tri-City to Lancaster.
OF Andrew Aplin was assigned from Tri-City to Lancaster.

SS Chan Moon was assigned from Lancaster to Lexington.
C Jobduan Morales was assigned from Tri-City to Lexington.

C Cristian Moronta was assigned from Lexington to Tri-City.
OF Emilio King was assigned from Lexington to Tri-City.

GCL Astros
SS Yoel Silfa was assigned from the DSL Astros to the GCL Astros.

Minor League Recaps

Thursday's Games

DSL Astros over DSL Mariners 1-0 in 7 innings (Game 1)
Francisco Baso (one inning), Rayderson Chevalier (3.2 innings) and Angel Heredia (2.1 innings) combined for the shut out with Chevalier getting the win. The Astros only got two hits (to the Mariners four hits) but made them count as a Jean Carlos Cortorreal single was followed by a Luis Reynoso RBI double.

DSL Astros over DSL Mariners 9-1 in 7 innings (Game 2)
One win is rare for this DSL team. Two wins is worth a party! Especially a nice lopsided win like this. Edwin Villarroel pitched five innings and allowed one run (none earned) on six hits to get his third win of the season. Harold Arauz and Javier Saucedo pitched the final two innings of hitless ball. The Astros scored in every inning. Really. Standouts were Mesac Laguna as he went two-for-four with a home run, three RBI and scored two runs and Jean Carlos Cortorreal who went one-for-three with two RBI and a walk.

GCL Cardinals over GCL Astros 7-1
Kyle Hallock got his first rehab start and gave up one unearned run over two-thirds of an inning. Edison Frias then followed pitching the bulk of the game and he was very effective as he allowed one run on four hits and no walks with six strikeouts in seven and a third. Juan Mojica got in to a heap of trouble in his third of an inning and ended up getting charged with five runs (four earned) as Ambiorix de Leon was unable to keep two of his runners from scoring. The offense won't take long to write about. Juan Santana got a hit to break up a combined no-hit bid with one out in the eighth. Carlos Correa hit a single in the ninth. Yonathan Mejia drove him in with another single.

Pulaski over Greeneville 9-8 in 10 innings
Michael Feliz got the start giving up three runs on six hits over four and a third innings. Four pitchers came on in relief -- Mike Hauschild was the only one who didn't allow a run. Euris Quezada was charged with the blown save and the loss. It's a shame that the bullpen couldn't hang on to this one because there were some very good offensive performances from Angel Ibanez (2x3 3B RBI BB 2R), Brian Blasik (3x6 RBI R) and Michael Martinez (2x5 RBI BB R). D'Andre Toney hit a two-run shot and Ernesto Genoves had a solo home run.

Tri-City over Aberdeen 12-2 (completed early)
Brian Holmes caught up with teammate Aaron West in getting his sixth win of the season and John Neely pitched the final three as each allowed one run on two hits. Jarrod McKinney put the ValleyCats in the catbird seat in the third inning with his first home run of his professional career, a grand slam to give Tri-City a 7-1 lead. Catfish Elkins was one-for-two with three walks, an RBI and scored three times. Neiko Johnson and Jobduan Morales each drove in two.

West Virginia over Lexington 8-3
Luis Ordosgoitti (L, 5-4) got banged up a bit as he allowed five runs on eight hits in four and a third innings. Gabriel Garcia added on another three before Mitch Lambson and Tommy Shirley shut the door. The Legends didn't manage to get on the board until the sixth when they scored via a Delino DeShields long ball and a Brandon Meredith two-run bomb. The Legends only collected five hits; two of them belonged to Meredith. DeShields swiped his 83rd bag of the season. He is only four away from tying the all-time Astros minor league record.

High Desert over Lancaster 7-5
Tyson Perez allowed five runs (four earned) on nine hits over seven innings and Brad Dydalewicz pitched a perfect frame as the JetHawks scrambled from behind to tie things up in the top of the ninth. Unfortunately, Carlos Quevedo allowed two runs in the bottom of the ninth and was charged with the loss. Erik Castro (21st) and Domingo Santana (18th) hit back to back shots; Roberto Pena hit a two-run single; and Chris Epps hit a triple and was driven in with a Rafy Valenzuela sac fly. Castro and Drew Muren each had two hits.

Arkansas over Corpus Christi 10-4
Asher Wojciechowski got his first loss for the Hooks as he allowed six runs (three earned) on five hits over three innings. Adalberto Flores added on another four in his four innings of work. Kevin Chapman and Jason Stoffel each pitched a scoreless frame. Corpus was never really in this one after Arkansas scored six in the fourth to take an 8-1 lead. Jake Goebbert was two-for-three with a double, walk and scored three runs and Adam Bailey was two-for-four with two doubles and two RBI. George Springer popped out in a pinch hit appearance in his AA debut.

Oklahoma City - Off Day

Player of the Day: A grand salami for your first professional home run? Jarrod McKinney, you're my man.

Pitcher of the Day: The DSL pitching staff deserves kudos for allowing only one total run in two games. Nicely done!

Happy Birthday - 8/10

CF Jay Austin (22)
A second round pick by the Astros in 2008, Austin broke his hand at the beginning of Spring Training and, after starting his season late, has had trouble staying off the DL. He has only appeared in 12 games for Lexington this season with a .273/.373/.341 batting line.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

OF Josh Anderson (30)
Drafted by Houston in the fourth round in 2003, Anderson made his major league debut four years later on September 2, 2007. He only played in 21 games for Houston hitting .358/.413/.403 before being traded to Atlanta for Oscar Villarreal. Anderson was second in all-time stolen bases in the Astros minor league system until he was recently passed by Delino DeShields, Jr.

RHP Brandon Lyon (33)
A 14th round pick by the Blue Jays in 1999, Lyon signed as a free agent with Houston in December 2009. It is only fitting that he was included in a 10-player trade that sent him back to the Blue Jays organization in July of 2012. In between he pitched in 131 games for the Astros with a 9-11 record, a 4.03 ERA, a 1.406 WHIP and 24 saves.

RHP Bobby Tiefenauer (died June 13, 2000)
Tiefenauer came to Houston from St. Louis prior to the 1962 season. In 43 games out of the bullpen that season, he was 2-4 with a 4.34 ERA and a 1.318 WHIP.

LHP Al Osuna (47)
Osuna was drafted by Houston in the 16th round in 1987. A September call-up in 1990, he played in 193 games for the Astros over four seasons with a 16-10 record, a 3.75 ERA and a 1.339 WHIP.

2B/SS Andy Stankiewicz (48)
Originally drafted by the Yankees in the 12th round in 1986, Stankiewicz came to Houston in a November 1993 trade and played for the Astros in the 1994 and 1995 seasons. In 80 games, he hit .189/.344/.255.

CF Chuck Carr (45)
A ninth round draft pick by the Reds in 1986, Carr signed as a free agent with Houston in June 1997. In 63 games for Houston that season, he hit .276/.333/.417. Carr led the National League in stolen bases with 58 in 1993 while playing for the Marlins.

Tweet of the Day

Justin Gominsky
Pitchers BP turns all of them into animals 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Interview with CF George Springer

On my trip to Lancaster last weekend, I had the opportunity to watch 2011 first round draft pick George Springer play in three games. He didn't have the best series, but you could still see that he is a special player. His outfield play was literally gasp-inducing. When I talked to Manager Rodney Linares, he spoke of Springer and a few other players as "the future of the franchise." It was easy to see why.

What I didn't know about Springer was much of anything about him personally. Twitter has spoiled me because it's helped me get to "know" several players before we actually met. George isn't on twitter. So I had to get to know him the old fashioned way. The picture that emerged was a dual one - a gregarious, fun-loving teammate on the field and a quiet, thoughtful and private individual off the field. I liked both of them.

With the news today that George has been promoted to Corpus Christi, I would like to add a word of caution to overly exuberant Astros fans. He will struggle at AA. He will master the level, but he will struggle. He may be nicknamed Superman, but he isn't going to single-handedly save the franchise overnight. He will very likely be a star, but not quite yet. Please be realistic in your expectations. He deserves that much.

On to the interview [edited for brevity and clarity] ~

On the whirlwind of the past year: "It's been fun. I can't complain. We've got a great group of guys and a great staff and it's just fun. You go out everyday and you have fun and you play hard and ultimately at the end of the day, you're playing a great game as a job. It's awesome. I love it."

On what he's accomplished and what he still needs to do: "I don't know necessarily what I would say I've accomplished. I've been able to do some stuff and learn a bunch of stuff but obviously [there's] some stuff I have to improve on but that's the game and that's how it goes.  It's a long year and you learn and whatever happens happens."

On learning patience at the plate: "You learn the strike zone more. You learn how the umpires work. You play teams 4, 5, 6, 7 times in a row. You learn their starters. You learn their relievers, learn how the guys call games and you learn yourself and I think that's been a big thing for me this year. I've learned myself more and I've figured out my style of hitting."

Anyone on the team that's been a particular influence?: "There's guys who have obviously been here before and have been in all stages of the game so you look up to them, just to see how they get through it and their routines, but at the same time I'm my own player and I need to go about stuff the way I would do it."

On a potential promotion to Corpus: "That's not something I'm too concerned about. That's ultimately something that I don't have any control over. I'm going to go out and I'm going to play and I'm going to try to perform and do the best I can and if I'm fortunate enough to get that call ... But as of now it's not something that I worry about."

Who on the team makes him laugh?: "Kike Hernandez. He keeps everyone loose and relaxed. Me and him are both very similar in our personalities so it's been fun with him. He comes to the park everyday to work and play, but he has a lot of fun."

Which Astros pitcher would he least like to face?: I've only faced a few guys, mainly some guys in Spring Training. In terms of guys on this team I wouldn't want to face, it would probably be R.J. Alaniz or [Nick] Tropeano just because the ball moves so much and they can control it extremely well.

Any players on the team he likes to sit back and watch?: "There was a guy here ... Ben Orloff. He's not here any more. He was extremely fun to watch. Just how he played the game, [how he'd] go about certain at-bats in situations. He was a fun person to watch play. [Grant] Hogue is extremely athletic, extremely fast. [When] he gets on base, he just creates havoc. In the outfield, he gets at everything."

Who nicknamed him Superman?: "That would be Ben Orloff that started it and it just took off from there. I'm pretty sure he's the creator of it. I like it. It's fun."

What would he do if he couldn't play baseball?: "I would try to coach, stay in the game.  I love this game. I'd try to be a collegiate coach somewhere. I just think that the experience that I had at school, there's nothing that I've seen so far that compares to that collegiate rivalry with teams, the bond of the team and stuff like that. And obviously it's a bit different in pro ball, there's team chemistry, but just the experience and the connection ... at school is something that you don't see a lot just because you're with each other all the time.  You're in classes together. You're at practice. You lift. You do all that. I want to be a coach and be part of that."

On something most people don't know about him: "I'm actually a pretty shy person. Out on the field I like to have fun. You always see me joking around and having fun with everybody but I'm pretty shy. I'm pretty laid back ... off the field I kind of hang out, stay to myself. Everybody always says that I'm outgoing, but that's only on the field which is OK."

On the future of the club and the current Astros team: "I'm extremely excited about it. There's a great group of guys here. There's a great group of guys down below and up above. The Astros have a lot to look forward to the next few years. I think it's going to be something special to watch ... homegrown guys come straight up from the minor leagues and hopefully have an effect up there some day.

"The big league guys are young. They're extremely talented. Being in the big leagues is tough. For teams like the Astros to go out and compete every day and play hard ... if you win, you win.  But I think ultimately in the end you've got to be able to fail first in order to succeed. And I think now those guys do a great job of playing hard. They play to win every night. That was the thing that I saw in Spring Training was those guys will play hard. They do not quit and I think that's a great mentality to learn. [If] you win, you win. It's ultimately a game. But those guys believe that they can win and they play to win. In my opinion, I'd much rather have guys like them, guys who really go out every day, conduct themselves like professionals and play hard. I look up to that. They're all extremely talented and they're good guys. They should be proud of what they're doing. It's not easy to play this game. This game's already hard enough as it is. They're setting the bar high for guys who aren't quite there yet."

I have a feeling that George will be setting a few bars of his own as he makes his way through the Astros system. The first person I thought about when word of the promotion came through was Rodney Linares. He  told me, "I'm happiest the day they leave." And he meant that. They will be monitoring the Hooks game out in Lancaster tonight and pulling for George with everything they've got. So will I. And so should you.

Tri-City All-Stars

Seven players from the Tri-City squad made the New York-Penn League All-Star team. The All-Star game will take place next Tuesday, August 14th.

OF Andrew Aplin
Aplin is hitting .348/.441/.547. His batting average leads the league (based on a minimum number of appearances) and his OBP and SLG rank second. He also leads the league in runs and stolen bases.

C Tyler Heineman
Heineman doesn't have enough plate appearances to qualify as a league leader, but his .377 batting average leads the ValleyCats team as does his .459 OBP. His SLG of .465 ranks third on the team.

2B Austin "Catfish" Elkins
Elkins is hitting .310/.378/.454 and is among the team leaders in those categories. He is second on the team in stolen bases.

C Jobduan Morales
Morales' SLG ranks sixth in the league and he is hitting .294/.366/.484. He leads the team in home runs.

RHP Aaron West
West leads the league in WHIP (0.760), is second in the league in ERA (0.90) and is tied for wins with six. He has 49 strikeouts to only five walks allowed.

LHP Brian Holmes
Holmes is tied for second on the team with five wins and is fourth in the league with a 0.895 WHIP. He is one of only two pitchers in the league with a complete game. His ERA is 2.40.

RHP Blake Ford
Ford leads the league in saves with 12. He has a 2.95 ERA and a 1.219 WHIP.

Congratulations and Good Luck!!!

Minor League Recaps

Wednesday's Games

DSL Mariners at DSL Astros - postponed

GCL Astros over GCL Cardinals 6-5
Raul Rivera pitched a very strong five innings of one run ball and Ricardo Batista pitched a perfect sixth. Unfortunately, Gera Sanchez and Erick Gonzalez didn't fare as well as each allowed two runs. Gonzalez was charged with a blown save, but also collected the win as the Astros scored three in the top of the ninth to pull ahead. Rio Ruiz had a terrific outing as he went three-for-five with an RBI single, an RBI double and a steal of home. Carlos Correa was also three-for-five with a two-run triple and he scored two runs. Darwin Rivera and Alfredo Gonzalez both had multi-hit games and Gonzalez, a catcher, stole two bases for the second time in as many games.

Greeneville over Pulaski 9-4
Francis Ramirez got the start and the win as he gave up two runs on five hits over five innings of work. Brad Propst and Andrew Walter each gave up a run in relief while Jordan Jankowski pitched a perfect inning and recorded his 40th strikeout in only 23.1 innings. Greeneville had all the runs they needed by the third inning but they played add on. Jean Batista was two-for-four with a double, four RBI and scored two runs and Brian Blasik was four-for-four with a walk and scored three runs. Angel Ibanez, Ariel Ovando and Terrell Joyce also had multi-hit nights.

Aberdeen over Tri-City 3-2
Aaron West didn't get the win, but through no fault of his own as he threw a gem -- six hits and no walks with eight strikeouts over seven scoreless innings. Juan Minaya walked two batters in the eighth while recording only one out; Jamaine Cotton successfully extricated Minaya from the situation without allowing a run. Unfortunately, Blake Ford couldn't hang on to the 2-0 lead and gave up three runs (two earned) for the loss. Tri-City was held to five hits with Jobduan Morales and Jesse Wierzbicki getting two each.

Lexington over West Virginia 6-3
Luis Cruz did (cruise that is) until the sixth inning when he gave up three runs after pitching five scoreless. Evan Grills and Dayan Diaz (S, 18) provided scoreless relief the rest of the way. Delino DeShields was two-for-three with a walk, scored two runs and stole his 82nd bag; and Brandon Meredith was two-for-four with a double and three RBI. Zach Johnson collected his 101st RBI of the season and Justin Gominsky collected the first home run of his professional career.

Arkansas over Corpus Christi 4-0
Paul Clemens had a very nice outing, but when you get shut out, his one run allowed over six innings was one run too many. Arcenio Leon added on another three runs in his one inning of work before giving way to Alex Sogard for two clean innings. The Hooks were held to four hits (and one walk) with Andy Simunic getting two of the hits. At some point you just have to tip your cap to the opposing pitcher. This is one of those times as Nick Maronde of the Angels organization pitched a beauty.

Salt Lake over Oklahoma City 8-7 in 10 innings
Oklahoma City has been in a major slump. They have now lost six in a row, ten of their last 11 and 15 of their last 20 to fall to third place in their division after dominating the division most of the year. They are headed home and get a much needed day to regroup. Hopefully they can turn things around. This was a somewhat unusual game. Brian Bass had pitched long relief the prior game and was unavailable for his scheduled start so Fernando Abad started in his place. Abad hasn't had a start since 2010 and didn't fare too well giving up three runs on five hits in only 3.2 innings. Five pitchers combined for relief and Jose Valdez was charged with the loss. Down by three in the ninth, a J.B. Shuck sac fly and a Landon Powell two-run double tied things up but the rally was short-lived. Matt Dominguez was four-for-four with a double, an RBI and he scored three runs.

High Desert over Lancaster 8-6
This one was a heartbreaker. Leading 6-4 in the eighth inning, the bullpen couldn't hold the lead and gave up four in the frame. Blair Walters got the start and allowed four runs on six hits over five innings. Pat Urckfitz was able to bail Jorge de Leon out of a little trouble in the seventh but when Urckfitz got into a jam in the eighth, the normally reliable Andrew Robinson wasn't able to pay it forward this time around and served up a three run home-run that sealed Lancaster's fate. Alex Todd, Erik Castro and Jonathan Meyer all homered in the game. It was Castro's 20th bomb of the season. Meyer was three-for-four, Alex Todd was two-for-four with a double and home run, and Carlos Perez was two-for-four with a double and an RBI.

Player of the Day: Having a three-for-five day with two RBI will put you on the short list. Stealing home will get you Player of the Day honors. Rio Ruiz, come on down!

Pitcher of the Day: It's a shame that Aaron West didn't get his seventh win because he pitched another terrific game. He now has a 0.90 ERA and a 0.760 WHIP in his nine starts. He has struck out 49 batters and walked only five, a 9.8 SO/BB ratio. Wow.

Happy Birthday - 8/9

RHP Erick Abreu (29)
Houston signed Abreu as a minor league free agent in 2008. In 31 games (three starts) for Corpus Christi this season, Abreu is 8-4 with a 4.77 ERA and a 1.333 WHIP. In July he had a 2.31 ERA and a 1.028 WHIP in five games (one start), but has struggled to stay off the DL as of late.

Hitting Coach Luis Mateo (31)
Mateo is in his fourth season as hitting coach for the Dominican Summer League Astros. Prior to coaching for the Astros, Mateo spent several years in the Tampa Bay minor league system.

There are several former Astros with birthdays today ~

OF Roman Mejias (82)
Mejias was drafted from Pittsburgh in the 1961 expansion draft and spent the 1962 season with the Colt .45's. In 146 games, he hit .286/.326/.445 with 12 doubles, three triplies and 24 home runs.

CF Tommy Agee (died January 22, 2001 at age 58)
Agee came to Houston in a November 1972 trade with the Mets and played in 83 games for the Astros before being traded to the Cardinals the following August. A two-time All-Star and Rookie of the Year and Gold Glove winner in 1966 while with the White Sox, Agee was a shadow of his former self six years later when he hit .235/.294/.397 for Houston.

LHP Claude Osteen (73)
Osteen came to Houston as a part of the December 1973 trade that sent Jimmy Wynn to the Dodgers. In 23 games for Houston (21 starts), Osteen was 9-9 with a 3.71 ERA and a 1.482 WHIP. He was a three-time All-Star with Los Angeles and was a part of the 1965 Dodgers World Series championship team.

RHP Bob Scanlan (46)
Originally drafted by the Phillies in the 25th round in 1984, Scanlan signed with Houston as a free agent prior to the 1998 season. In 27 games out of the bullpen, he had a 3.08 ERA and a 1.405 WHIP.

3B Mike Lamb (37)
A seventh round draft pick by the Rangers in 1997, Lamb came to Houston in a March 2004 trade with the Yankees. In 487 games over four seasons (from 2004 through 2007) for the Astros, Lamb hit .281/.342/.464.

Tweet of the Day

kenny long

Way back when I was a stud! 

Embedded image permalink

Roster Moves

C Ryan McCurdy was assigned from Greeneville to Lexington.

SS Jose Fernandez was assigned from Lexington to Greeneville.

Also, there is conflicting information on (shocker, I know) but it appears that LHP Kyle Hallock is being activated for a rehab assignment with the GCL Astros. He had surgery to remove loose bodies from his left elbow early in the season and has been rehabbing in Kissimmee.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Random Observations from Lancaster

While I try to wade through all of the interview material I got during my trip to Lancaster, let me at least leave you with some random observations that won't really fit with the interviews, etc. that I'll be writing up.

The Hangar
This isn't going to be a popular statement with the people I met in Lancaster, but I wasn't overly fond of the Hangar. It was clean with good facilities, etc. but it simply lacked the character of Lexington or the amenities and bonuses of location of Whataburger Field in Corpus. And it was unrelentingly hot with not one smidgen of shade during the day. But the people more than made up for anything that the ballpark lacked. From the grounds crew to the stadium workers to the waitstaff and vendors to the wonderful Jason Schwartz, everyone helped make my visit a memorable one. I was particularly impressed with the fans. They were both knowledgeable and passionate which makes for an enjoyable game experience. And the Boosters Club made sure I had everything I needed.

Jason Schwartz
I am in absolute awe of Jason. Not only does he broadcast the play-by-play and write the game story, he is all over the ballpark for hours before the game doing everything from getting notes to the coaching staff to posting the line-up. But it was watching him broadcast that I found most impressive as he seamlessly called the action, kept his scorecard, held numerous 90 second conversations between innings, checked in with his followers on twitter, interviewed individuals with barely a minute of preparation, grabbed a bite to eat and never missed a beat. His phenomenal sense of humor and ability to connect to people were the icing on the cake.

The Team
I wasn't really sure what to expect from a team that recently lost a few of their bretheren to roster cuts, but the team was upbeat and loose during pre-game workouts. They work hard, but they haven't lost sight of the fact that they are playing a game so they have fun too. I saw a lot of comaraderie on this team. The position player/pitcher divide off the field wasn't as pronounced as I've seen elsewhere.

Individual Players
  • Domingo Santana doesn't always take the most direct routes to the ball, but his talent shouldn't be questioned. He is advanced beyond his 20 years (he just turned 20 on Sunday) and is going to be an exciting player to watch.
  • George Springer was struggling at the plate while I was there and had a tendency to swing for the fences on most pitches, but I literally gasped after seeing a couple of his plays in center field.
  • Aside from one early batter which Colton Cain walked after temporarily losing the strike zone, he looked dominant on Sunday. He mixed his pitches well and worked quickly. His two-run home run in the 7th inning was my fault because he served it up the second I left to go to the bathroom. My bad.
  • Carlos Perez has a legitimate arm. His throws to second were deadly and accurate.
There will be more on other players I interviewed later.

The Coaches
I spent a lot of time talking with Pitching Coach Don Alexander and Manager Rodney Linares. They were extremely generous with their time and their knowledge and I gained a great deal of insight into individual players as I talked with them. A coach's perspective on a player is helpful beyond measure to a novice like me. I am incredibly grateful for their help.

Overall, it was a tremendous experience and I thank the great people of Lancaster and the Jethawks players and coaches for welcoming me with open arms.

Minor League Recaps

Tuesday's Games

DSL Athletics over DSL Astros 6-3
Seven pitchers combined in this one with Luis Abad collecting his fourth loss of the season. Hector Roa was three-for-four with a single, an RBI triple and a home run, and scored two runs. Randy Cesar collected the double that Roa was missing for the cycle, and drove in a run as well.

GCL Marlins over GCL Astros 9-2 in 7 innings (Game 1)
Brandon Culbreth went to 0-3 on the season as he gave up six runs (three earned) on two hits and three walks. Errors from four different players and a passed ball from each catcher did not help matters as the Marlins went on to score three additional runs (two earned) off relievers Jose Montero and Rodney Quintero. Darwin Rivera was two-for-three with a solo home run and Jon Carnahan was two-for-two with a double.

GCL Marlins over GCL Astros 2-1 in 7 innings (Game 2)
The pitching and defense was superior to the first game. Unfortunately, the result was the same. Enderson Franco allowed one run on three hits over four innings and Krishawn Holley allowed an additional run in his two innings of work to get pegged with the loss. Gera Sanchez pitched a perfect seventh. The Astros were held to four hits, none for extra bases. And something I don't get to say often -- the catcher (Alfredo Gonzalez) stole two bases.

Pulaski over Greeneville 8-3 (Game 1)
[UPDATED TO ADD: Thanks to Appy Astros for letting me know that this game was a continuation of a suspended game from earlier in the season. I'm frankly not sure what portion happened yesterday and what portion happened before. Sorry for any confusion.] Daniel Minor pitched a really good six innings. It was the seventh that killed him as he gave up four runs (one earned) and Scott Zuloaga didn't help matters as he allowed one of Minor's runs to score and added one of his own. Then Zach Dando was roughed up to the tune of three runs over 1.1 innings before handing the ball to Christian Garcia who pitched a largely uneventful ninth inning. Michael Martinez was two-for-three with a two run double and Ariel Ovando was two-for-three with a walk.

Pulaski over Greeneville 2-1 (Game 2)
Frederick Tiburcio had a nice start but his two runs allowed turned out to be one too many as Greeneville stranded 13 runners. Tanner Bushue pitched two perfect innings. Greeneville only managed one run in the seventh on a Michael Martinez RBI single despite the team getting nine hits and drawing seven walks. Martinez did his part going three-for-four with a double and an RBI but he couldn't drive himself in. Angel Ibanez was two-for-four with a double and Jean Batista doubled as well.

Tri-City over Aberdeen 13-9
Vincent Velasquez got lucky that his offense was on fire as he gave up six runs (five earned) on five hits, including a three-run blast in the first, in only 3.1 innings pitched. John Neely added on three more in his two innings before Kenny Long shut the door with a perfect 3.2 innings for his first professional win. The lead changed three times before Tri-City took charge once and for all with a five-run seventh inning which featured four walks, an error, a hit batter and a Jesse Wierzbicki bases clearing double. Wierzbicki would end the day two-for-six with five RBI and two stolen bases. Tyler Heineman (3x6 2RBI SB), M.P. Cokinos (3x5 2B 2R), Joe Sclafani (2x4 2B 2BB 2R 2SB), and Andrew Aplin (2x5 3B 3RBI BB 4R SB) all had amazing nights. The ValleyCats swiped a total of eight bags. I believe that is enough to go from misdemeanor to felony theft.

Lancaster over High Desert 15-7
After two tough losses and an extra inning win with High Desert at home over the weekend, Lancaster needed this blowout win to set the tone on High Desert's home turf. David Martinez improved to 6-4 for the season as he allowed five runs (three earned) in his five innings of work. Jose Trinidad and Chia-Jen Lo pitched the final four and gave up one run each. Despite a two-run home run from Erik Castro and a solo shot from Drew Muren, most of the scoring was of the small ball variety and taking advantage of High Desert's mistakes. Castro ended the night three-for-five with two doubles, a home run, four RBI and three runs scored, and Muren was three-for-four with a home run, three RBI, two walks and three runs. George Springer, Telvin Nash and Jonathan Meyer each drove in two runs; and Nash and Kike Hernandez both had multi-hit nights as well. Alex Todd gets the Matt Duffy award for getting plunked three times.

Salt Lake over Oklahoma City 10-3
After two terrific starts, Jose Cisnero hit his first road bump since his promotion to AAA as he gave up six runs on seven hits in only 2.2 innings of work. Brian Bass pitched the next 4.1 innings allowing one run and Sergio Perez gave up the final three in his one inning. The Redhawks didn't even get on the board until the sixth inning. They scored two runs on sac flies from Marc Krauss and Mike Hessman and one on a Matt Dominguez double. Marc Krauss was one-for-three with a walk and an outfield assist in his Oklahoma City debut.

Player of the Day: There were so many terrific offensive performances that it was extremely difficult to chose, but I'm going with Erik Castro's prodigious output.

Pitcher of the Day: Kenny Long's first professional win came on 3.2 innings of perfect relief with four strikeouts. I believe that qualifies.

Happy Birthday - 8/8

RHP Juri Perez (22)
Originally from Venezuela, Perez signed as a NDFA and first played with the VSL Astros in 2007. This season he started four games for Tri-City and had a 0.76 ERA and a 1.056 WHIP before being promoted to Lexington. In five games (three starts) with Lexington, he was 2-1 with a 4.18 ERA and a 1.437 WHIP. He was recently sent back to Tri-City.

Several former Astros with birthdays today ~

LF Jose Cruz (65)
Cheo originally signed with the Cardinals in 1966 and played five seasons in St. Louis before coming to Houston in October 1974. In 1870 games for the Astros from 1975 to 1987, he hit .292/.359/.429 with 335 doubles, 80 triples, 138 home runs, 942 RBI, 288 stolen bases and 730 walks. He was a two-time All-Star and a two-time Silver Slugger Award winner while with the Astros. He will always be remembered by those of us lucky enough to have see him for his Jose Cruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuzzz introduction, for always running out from under his hat as he fielded balls in left field and for never refusing an autograph request.

OF Ray Montgomery (43)
Drafted by Houston in the 13th round in 1990, Montgomery played for the Astros in a total of 47 games from 1996 to 1998 hitting .241/.281/.356. Once his playing days were over, Montgomery went into scouting for the Brewers organization and signed Rickie Weeks. He was named Director of Scouting for the Diamondbacks organization in 2011.

RHP Jack Cassel (32)
A 25th round pick by the Padres in 2000, Cassel signed as a free agent with Houston in December 2007. In nine games (three starts) for the Astros in 2008, he was 1-1 with a 5.64 ERA and a 1.516 WHIP.

2B Johnny Temple (died January 9, 1994)
Temple came from Baltimore to Houston in August 1962 and played for the Colt .45's for two seasons. In 131 games, he hit .264/.339/.314. Temple was a four time All-Star during his years with the Reds and Indians.

1B Mike Ivie (60)
Drafted by San Diego in the first round in 1970, Ivie came to Houston in a trade with the Giants in April of 1981. In 26 games for the Astros in 1981 and 1982, he hit .250/.288/.313.

RHP Mark Ross (58)
Drafted by the Astros in the seventh round in 1979, Ross pitched in only 14 games for Houston scattered over 1982, 1984 and 1985. In those games, he was 1-2 with a 3.38 ERA and a 0.844 WHIP. After his playing days, Ross became a scout for the Astros.

RHP John Hudek (46)
Originally drafted by the White Sox in the tenth round in 1988, Hudek was claimed by Houston off waivers in July of 1993. In 116 games for Houston from 1994 to 1997, Hudek was 5-7 with a 4.42 ERA and a 1.328 WHIP. In 1994, he was second in voting for Rookie of the Year to Raul Mondesi and made his only All-Star appearance.

Tweet of the Day

Jarred Cosart

Never thought it was possible to have so much emotion for someone else who deserves something so much. Congrats 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Roster Moves

Houston/Oklahoma City
OF Brandon Barnes was called up from Oklahoma City to Houston and placed on the 40-man roster.
OF Jordan Schafer was placed on the DL.
RHP Juan Abreu was removed from the 40-man roster and designated for assignment.
OF Marc Krauss was assigned from Corpus Christi to Oklahoma City.

Happy Birthday To Me

No, it's not my birthday personally. That was back in May. Remember I share a birthday with Jeff Bagwell which is pretty awesome for a lifelong Astros fan. Rather it's What the Heck, Bobby?'s first birthday. My baby is one year old today. And what a year.

In that year, I have put up 1,631 posts (with recent help from Buca, of course). I have interviewed almost three dozen players now, some in person and some via email. I have met and talked to GM Jeff Luhnow several times now. I scored an interview with Scouting Director (and naming inspiration) Bobby Heck and Player Development Coordinator Allen Rowin. I have traveled to three Astros minor league ballparks and will make it four in less than two weeks as I travel to Greeneville.

And I have made some wonderful new friends ... the aforementioned Buca, fellow female blogger Terri, and the ever passionate Andy foremost among them ... but there are so many more people that I now can call "friend" because of this last year's crazy ride.

I have also learned much, not just about baseball and the farm system and minor league prospects, but also about myself. I have learned that I am capable of so much more than I had ever imagined. I have learned that I can get by on very little sleep. I've learned that I can connect with people via the written word. I've learned that I'm a sucker for lefties and for underdogs (well, technically I already knew the latter).

I have also learned that baseball people ... players, staff, coaches, fans, front office, ushers, waitstaff, media people ... are the most generous people in the world, generous with their time, their knowledge and their friendship.

And finally I have learned that baseball players just want to be (and deserve to be) treated with respect. They crave acknowledgement of their successes and patience with their failures. The minor league road is a very tough one, literally and figuratively.

I started this blog because I was desperate for information on the Astros minor league system. As I started to dig and find things, I thought I would share any knowledge that I picked up along the way. Little did I imagine where things would stand a year later. I can't wait to see what the next year will bring.

Thank you.


Minor League Recaps

Monday's Games

DSL Astros over DSL Athletics 4-0
Samil de los Santos sparkled in this one as he allowed only one hit and two walks over five innings of work with eight strikeouts. Geronimo Franzua, Jesus Castillo and Angel Heredia (W, 1-1) combined to provide hitless relief (although Franzua did allow three walks in his 0.1 inning and had to be bailed out by Castillo). CF Jarico Reynoso's name keeps popping up on these recaps as he is starting to really excel at the plate. In Monday's game, he was three-for-five, and he is hitting .353/.371/.382 over his last 10 games.

GCL Astros at GCL Marlins - Postponed

Johnson City over Greeneville 8-2 in 7 innings (Game 1)
Adrian Houser got roughed up more than a little as he surrendered all eight of the Johnson City runs on eight hits and two walks with three strikeouts in 4.1 innings pitched. Mike Hauschild and Andrew Walter combined for scoreless relief but Greeneville wasn't able to scratch anything across after the third inning. A Michael Martinez walk followed by doubles from D'Andre Toney and Angel Ibanez accounted for Greeneville's two runs. Ricky Gingras had the only other Astros hit as they were held to three.

Johnson City over Greeneville 5-2 in 7 innings (Game 2)
Lance McCullers gave up one hit and four walks with four strikeouts in four innings in his Appy League debut. Joe Musgrove also had his debut and gave up one run on four hits in 1.2 innings of work. Euris Quezada was charged with a blown save and a loss. Quezada, Scott Zuloaga and Michael Dimock combined to allow four runs in the final inning to seal Greeneville's fate. The Astros only managed four hits including a double from Jean Batista and an RBI double from Angel Ibanez.

Tri-City over Mahoning Valley 5-1
Brilliant pitching from Tri-City. Again. Brady Rodgers went to 5-2 on the season as he allowed only one run on five hits with eight strikeouts over six innings as was followed with a masterful three-inning performance in which Jeremiah Meiners gave up only one hit and no walks with four strikeouts. Joe Sclafani had a big day, going two-for-three with an RBI, walk, run scored and two stolen bases. Preston Tucker hit his second home run of the season and got a second RBI on a sac fly. Jobduan Morales tripled and scored. The ValleyCats were in thief mode as they stole a total of five bases, including one each from Catfish Elkins (as Austin prefers to be called apparently), Andrew Aplin and Ryan Dineen.

Lexington over Hagerstown 3-1
Mike Foltynewicz got his lucky 13th win as he allowed only two hits with seven strikeouts in his six innings of work. Murilo Gouvea pitched two scoreless innings of work before giving way to Dayan Diaz who gave up the lone Hagerstown run on his way to his 17th save. I didn't watch the game, but it was apparently a wild one as Hagerstown's pitching coach was ejected in the second and their batting coach was ejected in the eighth inning; and Lexington manager Ivan de Jesus was ejected in between, in the seventh. Lexington only managed four hits but took advantage of wild pitching from the Suns (two wild pitches, a balk and two hit batters) and Delino DeShields' speed as he scored Lexington's first run on a ground out after walking, stealing second and advancing to third on a wild pitch. It was DeShields 81st steal of the season. Matt Duffy, alas, was one of the hit batters and has now been plunked 34 times this season, four times in the last two games. Ouch.

Lancaster - Off Day

Midland over Corpus Christi 8-4
This game was pretty much over in the first inning as starter Matt Heidenreich allowed five runs on six hits without recording an out. Jake Buchanan, newly back with the Corpus team, came out of the 'pen and allowed two runs on five hits in his four innings of work. Adalberto Flores allowed the final run in his 2.2 innings and Alex Sogard pitched an uneventful 1.1 innings. Drew Locke was three-for-five with a double and an RBI.

Salt Lake over Oklahoma City 4-3 in 10 innings
Ross Seaton did a very good job in his second start for the Redhawks allowing one run on three hits in 5.1 innings. Mark Hamburger allowed two runs and Hector Ambriz gave up the winning run in the 10th. In between Juan Valdez pitched a perfect 1.1 innings. Oklahoma City did all of their scoring with two outs in the fifth inning on a Brandon Barnes single, a Jimmy Paredes RBI double and a Fernando Martinez two-run jack.

Player of the Day: I'm going with Tri-City SS Joe Sclafani for a very effective day at the plate and on the basepaths.

Pitchers of the Day: Mike Foltynewicz gets the nod with lucky win #13. His girlfriend did not call him a stud muffin this time which I find to be a gross oversight. Folty, you are my Pitcher of the Day and my Stud Muffin of the Day. Honorable mention has to go to Samil de los Santos, Lance McCullers, Brady Rodgers, Jeremiah Meiners and Ross Seaton for their good outings.

Happy Birthday - 8/7

3B Andy Simunic (27)
Drafted by Houston in the 17th round in 2008 out of the University of Tennessee, Simunic has excelled this season in his time at Corpus Christi, hitting .308/.359/.367 in 84 games.

LHP Ambiorix de Leon (21)
A NDFA out of the Dominican Republic, de Leon is in his third season in the Astros organization and his first season with the GCL Astros. In 12 appearances out of the bullpen this season he is 1-2 with a 2.87 ERA and a 1.340 WHIP. He is holding left-handed batters to a .167 batting average.

MGR Rodney Linares (35)
Linares is in his sixth season managing in the Astros minor league system. He managed the Greeneville Astros from 2007 to 2009, Lexington from 2010 to 2011 and is now in his first season managing the Hi-A Lancaster club in the California League. (He's also a very nice guy who spent almost an hour talking to me about the Lancaster players and the Astros farm system for which I am very grateful.)

One former Astro with a birthday today ~

RHP Don Larsen (83)
Larsen came to Houston from the Giants and pitched in 30 games for the Colt .45's in 1964 and in one game for the Astros in 1965 before being traded to Baltimore. In those 31 games (11 starts), he was 4-8 with a 2.40 ERA and a 1.132 WHIP. In 1956, he pitched a perfect game in the World Series for the Yankees, an accomplishment that I personally find to be one of the greatest single accomplishments in the history of baseball.

Tweet of the Day

Rob Rasmussen

Great time of year, football is starting up, baseball teams are making playoff pushes, but mostly 7 days til Shark Week

Roster Moves

Oklahoma City
C Jason Castro was assigned to Oklahoma City to continue his rehab assignment.
RHP Enerio del Rosario was placed on the 7-day DL.

Corpus Christi
RHP Erick Abreu was placed on the 7-day DL.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Farewell, Atlanta

[Note from Jayne: Buca has done a wonderful job helping me out with the recaps during the last several weeks. I invited him to post other thoughts from time to time, but this is the first time he's taken me up on it. You'll see why he should do so more often. And for the record, I couldn't have stayed as classy as Buca did after the stunt Atlanta pulled.]

            The Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves first met on April 27, 1962 in Colt Stadium.  Although, at that time they were known as the Houston Colt .45's and the Milwaukee Braves.  Since that time, the teams have played 701 times.
            In a season that has seen the end of many rivalries, with the Astros' switch to the American League next year, there have already been a few "lasts."  Sunday, marked the last time the Astros and Braves would play as National League opponents.  At the beginning of the season, actually during the Astros' first homestand, Craig Biggio presented Chipper Jones, who is set to retire at the end of this season, a cowboy hat signifying the respect and rivalry the two teams have had for each other and Jones over the years.
            Considering this, it came as a shock yesterday when Zachary Levine tweeted, " Turner Field scoreboard just showed a graphic saying you can't spell DISASTROUS without ASTRO. Dead serious."  Not only was this simply a bush-league, classless thing to do at any time, it ended up marring a significant event in these two teams history.  Instead of using the opportunity to perhaps pass along a little of the respect and dignity Houston showed Chipper on his last trip to Minute Maid Park, Atlanta decided to take the low road and basically declare Houston not worthy of any value in their baseball annals.
            Houston isn't having the best year as reflected by their record, but is that any a reason for Atlanta to disrespect an honorable opponent of 50 years?  Is that what Atlanta has been doing all these years and no one noticed: picking on the little guys?  If that's the case, good riddance; losing Atlanta as an opponent is actually a bonus in light of their callous actions.  Houston is done with Atlanta anyway.  The Astros are moving on and looking to the future.
            As mentioned before, 2012 has been a season of "lasts" and hopefully it marks the last time anybody in Atlanta does anything that tasteless and juvenile.            

Last Things First - SS Alex Todd

Saturday was a full day for me in Lancaster. I got several interviews, including three players who featured prominently in Saturday night's walk-off extra inning win -- Andrew Robinson and his three fantastic innings of relief; Chris Epps and his two home runs; and Erik Castro with his game-winning hit. But I was missing one hero from the night, Alex Todd.

Alex was four-for-five with a walk and a stolen base, but it was his diving catch in the seventh inning that set in motion a triple play completed by Kike Hernandez, the first triple play I've ever seen in person and, it turns out, the first triple play of Alex's professional career. So, even though I was only planning on making some contacts with players in my final day on Sunday, I had to get this one last interview.

Alex landed on my radar screen recently and I included him in this piece from three weeks ago. Since posting that, Alex has been on an absolute tear at the plate. His combined batting line for Lexington and Lancaster for the season is .294/.367/.409 and he has hit .357/.378/.452 in his last 10 games (.458 in August thus far). This is after recording some rather anemic numbers during his first season in 2011.

When I caught up with Alex, I asked him about Saturday's come from behind win. "Last night was awesome.  It was a crazy game," he said. In reply to a question about his at-bats, he noted, "It's August. Your body's kind of getting tired which is sometimes a good thing because you don't try to do too much. [You're] in the box, in your comfort zone and looking for a good pitch to hit. Fortunately I got a couple of pitches to hit last night."

On the triple play, "That was something cool. It was like when it happened, I didn't know what to do. I caught the ball and I flipped it to Kike [and Kike stepped on second] and I was yelling at him, 'Throw it to first, throw it to first' and he just tagged the runner. It was pretty cool to be a part of it. It never happens. You never practice it. It's one of those things so far out of the norm." And there was some momentary confusion on the field at the end of the play as the realization set in that a no outs, two on situation had erased itself in a matter of seconds.

I also talked to Alex about his turnaround at the plate this season. As I alluded to earlier, he wasn't exactly setting the world on fire with his numbers last season. What was different for him? "I bounced around a lot of schools and my swing was always kind of changing with [every] new hitting coach. Going from college to pro ball, my swing was no where near where it should be so me and Boni [Lexington hitting coach Josh Bonifay] just put in hours and hours and a lot of changes throughout the summer. The last three weeks I was starting to get a plan, [getting] a feel for it and [sticking] with that."

Since his promotion to Lancaster the work has continued with hitting coach Darryl Robinson. He is taking advice here and there from Coaches Bonifay and Robinson, as well as the roving instructors and trying to figure out what works for him. "I'm glad it turned itself around though. It was not a fun summer last year. A lot of sleepless nights." He is glad to have faced that adversity early because it helps him take things in stride now.

As to what he needs to do to get to the next level developmentally, "It's just fine-tuning stuff. It's not missing pitches. It's being ready to hit in every count. Your numbers are going to come from pitcher's mistakes.  When they make a mistake, you need to hit it and hit it hard. Now [with] my approach and my swing being closer to normal and correct, I feel like I'm making more hard contact on those mistake pitches. A lot of it comes from trusting your hands and not trying to do too much because once you're trying to do too much, everything's going in different directions and that's when it gets ugly."

Well I know one thing. There was nothing ugly about Alex Todd's game on Saturday. And that triple play was actually a thing of beauty.

Lancaster Trip

Well, it turns out that I have over two and a half hours of interview material from my trip to Lancaster over the weekend. It also turns out that ten hours of sleep over three nights is not really enough. With that said, it will take me a while to get through everything since I do still have that pesky day job. Things will come out in dribs and drabs this week with more to come next week as I focus on transcribing and writing over the weekend.

Roster Moves

Oklahoma City
RHP Garrett Mock was assigned to Oklahoma City.
RHP Brian Sanches was assigned to Oklahoma City. (I totally missed this signing while I was out in Lancaster, but Cockroach at Astros County had your back with a little info.)

Corpus Christi
RHP Jake Buchanan was assigned from Oklahoma City to Corpus Christi.

OF Telvin Nash was activated from the DL.
RHP Jose Trinidad was activated from the DL.
RHP Zach Grimmett was placed on the 7-day DL.

RHP Chris Devenski was officially assigned to Lexington.

RHP Juri Perez was assigned from Lexington to Tri-City.

Minor League Recaps

Sunday's Results

Johnson City Cardinals @ Greeneville Astros

Mahoning Valley Scrappers 4 Tri-City ValleyCats 5
Tri-City had the lead early and lost it in the third inning.  The ValleyCats stuck with it and took back the lead in the ninth and went on to win the game.  Starting pitcher Joe Bircher helped get the ValleyCats back in the game.  After allowing two big home runs that totaled 4 runs in the third and fourth innings, Bircher settled in for 2 and 2-thirds more work, keeping them scoreless and ended up with those 4 runs on 10 hits, 2 walks and 2 Ks.  Travis Ballew came on next to finish out the seventh and stayed for 1 and a third.  In his time at the helm, Ballew gave up 1 hit, struck out 3 and took the win, moving his record to 4-0.  Blake Ford picked up save number 12 after coming on for the last inning of work, keeping things scoreless and issuing 1 walk.  At the plate, Preston Tucker (2X4), Tyler Heineman (2X2) and Joe Sclafani (2X3) all had multi hit games and one RBI apiece.  Sclafani and Heineman also drew a walk each.  Tucker's RBI was the sac'-fly to score Jesse Wierzbicki and put Tri-City ahead in the seventh inning.

Lexington Legends 16 Hagerstown Suns 6
Lexington didn't have one really big inning in this game, they just scored often.  The Legends scored in 5 of the 9 innings Sunday and in none of those frames did they score less than 2 runs.  This game was also a record breaking game for Zach Johnson and Matt Duffy.  Johnson batted 1 for 4 and drove in 3 RBIs, moving his total to 100 RBIs and setting the new Legends' season record.  Duffy was struck by oncoming pitches 3 times in the game, moving his total to 33 and earning him the South Atlantic League record.  Duffy hit 1 for 3, scored 2 runs and had a pair of RBI.  Delino Deshields got in on the record-breaking action and swiped 3 bags, moving his total to 80 for the year.  Nolan Fontana didn't do much at the plate, but drew 3 more walks; that's 7 BBs in his last 3 games.  Brandon Meredith was smoking-hot at the plate Sunday, hitting 4 for 6 with a double, 3 RBIs and the only homer of the game-a 2-run shot to center field in the second.  Chris Devenski (7-5) took the win after going the first 5 on the mound.  Devenski was charged with 4 runs (3ER) on 7 hits, K-ed 5 and walked 3. 

High Desert Mavericks 4 Lancaster JetHawks 2
Lancaster scored twice in the fourth inning to strike first and take the lead Sunday, but wouldn't score again.  Colton Cain pitched the first 6 innings for Lancaster and had a decent outing, allowing 2 runs on 6 hits, walking a pair and striking out half a dozen.  Cain's 2 runs came on a 2-run homer in the seventh that tied the game. In fact, the next 3 pitchers for the JetHawks only gave up 5 hits combined over the rest of the game.  The last hit allowed however, was another 2-run homer that broke the tie in ninth inning.  That homer came off of Carlos Quevedo (2-3) who took the loss after going 1 and 2-thirds, and striking out one.  At the plate, George Springer (1X4) picked up his tenth triple of the year and is leading the JetHawks with a .322 BA.  Chris Epps (2X3) and Jonathan Meyer (2X4) both hit doubles and had an RBI.  Domingo Santana went 1 for 2 at the dish and drew the only walk of the night for Lancaster.    

Corpus Christi Hooks 6 Midland RockHounds 4 
The Hooks got on top in the third inning Sunday and never looked back.  On line with Corpus Christi's solid offense was Rob Rasmussen (3-2), who pitched 6 solid innings, allowing just 2 runs on 7 hits, walking 3 and striking out 8.  Jason Stoffell came on in the 9th and collected his 22nd save after walking a batter and striking out the last one he faced.  Jonathan Singleton got a couple hits in 4 ABs Sunday.  Singleton also picked up 2 RBIs, moving his total for the season to 62.  Jose Martinez went 2 for 5 at the plate with a double and batted in a run of his own, making his season total 75. 

Oklahoma City RedHawks 4 Salt Lake Bees 6
If 5 runs leave the park against you by way of 3 long balls and your team only gets 6 hits all game, it would probably be safe to assume you lost the game.  That's exactly what happened to the RedHawks on Sunday.  4 of Oklahoma City's hits were split evenly between Fernando Martinez and Brad Synder who both went 2 for 4 at the dish with 2 RBIs each.  Martinez's hits were both doubles and one of Snyder's was a solo homer, his 17th dinger of the season.  Martinez's 2 RBIs and the non-homer RBI of Snyder were good to tie the game in the top of the sixth inning.  Brian Sanches (1-0) had a tough debut for Oklahoma City though; he took the loss after coming on for the last out in the 6th and staying a full frame longer.  Sanches gave up the tie-breaking 2-run shot in the seventh inning and ended up with both of those runs on 3 hits and 2 K's for the game.  Garrett Mock also made his debut with Oklahoma City Sunday, pitching the last inning without giving up a hit and striking out 1. 

Player of the Game:  Lexington's Zach Johnson and Matt Duffy get dual nods today for their record breaking achievements on Sunday.  Records are made by the rarest of traits, no matter the sport, consistency.  The Astros' minor leagues deserve all the congratulations they can get, because they have been setting records all season.

Pitcher of the Game:  Rob Rasmussen takes the cake today.  He had a really nice outing on Sunday and any time you can top it off with 8 Ks, well, you might not even need icing on that cake.  

Happy Birthday - 8/6

LHP Kyle Hallock (24)
A 10th round draft pick by the Astros out of Kent State in 2011, Hallock had a terrific freshman season for Tri-City. In 13 starts, he was 3-4 with a 2.63 ERA and a 1.216 WHIP, and earned a mid-season All-Star nod. He started the 2012 season at Lexington with much less desirable results. After five starts, he had surgery to remove loose bodies from his pitching elbow and was expected to miss most, if not all, of the rest of the 2012 season. He is currently rehabbing in Kissimmee.

One former Astro with a birthday today ~

2B Jim Pankovits (57)
A fourth round pick by Houston in 1976, Pankovits played in 316 games for Houston from 1984 to 1988, hitting .250/.307/.349. After his playing days, he managed in the minor leagues including a stint as the manager for the 2010 New York-Penn League Champion Tri-City team in 2010.

Tweet of the Day

Zach Johnson

Would like to thank everyone for sharing their kind words & also like to thank  for giving me the cream pie to my entire face/head..


Congratulations to Zach for becoming the all-time RBI leader for the Legends with almost a month to go in the season. Great guy and great player.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Minor League Recaps

Saturday's Results

DSL Astros @ DSL Indians

GCL Astros @ GCL Nationals

Johnson City Cardinals 2 Greeneville Astros 3 (10)
The Astros had the only two runs of the game after a couple scores in the third on Saturday and they rode the lead until the ninth inning.  Jordan Jankowski was in to close out the game and gave up a single, then a homer to the first two batters he faced in the ninth to tie the game.  Jankowski did add another K to his total after fanning 1 to end the eighth inning; he now has 40 Ks in 23.1 innings.  Euris Quezada (3-1) picked up the win after coming on for the final 1 and 2-thirds of work on the mound.  Quezada gave up a hit and struck out 3.  Jean Batista was on at the plate Saturday, hitting 2 of 4 with a double and a walk.  Ariel Ovando went 2 for 4 as well at the dish, with a triple, a walk and 2 RBIs.  One of those RBIs being the result of the walk-off single Ovando hit to win the game.

Mahoning Valley Scrappers 3 Tri-City ValleyCats 8
Tri-City didn't get on the board the first Saturday, but when they did it was for a huge, 5-run third inning. The ValleyCats hit two home runs that inning: one by M.P. Cokinos, who ended up 2 for 4 on the game with a pair of RBIs and the other by Dan Gulbransen, who drew a walk, ending up 1 for 3 at the plate.  Neiko Johnson was the man to beat Saturday though, going 3 for 3 at the plate with 2 walks, 2 RBIs, a 2-run homer and 2 stolen bases.  The homer was Johnson's first of the season. On the mound, Lance Day (3-0) picked up the win after going 6 and 2-thirds, allowing 3 runs on 8 hits and striking out 6.  Jamaine Cotton came on for the final 2 and a third and kept it scoreless, giving up just a hit and striking out 3.  Neither Tri-City pitcher issued a walk on Saturday.

Lexington Legends 8 Hagerstown Suns 0
Hagerstown, Maryland was the scene of a four-hit, shutout assault by Lexington Saturday.  David Rollins (1-0, 5 IP) and Juri Perez (S, 4 IP) gave up 2 hits each, walked 1 each and struck out a pair each.  The end result of their efforts netted Rollins his first win for Lexington and Perez his first save for the team.  The leaders offensively Saturday were Matt Duffy, who went 2 for 3 with a double, a solo homer and 3 RBI, and Zach Johnson, who went 2 for 5 with a double, a solo homer and 3 RBIs of his own.  Zach Johnson now has 97 RBI, which leads the South Atlantic League and is only 1 RBI shy of tying the team record, set in 2010 by Jake Goebbert.

High Desert Mavericks 5 Lancaster JetHawks 6 (11)
Lancaster won an intense come-from-behind, extra-inning-game at home on Saturday.  After trailing most of the game, the JetHawks squared it all up at 5 with 2 runs in the eighth, started off by a Chris Epps solo shot to left field.  That tater was Epps second home run of the game and he ended up 2 for 4 at the plate with a pair of RBIs and a walk.  Alex Todd was also hot with the bat, hitting 4 for 5 with a walk in the game.  Erik Castro got a couple hits in 5 ABs and had an RBI.  Castro's RBI was the game winning walk-off single in the 11th inning to score Alex Todd.  Nicholas Tropeano got the start for Lancaster and struck out 6 over the first 6 innings.  However, Tropeano was also charged with 5 (3ER) runs on 7 hits.  Andrew Robinson came on to pitch in the ninth inning and kept Lancaster in the game, to say the least.  Robinson struck out 7 batters, didn't allow a hit and took the win, moving his record to 4-2 on the season.   

Corpus Christi Hooks 17 Midland RockHounds 6
Anything worth doing is worth doing right.  Corpus Christi made their belief in this adage evident entering the ninth inning on Saturday tied at 6.  Needing only a run, mathematically, to break the tie and win the game, the Hooks set off on an 11-run, one-inning-ruckus in Midland to win the game. Bobby Doran got the start for the Hooks and through 6 and a third was charged with all 6 runs on 11 hits.  Doran also walked 3 and K-ed 2.  Arcenio Leon (3-1) took the win after coming on with 1 out in the 8th.  Leon gave up no hits, struck out a pair and walked 1 in his time on the mound.

The offense, like Greeneville's yesterday, again was overwhelming.  I've attached the boxscore from again, but interesting to note among all the slugging: Robbie Grossman drew 3 walks and Jonathan Singleton drew a pair of his own.

Oklahoma City RedHawks 1 Tacoma Rainiers 5
Oklahoma City struggled offensively Saturday in Tacoma.  The RedHawks had just 5 hits all game (2  were extra base hits) and drew no walks.  Brett Oberholtzer (4-4) had a rough night on the mound too, going 4 and 2-thirds, allowing 4 runs on 8 hits, walking 1,  striking out 3 and taking the loss.  Sergi Perez, who came on for the final 2 and a third, had a strong outing, allowing just a hit and K-ing 2.  During the stalemate at the plate Saturday, Brad Snyder (1X4) snuck in his 17th double of the season.  

Player(s) of the Day:  On Saturday night in Lancaster, Alex Todd and Kike Hernandez combined for a triple play in the seventh inning.  So, yeah, they're getting the honor today.  This was also the first TP Jayne has ever witnessed in person and the first called by the voice of the JetHawks, Jason Schwartz.     

Pitcher of the Day:  Andrew Robinson gets the honor today (and this is heartily endorsed by Jayne after witnessing his performance in person last night).  Robinson supported his team as they looked for the winning run, and he did it with authority.   

Happy Birthday - 8/5

RF Domingo Santana (20)
First signed by the Phillies as a NDFA out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, Santana came to the Astros organization as the PTBNL in the July 2011 Hunter Pence trade. In his first season at Hi-A Lancaster this year, he is hitting .285/.358/.513 with 20 doubles, five triples, 17 home runs and 80 RBI.

One former Astro with a birthday today ~

OF Jesus de la Rosa (59)
An NDFA signing by Houston from the Dominican Republic in 1969, de la Rosa's entire career consisted of three pinch hit appearances for the Astros in August 1975. His cup of coffee would give him a .333/.333/.667 batting line as his only hit happened to be a double. He also scored a run.