Saturday, March 9, 2013

Spring Training Update

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. For a while there, it looked as though we would ONLY be getting the worst so I can live with that. Through the first three innings as Jordan Lyles, Sam Demel, and Wesley Wright got pounded by the Braves, I sat thinking "I have third row tickets behind home plate for this game?" But then Hector Ambriz, John Ely and Ross Seaton stopped the bleeding and the offense took over to at least make it an interesting game.

The game reminded me of what that scout told me the day before. If the pitching can keep the Astros in the game, they are going to win more games than some people think because of the offense. Coming back from a 14-1 deficit in the middle of the third to a 14-9 end result reinforces his point. Doubles from Matt Dominguez, Jose Martinez, Jason Jaramillo and Delino DeShields, a bases-clearing triple from Trevor Crowe, and long home runs from Brandon Barnes and Marc Krauss helped close the gap.

I won't be going to the out-of-town game today, but I'll be headed out shortly to hit the backfields and watch "my guys" running drills, throwing bullpens and taking batting practice. I spent a little time out there yesterday morning before the game. LHP Kyle Hallock looked particularly sharp in his bullpen session.

Spring Training Record: 6-6-2

Spring Training Game 14 Results: Braves 14, Astros 9
Game 14 Minor League Standouts: There were several good performances from the minor league players. On the pitching side, Ross Seaton looked good, allowing only a pair of singles over his two innings of work. Jose Martinez was 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored, Mark Krauss hit a 2-run bomb to celebrate Kraussmas and Delino DeShields contributed a very timely double. Jake Goebbert also received murmurs of appreciation throughout the then depleted crowd for a sterling diving catch in left field.

Spring Training Game 15:
Astros at Mets 12:10 CST (Radio only)

SPRING TRAINING RESULTS
Spring Training Game 1 Results: Astros 8, Phillies 3
Spring Training Game 2 Results: Astros 7, Mets 7
Spring Training Game 3 Results: Cardinals 10, Astros 2
Spring Training Game 4 Results: Rays 7, Astros (SS) 2 in six innings
Spring Training Game 5 Results: Astros (SS) 9, Detroit 4
Spring Training Game 6 Results: Astros 10, Blue Jays 1
Spring Training Game 7 Results: Astros 7, Yankees 6
Spring Training Game 8 Results: Astros 8, Cardinals 8
Spring Training Game 9 Results: Astros 6, Braves 5
Spring Training Game 10 Results: Pirates 8, Astros 6
Spring Training Game 11 Results: Tigers 8, Astros 5
Spring Training Game 12 Results: Nationals 7, Astros 1
Spring Training Game 13 Results: Astros 4, Nationals 2

Happy Birthday - 3/9

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

CF Jim Landis (79)
Obtained in a trade with the Indians in January 1967, Landis spent just that one season in an Astros uniform, hitting .252 in 50 games before being traded to Detroit.  A five time Gold Glove winner and one time All-Star, Landis' best season at the plate was 1961 when he hit .283/.362/.470/.832 for the White Sox.

LHP C.J. Nitkowski (40)
Originally drafted by the Reds in the first round in 1994, Nitkowski came to Houston in a December 1996 trade with with Detroit. Nitkowski pitched only one season for the Astros in 1998 before being traded back to Detroit in January of 1999. While with Houston, he was 3-3 with a 3.77 ERA and a 1.207 WHIP in 43 appearances.

LHP Gary Wayne Franklin (39)
A 36th round pick by the Dodgers in 1996, Franklin came to Houston as a Rule 5 pick from Los Angeles. In two seasons for the Astros in 2000 and 2001, he had a 5.94 ERA and a 1.860 WHIP in 36 games before being traded to Milwaukee for Mark Loretta.

1B/3B Aaron Boone (40)
Drafted by the Reds in the third round in 1994, Boone signed with Houston as a free agent in December 2008 and appeared in only 10 games for the Astros at the end of 2009 after recovery from open heart surgery in March of that year. Boone retired in February 2010 and became a baseball analyst for ESPN. He is probably best remembered for hitting a walk-off home run in the 11th inning of Game 7 of the ALCS in 2003, thus sending the Yankees to the World Series.

Tweet of the Day

Gera Sanchez
Watching a Major League Baseball game on tv that's literally 100 yards away from where I'm at

Friday, March 8, 2013

Spring Training Update With Some Personal Observations

The story of this win over the Nationals was pitching. The pitching looked quite good overall. Humber allowed only one hit and one walk in four scoreless innings. Dallas Keuchel cruised through two innings before a leadoff double and a fielding error ended his day in his third inning of work. And Paul Clemens? Wow! More about him later. Both of the Martinez brothers looked good at the plate with Fernando winning the day as he went 2-for-2 with a double and scored a run. Chris Carter also doubled and Jason Castro drove in two with a well-timed, well-placed single.

I was at yesterday's game and I had the opportunity to sit next to a scout. I started by sneaking peaks at his radar gun and I can tell you that Humber was sitting 90-91 on his fastball and hitting 94 in spots. Then I finally had the temerity to actually say something to the scout which, in retrospect, probably seemed somewhat naughty as I alluded to the size of his gun. Thankfully, he didn't take the comment the wrong way (or maybe he did) and we struck up a conversation that lasted through the last several innings.

The scout doesn't work for the Astros so I felt that his assessments were fairly honest. He started out by saying that he had been surprised thus far by what he'd seen of the Astros offense and noted that he thought that the key for the Astros would be to get enough pitching out of the staff to keep the team in games, allowing the offense to get the team a few more wins than people may expect from the Astros.

The scout liked Humber but observed that he was relying too heavily on a fastball/changeup repertoire and needed to get his breaking ball across for strikes. He really liked Dallas Keuchel and said that he reminded him of Wandy Rodriguez in that he wouldn't blow anyone away but he mixed his pitches well, located well and kept the hitters off-balance. When Keuchel struck out the Nationals Corey Brown in the sixth, there was a murmur of appreciation from the scouts around me for the curveball that put him away.

But the real eye-opener for me was Paul Clemens. I missed the first batter as Clemens allowed a single, but I  was back in place in time to see Clemens strike out the next three. When I sat down the scout asked me, "Is that your closer?" I responded in the negative and then asked what Clemens was hitting on the radar gun. The scout responded 96-97. I looked at him to make sure that he wasn't kidding me and he said, "That's why I asked if he was your closer." Clemens then proceeded to sit about 94 on his fastball, hitting a couple of notches higher than that on occasion and then followed up with a 78-79 changeup. The final hitter was so off-balance that he struck out swinging on a ball in the dirt. It was a very impressive performance.

I talked to Bo Porter after the game about Clemens and he said, "Clemens was outstanding. He's a starter by trade, but you get (to) Spring Training and there's only so many guys that can start the game so he's found himself coming out of the bullpen and he's done a tremendous job this entire spring."

I've written previously about the crowd of starting pitchers that will be jockeying for position at AA and AAA after Spring Training and the relative lack of experienced bullpen arms at those levels. After a very tough season for Clemens in 2012, he may have found a way to fulfill his earlier promise as a late-inning bullpen option. It will be interesting to see how things shake out for him.

Spring Training Record: 6-5-2

Spring Training Game 13 Results: Astrose, 4, Nationals 2
Game 13 Minor League Standouts: Paul Clemens

Spring Training Game 14:
Braves at Astros at 12:05 CST (Radio and CSN)
Robert Ford is out for a couple of games and Milo Hamilton is taking over in the radio booth. Apparently, Milo got pranked into wishing "Hugh Jazz" a happy 36th birthday during Thursday's broadcast. Sigh.

SPRING TRAINING RESULTS
Spring Training Game 1 Results: Astros 8, Phillies 3
Spring Training Game 2 Results: Astros 7, Mets 7
Spring Training Game 3 Results: Cardinals 10, Astros 2
Spring Training Game 4 Results: Rays 7, Astros (SS) 2 in six innings
Spring Training Game 5 Results: Astros (SS) 9, Detroit 4
Spring Training Game 6 Results: Astros 10, Blue Jays 1
Spring Training Game 7 Results: Astros 7, Yankees 6
Spring Training Game 8 Results: Astros 8, Cardinals 8
Spring Training Game 9 Results: Astros 6, Braves 5
Spring Training Game 10 Results: Pirates 8, Astros 6
Spring Training Game 11 Results: Tigers 8, Astros 5
Spring Training Game 12 Results: Nationals 7, Astros 1

Happy Birthday - 3/8

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

RHP Jim "Bulldog" Bouton (74)
Obtained by Houston in a trade with the Seattle Pilots in August 1969, Bouton pitched part of that season and the 1970 season for Houston. He was 4-8 with a 5.02 ERA and a 1.548 WHIP for Houston. His best season was in 1964 for the Yankees when he started 37 games, going 18-13 with a 3.02 ERA and a 1.058 WHIP during the regular season and 2-0 with a 1.56 ERA and a 1.154 WHIP in the World Series. Bouton was probably best known for his memoir Ball Four, a warts and all insider look at baseball.

RHP Jim Daugherty (45)
Drafted by Houston in the 26th round in 1990, Daugherty pitched in 68 games for Houston in 1995 and 1996, going 8-6 with a 5.58 ERA and a 1.562 WHIP.

Tweet of the Day

Rio Ruiz
First day of spring training in the books 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Why Bo Porter's Motivational Techniques May Actually Work

Much as baseball drills and repetitions are used to create muscle memory, Astros Manager Bo Porter is using full immersion motivational techniques in Spring Training to re-set player's mental habits. From motivational signage in the clubhouse to 'Stros Win celebrations following on-field drills to clubhouse music to Family Feud tournaments and more, Porter is pulling out all the stops to keep his players motivated, focused and even more importantly ... loose.

In the business world, I have often rolled my eyes at some of the motivational efforts that employers utilize from time to time, mainly because a once-a-year team-building exercise has a tendency to fade quickly into the rear-view mirror once the reality of cubicles and TPS reports and malfunctioning printers set in. I'm luckier than most office workers in that I have an actual office with an actual window and a great deal of autonomy, but it still boils down to the fact that office work is not exactly what I would call fun. I may have a good work atmosphere, fun co-workers and a three-hole punch that I am almost as possessive of as Milton's red Swingline stapler, but I don't wake up every day wanting to go to the office more than anything else in my life.

Baseball is different. Don't get me wrong. The players work extremely hard to get where they are. Running, weight training, throwing sessions, hitting sessions, trying to maintain a proper diet under difficult circumstances. And unless they got a big fat bonus, they often have to work two jobs during the off-season to give them a little financial breathing room. They come into baseball with the odds stacked against them ever making it to the big leagues. They have to compete for jobs with other players who have become their best friends. They get paid next to nothing in the minors and frequently either live with complete strangers or share an apartment with three or four of their closest friends and no privacy. They have to be ready to pack up and move at a moment's notice. They suffer through the monotony of long bus trips, hoping that stinky feet and boredom are the worst problems they face on the ride. They live knowing that they could be one injury away from the dream ending.

And all of that carries over to big league camp when you have such a young, inexperienced group of players vying for jobs. For some, it is their last chance to make an impression. For some, it is the best chance of their careers if they do impress.

So with all that on their plates and on their minds, it is way too easy to forget why they want to play this game in the first place. Despite being in grown men's bodies, the best players often play with the joyful abandon of little boys. Sometimes a reminder that baseball is, after all, a game is in order.

The main reason that I think Porter's techniques may work well to keep the clubhouse loose and productive is because I've already seen a version of it work elsewhere. When I visited the Lancaster club in California last August, I was immediately struck by something that I hadn't seen elsewhere. Manager Rodney Linares and his staff encouraged the players to have fun. Don't get me wrong, they were working hard during pre-game workouts, but they were also having fun and were encouraging each other with applause and whoops of approval when anyone made a good play. Kike Hernandez cracking jokes; George Springer doing a little funky chicken dance; outfielders leaping crazily for batting practice balls, trying to outdo each other; a tip of the cap from Erik Castro as acknowledgment of applause after a good play; Telvin Nash running the bases in "stealth" mode. A club that had recently suffered several personnel cuts was upbeat and full of energy and enthusiasm.

Erik Castro - August 2012
Photo by Jayne Hansen

That night the JetHawks won the game in extra innings. Erik Castro got the walk-off hit against High Desert who led the season series 2-9 at the time. You would think that Lancaster had clinched a play-off berth as Kike Hernandez, Drew Muren and others drenched Castro with a Gatorade bucket and Jonathan Meyer and Chris Epps leaped atop the scrum in a wild on-field celebration. That team didn't need a refresher course on how to have fun. And that team, which never led the division at any point during the second half, kept having fun. All the way to a wild card berth. And all the way to the California league finals. And all the way to a League Championship. They never quit having fun.

JetHawks Win! - Lancaster 2012
Photo by Jayne Hansen

I think that is what Porter is trying to do with the Houston team. He wants them to work hard and give maximum effort, but he also wants them to remember the pure joy that a 10-year old boy feels playing the game that he loves. He wants them to support each other in good times and bad and never quit having fun. Nobody really thought that the Lancaster team had a chance in hell of pulling out a Championship title. Nobody, that is, but the people on that team. If Bo Porter can instill that attitude in his players, the Astros are going to open a few eyes in 2013.

As for me, it's back to work. I'll just live vicariously through my minor league players and wait for Hawaiian Shirt Day.

Happy Birthday - 3/7

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

RHP J.R. Richard (63)
Richard was the Astros first round pick (second overall) in 1969 and pitched for Houston from 1971 to 1980. When Richard hit his stride, he dominated - leading the National League in ERA in 1979 and leading in strikeouts in 1978 and 1979 with 303 and 313, respectively. He was third in Cy Young voting in 1979 behind Bruce Sutter and Joe Niekro. He was at the peak of his abilities in his 1980 All-Star season with a 10-4 record and a 1.90 ERA and 0.924 WHIP over 17 starts when he was felled by a stroke on July 30th of that year. He was never able to recover his prior success.  For more on the fascinating story of J.R. Richard, see his Wikipedia page.

RHP Jose Cano (51)
Cano signed with Houston as a free agent in April 1987 and pitched in six games for the Astros in 1989, going 1-1 with a 5.09 ERA and a 1.348 WHIP. Cano is father of Robinson Cano. The elder Cano pitched to Robinson in the 2011 Home Run Derby and helped him to win the crown.

IF Jeff Kent (45)
Originally drafted by the Blue Jays in the 20th round in 1989, Kent signed with Houston as a free agent in December of 2002. Kent played 2B for Houston in 2003 and 2004, hitting .293/.350/.521/.870. Kent was a five-time All-Star, a four-time Silver Slugger and the National League MVP in 2000 while playing for the Giants. He is most remembered by Astros fans for this. He also appeared on the television show "Survivor" in the fall of 2012 (he didn't win, and he didn't lose very graciously).

Tweet of the Day

Brady Rodgers
All the gatos get in tonight!!!  

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

This is Going to be a Very Big Year for ...

Over the last couple of weeks, I've talked to John Manuel of Baseball America, Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com and others about many of the players in the Astros farm system, both prospect and non-prospect alike. One phrase kept coming up time and time again. "This is going to be a big year for (fill-in-the-blank)." I found myself saying it as well.

With the Astros depth increasing, players will need to step up to keep up. For some, it may be a matter of staying healthy. For some, it will be recapturing earlier promise. For some, it will be taking that next step developmentally. Here are just a few position players for whom THIS IS GOING TO BE A BIG YEAR.

1B/DH Chase Davidson
Davidson turned 23 in January and has only played 53 games professionally to date. Davidson was originally drafted in the third round by the Astros in 2008 but did not sign; they re-drafted him in 2011 in the 41st round. In his first season, he hit .327/.417/.630 with 13 doubles, two triples, 11 home runs and 44 RBI in 44 games. He also struck out 53 times. In 2012, he only appeared in nine games with Tri-City in June before disappearing off the radar for the remainder of the year. At 23, he will need to get healthy, stay healthy and move quickly through the system before time starts working against him.

SS Jonathan Villar
Yes, Villar has all of the tools but he has yet to put them all together consistently. He needs to show more focus defensively. He has a tendency to speed up the game and make mental errors in the field. Prior to breaking his hand in July, Villar's bat did show signs of coming around but he lost valuable developmental time. Villar won't turn 22 until May so he still has plenty of time to put it all together, but if he doesn't take that next step forward, he could find himself jockeying for position in the Astros depth charts.

SS Jio Mier
Speaking of which, Jio Mier could be the one to challenge Villar, but he has to stay healthy and he has to continue the progress he made last season (before  a bad hamstring injury) and later in the Arizona Fall League. He missed a large chunk of the 2012 season due to the injury, but it appeared that he was finally putting things together at the plate, hitting .292/.396/.409 at Lancaster and .297/.333/.422 in the Arizona Fall League. If Villar falters and Mier continues his progress and stays healthy, things could get interesting. Mier won't be 23 until August. Did I mention that he really needs to stay healthy?

C/OF Mike Kvasnicka
I'm not even sure where to start with Kvasnicka. His development seems to have been stunted by his moves from catcher to third base back to catcher and now, apparently, to right field. Kvasnicka had a horrible start to his 2012 season, but seemed to have gotten into a groove at the plate about the time he was moved to right field. He also found his home run stroke, tripling his home run output from prior years. But the fact remains that he is 24 years old and hasn't gotten above Low A yet. He will need to come to Spring Training prepared to show that he belongs and will need to contribute immediately wherever he is placed.

1B/DH Telvin Nash
Telvin Nash just turned 22 last month. He needs to do two things. He needs to replicate his home run power outside the hitter-friendly confines of Lancaster and he needs to cut down on the strikeouts. If Nash is promoted to AA this season, I think he will find that the more advanced pitchers will take advantage of the holes in his swing. He will have to find a way to adjust. The recent news that Nash lost 30 pounds during the offseason tells me that he is highly motivated. That is encouraging.

Next week I'll look at a few pitchers for whom THIS IS GOING TO BE A VERY BIG YEAR.

World Baseball Classic Update

Astros farmhand Murilo Gouvea pitched three terrific scoreless innings in relief for Brazil, but it was the fourth that was his undoing. After allowing a single and two walks with only one out in the eighth inning, Gouvea was pulled and his replacement allowed all three inherited runners to score. Brazil lost the match to China 5-2 and was eliminated from the tournament.

Astros OF Che-Hsuan Lin went 1-for-5 with a strikeout and two outfield assists in Chinese Taipei's loss to Korea. Chinese Taipei does advance, however, as Korea lost the tiebreaker.

Spring Training Update

Only four hits mustered against the Nationals on Tuesday to go with three errors committed by the Astros and two caught stealing. This is not what Porter would like to be known as "Bo Ball." The good news is that Lucas Harrell is on track in his Spring Training preparation as he pitched a strong 4-inning start, allowing one run on three hits and a walk with four strikeouts. Jose Altuve provided half of the Astros hits, going 2-for-3 with a double, and drove in the only Astros run.

Spring Training Record: 5-5-2

Spring Training Game 12 Results: Nationals 7, Astros 1
Game 12 Minor League Standouts: No real standouts, but LHP Brett Oberholtzer had one good inning of work before allowing two walks in his second frame. Oberholtzer needs to show command and consistency in order to stand out from the crowd of starting pitchers in camp.

Spring Training Game 13:
Nationals at Astros at 12:05 CST on Thursday (Radio and CSN)
The Astros have a much-needed day off on Wednesday, but will have the chance to redeem themselves against Washington on Thursday. According to a tweet from Bill Brown, Alan Ashby and Geoff Blum will be handling the Spring Training TV broadcasts from this point forward. If you're one of the lucky 40-percenters who get CSN, you'll have to let me how Blum does. I have a feeling he will be a terrific addition to the broadcast booth.

SPRING TRAINING RESULTS
Spring Training Game 1 Results: Astros 8, Phillies 3
Spring Training Game 2 Results: Astros 7, Mets 7
Spring Training Game 3 Results: Cardinals 10, Astros 2
Spring Training Game 4 Results: Rays 7, Astros (SS) 2 in six innings
Spring Training Game 5 Results: Astros (SS) 9, Detroit 4
Spring Training Game 6 Results: Astros 10, Blue Jays 1
Spring Training Game 7 Results: Astros 7, Yankees 6
Spring Training Game 8 Results: Astros 8, Cardinals 8
Spring Training Game 9 Results: Astros 6, Braves 5
Spring Training Game 10 Results: Pirates 8, Astros 6
Spring Training Game 11 Results: Tigers 8, Astros 5

Happy Birthday - 3/6

Happy Birthday to ~

RF Adam Bailey (25)
Drafted out of the University of Nebraska in the 23rd round in 2010, Bailey spent roughly half the season in Lancaster and half in Corpus Christi with a couple of games at Oklahoma City. His combined batting line was .264/.309/.440 with 26 doubles and ten home runs in 98 games. Bailey was slated to be the DH of the first Corpus Christi playoff game, but instead ended up in the hospital with an emergency appendectomy.

One former Astro with a birthday today ~

SS Clint Barmes (34)
Originally drafted by the Colorado Rockies in 2000, Barmes was obtained in a trade with Colorado in November of 2010 for RHP Felipe Paulino. In one season with the Astros in 2011, he had a batting line of .244/.312/.386 over 123 games. Barmes signed with Pittsburgh as a free agent in November of 2011.

Tweet of the Day

John Hinson
I can't listen to classic rock without thinkin about baseball. It's like they were made for each other

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Spring Training Update

With nine walks issued by the pitching staff, wild pitches from Jarred Cosart, Alex White and Jose Cisnero and 15 strikeouts from the hitters, perhaps the less we say about this one the better. Cosart had an uneven performance, but I'm not the least bit worried about him; it's all a part of his development. Even with all the strikeouts, four of the seven Astros hits were for extra bases including Justin Maxwell's first home run of the spring.

Spring Training Record: 5-4-2

Spring Training Game 11 Results: Tigers 8, Astros 5
Game 11 Minor League Standouts: I have to give a shoutout to two former Corpus Christi Hooks who stepped up nicely out of the bullpen. RHP Josh Zeid came in with the bases juiced and no outs and managed to limit the damage to one run which scored on a double play. He allowed no hits, walked one and struck out one in his inning of work. LHP Kevin Chapman came in to get a key out in the fifth and stayed in for the sixth, allowing no hits and no walks.

Spring Training Game 12:
Astros at Nationals at 12:05 CST (Radio only)

SPRING TRAINING RESULTS
Spring Training Game 1 Results: Astros 8, Phillies 3
Spring Training Game 2 Results: Astros 7, Mets 7
Spring Training Game 3 Results: Cardinals 10, Astros 2
Spring Training Game 4 Results: Rays 7, Astros (SS) 2 in six innings
Spring Training Game 5 Results: Astros (SS) 9, Detroit 4
Spring Training Game 6 Results: Astros 10, Blue Jays 1
Spring Training Game 7 Results: Astros 7, Yankees 6
Spring Training Game 8 Results: Astros 8, Cardinals 8
Spring Training Game 9 Results: Astros 6, Braves 5
Spring Training Game 10 Results: Pirates 8, Astros 6

Happy Birthday - 3/5

Happy Birthday to ~

LHP Erik Bedard (34)
Born in Ontario, Bedard was drafted by the Orioles in the sixth round in 1999 and made his debut for Baltimore in 2002. Over nine seasons in the major leagues with Baltimore, Seattle, Boston and Pittsburgh, Bedard has a 63-64 record with a 3.85 ERA and a 1.335 WHIP. He was signed as a free agent by the Astros to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training in January 2013.

One former Astro with a birthday today ~

CF Brian Hunter (42)
A second round draft pick for the Astros in 1989, Brian started his major league career in Houston (1994-1996) and ended it in Houston (2002-2003), but played for five other teams in between. He had a .278/.314/.377 batting line in 370 games for Houston. His best season at the plate was 1995 when he hit .302 in 78 games. Per Baseball-Reference, he was part of this trade to Detroit in December of 1996:
December 10, 1996: Traded by the Houston Astros with Doug Brocail, Todd Jones, Orlando Miller and cash to the Detroit Tigers for Brad Ausmus, Jose Lima, Trever Miller, C.J. Nitkowski and Daryle Ward.
He led the American League in stolen bases in 1997 and 1999.

Tweet of the Day

Austin Elkins
Last morning in the great state of Texas for a while

Monday, March 4, 2013

Q&A with C70 At The Bat

Cardinal's Blogger C70 At The Bat asked Appy Astros and I to weigh in with our thoughts about the upcoming Astros season. If you are so inclined, you can find the Q&A over here.

Catching up with Astros RHP Bobby Doran

I last heard from Astros RHP Bobby Doran in this interview from back in June shortly before his promotion to Corpus Christi. After that point, he continued with a very solid season leading to being named the Astros minor league Comeback Pitcher of the Year by this blog.

Photo Courtesy Bryan Green

In 2011, Bobby was 1-3 with a 9.04 ERA and a 2.010 WHIP in 22 appearances (13 starts) at Lancaster. In 27 starts between Lancaster and Corpus Christi in 2012, he was 14-6 with a 4.00 ERA and a 1.284 WHIP. His 14 wins tied Mike Foltynewicz for the most in the Astros minor league system for the 2012 season.

I recently caught up to Bobby via email before he headed to Spring Training and this is what he had to tell me.

On his offseason: "I spent my offseason training at Athletes Performance in Frisco, TX. As for the fun stuff: played golf, watched way too much football, traveled a bit, and enjoyed mom's home cooking."

On his goals for the season: "Stay healthy and give a great first impression to all those new staffers."

Thanks, Bobby, and best of luck in the new season.

Spring Training Update

Starting pitching from John Ely was a little shaky as were relief stints from Sam Demel and Jordan Lyles. The Chronicle's Brian Smith tweeted that Lyles was working on something so not to worry about Lyles, at least not yet. Edgar Gonzalez shut down the Pirate's offense after the sixth, but the damage was already done by that point. There was another pitching performance of note, but I'll get to that below. 1B Brett Wallace provided half the offensive output with a bases clearing double in the third.

Spring Training Record: 5-3-2

Spring Training Game 10 Results: Pirates 8, Astros 6
Game 10 Minor League Standouts: RHP Mike Foltynewicz made his debut with the big league camp and did a terrific job facing legit major leaguers in his one hitless inning of work. Folty struck out 2B Neil Walker, followed with a walk to 1B Garrett Jones and then erased Jones by inducing a double play from DH Brad Hawpe. Not bad at all, especially considering Mike admitted that he had a few butterflies.

Spring Training Game 11:
Astros at Pirates at 12:05 CST (Radio plus scheduled replay on MLB Network at 7:30 CST)

SPRING TRAINING RESULTS
Spring Training Game 1 Results: Astros 8, Phillies 3
Spring Training Game 2 Results: Astros 7, Mets 7
Spring Training Game 3 Results: Cardinals 10, Astros 2
Spring Training Game 4 Results: Rays 7, Astros (SS) 2 in six innings
Spring Training Game 5 Results: Astros (SS) 9, Detroit 4
Spring Training Game 6 Results: Astros 10, Blue Jays 1
Spring Training Game 7 Results: Astros 7, Yankees 6
Spring Training Game 8 Results: Astros 8, Cardinals 8
Spring Training Game 9 Results: Astros 6, Braves 5

Happy Birthday - 3/4

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP Richard Rodriguez (23)
Signed as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic, Rodriguez spent the majority of his 2012 season at Greeneville (with one start at Lexington). In nine games (seven starts), he was 2-1 with a 3.82 ERA and a 1.132 WHIP. In 35 and a third innings, he had 41 strikeouts to only 10 walks.

One former Astro with a birthday today ~

2B Andy Mota (47)
Drafted by Houston in the 12th round in 1987, Andy didn't have quite the success that his father Manny had in the major leagues. Andy appeared in 27 games for Houston in 1991, hitting .189/.198/.244. In eight minor league seasons, he hit .293/.347/.408.

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JElmo10's avatar
Holy cold front Florida!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

World Baseball Classic Update

Chinese Taipei went to 2-0 in the tournament, prevailing over the Netherlands 8-3 this morning. The Astros Che-Hsuan Lin was 0-for-4 with a strikeout in the game. Chinese Taipei will next play against Korea on Tuesday.

Brazil lost to Cuba 5-2 last night and is now 0-2 in the tournament. The Astros Murilo Gouvea did not pitch in the game. Brazil will face off against China on Tuesday.

Spring Training Update

RF J.D. Martinez had an excellent day on Saturday, going 2-for-3 with a double and a two-run home run. 1B Carlos Pena also offered up a solo shot while CF Justin Maxwell and 2B Jose Altuve contributed to the extra base onslaught with doubles. Overall the pitching was very effective with starter Dallas Keuchel allowing three singles over two scoreless innings; Phil Humber allowing two hits and one run (a solo home run) and striking out three over three innings; and Wesley Wright and C.J. Fick each recording a scoreless frame. Rudy Owens did not fare as well, allowing three unearned runs in his inning of work, but he wasn't helped by a fielding error by SS-2B Marwin Gonzalez and a throwing error by C Jason Jaramillo. Jose Valdez got his his first save of the spring.

Spring Training Record: 5-2-2

Spring Training Game 9 Results: Astros 6, Braves 5
Game 9 Minor League Standouts: No real standouts, but Delino DeShields did come in to pinch run for Marwin Gonzalez, stole a base and scored a run.

Spring Training Game 10:
Astros at Pirates at 12:05 CST (Radio only)

SPRING TRAINING RESULTS
Spring Training Game 1 Results: Astros 8, Phillies 3
Spring Training Game 2 Results: Astros 7, Mets 7
Spring Training Game 3 Results: Cardinals 10, Astros 2
Spring Training Game 4 Results: Rays 7, Astros (SS) 2 in six innings
Spring Training Game 5 Results: Astros (SS) 9, Detroit 4
Spring Training Game 6 Results: Astros 10, Blue Jays 1
Spring Training Game 7 Results: Astros 7, Yankees 6
Spring Training Game 8 Results: Astros 8, Cardinals 8

Happy Bithday - 3/3

No future Astros, only one former Astro with a birthday today ~

LHP Jack DiLauro (70)
Picked up from the Mets in the Rule 5 draft, DiLauro only spent one season with the Astros in 1970.  He went 1-3 in 42 appearances with a 4.28 ERA and a 1.515 WHIP.  In his rookie season with the Mets in 1969, he had a 2.40 ERA and a 1.068 WHIP, but did not make an appearance in the World Series for the Mets.

Tweet of the Day

Travis Ballew
Boarding the plane for my first  experience 

>>>>>>><<<<<<<

This was only one of dozens of excited tweets as all remaining Astros minor league pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training on Sunday.