Saturday, March 30, 2013

An Open Letter to the National Baseball Media

I have a new post up over at The Futurists site in which I address the National Baseball Media. Spoiler Alert: It's not a love letter. If you are so inclined, you can find it here.

Update on Adam Bailey

As you may recall, OF Adam Bailey was released by the Astros earlier this week. I have been informed that he was picked up by the Long Island Ducks in the Independent Atlantic League where he'll be playing with former major leaguers Ian Snell and Josh Barfield. We wish Adam only the best as he continues his baseball journey.

Happy Birthday - 3/30

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

LHP Jeriome Robertson (died May 29, 2010 at 33)
Robertson was drafted by Houston in the 24th round in 1995 and pitched for Houston in 2002 and 2003 before being traded to Cleveland in March of 2004 for Luke Scott. The 2003 season was Robertson's shining moment in the majors. Despite a somewhat high 5.10 ERA and 1.519 WHIP, he managed a 15-9 record. His eight appearances for Cleveland didn't impress and his last major league game was in July of 2004. He died in a motorcycle accident in May 2010 at only 33.

RHP Chris Gardner (44)
A sixth round draft pick by Houston in 1988, Gardner was 1-2 with a 4.01 ERA and a 1.338 WHIP in five games (four starts) for Houston in 1991. A September call-up, Gardner never made it back to the show.

RHP Conrad Cardinal (71)
Drafted by the Colt .45's from Detroit in November 1962, Cardinal appeared in six games (one start) for Houston in 1963 at the ripe old age of 21. Those six games constituted his entire major league career.

Tweet of the Day

Kevin Chapman
Walking over to MMP with for an exhibition game against the Cubbies

Friday, March 29, 2013

Final Spring Training Update

It was a split squad day and the results were split as well with the Astros prevailing over the Tigers while losing to Atlanta. In the Atlanta game, Lucas Harrell looked ready for primetime in his final Spring Training warmup as he allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits and a walk with five strikeouts over six innings pitched. Minor league lefty Luis Cruz allowed only one hit in the final two frames - not bad for someone who hasn't pitched above Low A yet! But the offense was only able to muster six singles in the game and never really got any traction.

Meanwhile, back at Osceola County Stadium, the Astros put a hurtin' on Anibal Sanchez' Spring ERA as the good guys collected nine runs on 11 hits, including three home runs, in his five innings. Two of those home runs came from none other than Jon Singleton (be still, my beating heart). Jason Castro and Rick Ankiel each homered as well, while Ronny Cedeno went 3-for-3 with two doubles and George Springer went 2-for-4 with a double. But I think seeing this in the boxscore pumped me up more than anything else:
DP: 2 (DeShields-Correa-Singleton, Meyer-DeShields-Singleton).
I could get used to seeing that.

Phillip Humber got the start, allowing all four of his unearned runs in the fifth, three of those coming via a two-out three-run Prince Fielder home run. He ended his final Spring Training six-inning tune-up by allowing six hits and two walks while striking out five. C.J. (don't call me Chuckie) Fick made his sixth appearance with his nice shiny 0.00 ERA intact and Wesley Wright provided a scoreless inning as well. I was happy to see Jason Stoffel, Corpus Christi's 2012 closer, get the opportunity to close out the game. After a lead-off walk, Stoffel quickly induced a double play ball and a swinging strikeout from Matt Tuiasosopo.

Minor League rosters have still not been made public, but we have learned a little more about a few pitching assignments:

AAA
Jordan Lyles
John Ely
Jarred Cosart
Rudy Owens
Paul Clemens
Brett Oberholtzer
Dallas Keuchel
Jose Cisnero

AA
Nick Tropeano
Ross Seaton

Spring Training Record: 14-16-3

As I tweeted out yesterday, the Astros record against American League teams in Grapefruit League play was 6-3-1. Here is how the team ranked in several areas:

HITTING STATS
Runs Scored: 12th
Doubles: Tied for 8th
Triples: Tied for 16th
Home Runs: Tied for 3rd
Walks: 9th
Strikeouts: 2nd (The good news is that the Mariners are 1st)
Stolen Bases: Tied for 4th
Batting Average: 22nd
OBP: 16th
SLG: 8th
OPS: 8th

PITCHING STATS
ERA: 15th
WHIP: 19th
Runs Allowed: 13th
Earned Runs Allowed: 16th
Home Runs Allowed: 19th
Walks Allowed: Tied for 24th
Strikeouts: 28th
Batting Average Allowed: 23rd
Stolen Bases Allowed: Tied for 24th

Spring Training Game 32 Results: Braves 2, Astros 0
Spring Training Game 33 Results: Astros 11, Tigers 4

Next Up: The Astros take on the Cubs in Exhibition Games Friday at 7:05 and Saturday at 1:05. Sunday's Opening Day game is at 7:05. Gates will open at 5:00.

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 2 in six innings
Spring Training Game 5 Results: Astros 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
Spring Training Game 14 Results: Braves 14, Astros 9
Spring Training Game 15 Results: Mets 9, Astros 6
Spring Training Game 16 Results: Phillies 7, Astros 1
Spring Training Game 17 Results: Astros 9, Marlins 4
Spring Training Game 18 Results: Nationals 9, Astros 7
Spring Training Game 19 Results: Nationals 6, Astros 3
Spring Training Game 20 Results: Pirates 3, Astros 2
Spring Training Game 21 Results: Astros 4, Nationals 2
Spring Training Game 22 Results: Astros 11, Blue Jays 2
Spring Training Game 23 Results: Blue Jays 10, Astros 6
Spring Training Game 24 Results: Mets 7, Astros 5
Spring Training Game 25 Results: Astros 7, Tigers 2
Spring Training Game 26 Results: Astros 3, Cardinals 2
Spring Training Game 27 Results: Braves 3, Astros 2
Spring Training Game 28 Results: Astros 4, Marlins 1
Spring Training Game 29 Results: Astros 6, Nationals 4
Spring Training Game 30 Results: Astros 4, Yankees 4 in 10 innings
Spring Training Game 31 Results: Mets 6, Astros 2
Spring Training Game 32 Results: Braves 2, Astros 0
Spring Training Game 33 Results: Astros 11, Tigers 4

Happy Birthday - 3/29

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

UT Eric Bruntlett (35)
Drafted by Houston in the ninth round in 2000, Bruntlett spent five seasons, between 2003 and 2007 playing for the Astros, hitting .250/.323/.364 over 320 games. In November of 2007, he was traded along with Brad Lidge to the Phillies for Michael Bourn, Mike Costanzo and Geoff Geary. In August 2009, he became only the second player in major league history to end a game with an unassisted triple play.

Tweet of the Day

Brandon Barnes
So glad to be back in HOUSTON.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Piggybacking Pitchers

Twitter was, well, all a-twitter with the news today that Jeff Luhnow is going to institute a piggyback/tandem pitching protocol for his minor leaguers to start the season. I could have told you that two months ago. As a matter of fact, I did! If you're interested in reading how this will work, here it is as explained by Jeff Luhnow himself!

Checking in with Delino DeShields

As you may recall, Delino DeShields has agreed to check in from time to time throughout the season and let us know how things are going for him. (Here's the first of our chats from back in January.) I had the opportunity to talk with Delino earlier in the week before he received his assignment to Lancaster.

WTH: How would you compare this Spring Training with last year's?

DD: It's definitely different. The new uniforms, all the new people who came in this year, and the competition level is amazing. Everybody's better. Everyone is competing for a spot. The whole atmosphere is better than it has been.

WTH: What do you feel like you've accomplished during the Spring? Anything you're working on?

DD: I feel like I've done the things I need [to do] to take me to the next level, but I'm just trying to get ready for the season at the end of the day. Of course, I'm working on stuff, but Spring Training is just to get your feet wet again and get you ready for the season. I haven't really been working on anything specifically, but I'm just trying to get it going and get the motor running.

WTH: What has the experience been like, being a part of the major league camp?

DD: It's cool. Growing up, I've been in that situation as a kid, as a son. And to be in that environment now and thinking back when I was a kid in the same kind of surroundings ... now it's here, me. I'm playing. I'm on this team. I'm in this clubhouse because of what I've been doing. It's pretty cool. It feels good being up there. I'll be there for a long time one day. Getting to be up there and getting to feel what it's going to be like is really fun.

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

Delino and I shared a laugh when I asserted that I think he has his "motor running" pretty well already. His final words to me? "Everybody looks good in the blue and orange!"

Thank you for your time, Delino. We all wish you the best of luck in Lancaster and hope to see you just down the road in Corpus Christi sooner rather than later.

Spring Training Update

I'm kind of glad I missed this one as the Mets Jon Neise and company weren't very nice to your hometown heroes, limiting the Astros to only three hits, all singles. The good news is that one of those hits came in Carlos Correa's first at-bat of the night and he promptly stole a base. He was also credited with an RBI in the eighth inning on a bases loaded force out. Not too shabby for an 18-year old man-child. Delino DeShields also factored in the scoring as he drew a walk in the eighth and eventually scored from third on a wild pitch.

Edgar Gonzalez got the start, allowing three runs on four hits and a walk over three innings. The bullpen had an up and down night, but Jose Veras had an outstanding inning, striking out all three batters that he faced.

Minor league assignments came out yesterday and we learned a few of them from the media, but the actual rosters are not public yet. I will post them as soon as I get them. Here are a few of the assignments we know:

Delino DeShields - Lancaster
George Springer - Corpus Christi
Jonathan Singleton - Oklahoma City
Carlos Correa - Quad Cities (he thinks, but he's not 100% sure)

Spring Training Record: 13-15-3

Spring Training Game 31 Results: Mets 6, Astros 2

Spring Training Games 32 and 33:
Tigers at Astros (SS) at 12:05 CST (Radio only)
Astros (SS) at Braves at 12:05 CST (Road feed on MLB At-Bat only)

These will be the final two grapefruit league games. The Astros will head back to Houston for two exhibition games with the Cubs on Friday and Saturday prior to Sunday's season opener.

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
Spring Training Game 14 Results: Braves 14, Astros 9
Spring Training Game 15 Results: Mets 9, Astros 6
Spring Training Game 16 Results: Phillies 7, Astros 1
Spring Training Game 17 Results: Astros 9, Marlins 4
Spring Training Game 18 Results: Nationals 9, Astros 7
Spring Training Game 19 Results: Nationals 6, Astros 3
Spring Training Game 20 Results: Pirates 3, Astros 2
Spring Training Game 21 Results: Astros 4, Nationals 2
Spring Training Game 22 Results: Astros 11, Blue Jays 2
Spring Training Game 23 Results: Blue Jays 10, Astros 6
Spring Training Game 24 Results: Mets 7, Astros 5
Spring Training Game 25 Results: Astros 7, Tigers 2
Spring Training Game 26 Results: Astros 3, Cardinals 2
Spring Training Game 27 Results: Braves 3, Astros 2
Spring Training Game 28 Results: Astros 4, Marlins 1
Spring Training Game 29 Results: Astros 6, Nationals 4
Spring Training Game 30 Results: Astros 4, Yankees 4 in 10 innings

Happy Birthday - 3/28

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

1B Glenn Davis (52)
Davis, a first round draft pick (fifth overall) for Houston in 1981, played for the Astros from 1984 to 1990, hitting .262/.337/.483 with 150 doubles, 10 triples and 166 home runs over 830 games. Davis was a two-time All-Star and also won the Silver Slugger Award before being traded to the Orioles in January of 1991 for Pete Harnisch, Curt Schilling and  Steve Finley. After a disappointing tenure with the Orioles, he ended up back in the minor leagues and eventually played for two seasons in Japan. According to Baseball-Reference:
He returned in 1996 [to Japan] and became the 10th player in Nippon Pro Baseball history to hit a sayonara (walk-off) grand slam home run to win a game; he was the first gaijin to accomplish that.
Ironically, he never hit a grand slam in the MLB.

RHP Mark Melancon (28)
Drafted by the Yankees in the ninth round in 2006, Melancon came to Houston along with Jimmy Paredes in the Lance Berkman trade in July 2010. Melancon pitched in 91 games for Houston in 2010 and 2011, going 10-4 with a 2.85 ERA, a 1.211 WHIP and 20 saves. Melancon was traded to Boston in December 2011 for Jed Lowrie and Kyle Weiland and was subsequently traded to Pittsburgh in December 2012.

Tweet of the Day

Travis Ballew
4 days till the are beating up on the on

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring Training Update & Miscellaneous Musings

I would ask that my readers indulge me momentarily (but feel free to skip ahead if you so desire). I have spent a good chunk of time over the last week seeing the worst part of humanity. I have seen more thoroughly damaged and flawed individuals in the last week than I've seen in the last year, five years, maybe more. I have seen people whose decisions have resulted in ruined and shattered lives. It has been a very difficult week for me. But it makes me appreciate my life and everyone and everything in my life so much more. I'm so happy to put that behind me. And baseball helps me put it behind. Last night, I lost myself in the game, kidded around with my twitter family and momentarily forgot the ugliness that I've encountered over the last few days. Baseball helps us get through the bad times as I was reminded in this nice piece I saw yesterday from a fellow Astros fan. Sorry for the digression, but thank you for being my sounding board, my safety net and my extended family.

Speaking of the worst part of humanity, the Astros faced the Yankees last night (I kid, I kid). Brad Peacock got the start and allowed one run on two hits and two walks while striking out one in five innings of work in his final attempt to nail down the remaining open spot in the rotation. Wesley Wright and C.J. "don't call me Chuckie" Fick were a bit shaky in the sixth inning, but then the bullpen went into lockdown mode, culminating in an excellent outing in the tenth from minor-leaguer Andrew Robinson who spent 2012 toiling in the Cali League.

Six of the 10 Astros hits were for extra bases, including five doubles and a Brandon Barnes home run, his fifth of the spring. Barnes also contributed an outstanding outfield assist that managed to get the attention of the Yankees announcers, no mean feat. Barnes had a tough start with the Astros when he was called up last season, but this spring he has shown why he has been a fan favorite everywhere he's played. I sincerely hope that he can build on his spring success when the season starts.

Spring Training Record: 13-14-3

Spring Training Game 30 Results: Astros 4, Yankees 4 in 10 innings

Spring Training Game 31:
Astros at Mets at 5:10 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
Spring Training Game 14 Results: Braves 14, Astros 9
Spring Training Game 15 Results: Mets 9, Astros 6
Spring Training Game 16 Results: Phillies 7, Astros 1
Spring Training Game 17 Results: Astros 9, Marlins 4
Spring Training Game 18 Results: Nationals 9, Astros 7
Spring Training Game 19 Results: Nationals 6, Astros 3
Spring Training Game 20 Results: Pirates 3, Astros 2
Spring Training Game 21 Results: Astros 4, Nationals 2
Spring Training Game 22 Results: Astros 11, Blue Jays 2
Spring Training Game 23 Results: Blue Jays 10, Astros 6
Spring Training Game 24 Results: Mets 7, Astros 5
Spring Training Game 25 Results: Astros 7, Tigers 2
Spring Training Game 26 Results: Astros 3, Cardinals 2
Spring Training Game 27 Results: Braves 3, Astros 2
Spring Training Game 28 Results: Astros 4, Marlins 1
Spring Training Game 29 Results: Astros 6, Nationals 4

Happy Birthday - 3/27

Happy Birthday to ~

LHP Joe Bircher (23)
Drafted in the 10th round in 2012 out of Bradley University, Bircher spent his first professional season with the Tri-City ValleyCats. In 13 starts, he was 3-4 with a 3.32 ERA and a 1.477 WHIP.

Tweet of the Day

Kenny Long
Watching these little kids in the car next to me making fart noises with their armpits just made my day

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

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

A couple weeks ago, I wrote this piece about a few position players for whom THIS IS GOING TO BE A BIG YEAR. This is something I heard time and again in my recent conversations with John Manuel of Baseball America, Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com and others. 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. Today, let's look at a few pitchers whose ultimate fate in the organization may be either helped or hindered by the year they have.

RHP Paul Clemens
Going into the 2012 season, Paul Clemens was ranked as the number 5 prospect in the Astros system by Baseball America. Coming into the 2013 season, he is ranked at number 27. What happened? Clemens struggled in 20 starts at AAA Oklahoma City (6.73 ERA and 1.741 WHIP) before being demoted to Corpus Christi at the end of the season. Clemens has a great deal of talent and I don't think the 25-year old will be going anywhere even if he  has another subpar year in 2013. However, after seeing him pitch extremely effectively out of the bullpen in Kissimmee during Spring Training, I am convinced that he may eventually get moved in that direction unless he can start showing a more consistent and effective approach in his starts at the higher level.

RHP Josh Zeid
Josh Zeid is one of those guys that you cannot help but pull for. He is extremely nice and genuine, and he was probably one of the best teammates and biggest cheerleaders on the Hooks team last season. He also has excellent "stuff." What he doesn't have is consistency, but it is my sincerest belief that Zeid's lack of consistency is 99% mental. He needs to master the mental part of the game to get to the next level.

LHP Kyle Hallock
Hallock, the 10th round pick in 2011, had a very good freshman season with Tri-City that year but was largely ineffective in his seven appearances at Lexington. He ultimately had surgery to clean out loose bodies in his pitching elbow and was healthy enough to make five rehab appearances at the end of the season. If Hallock proves to be healthy and can recreate his excellent 2011 numbers, the 24-year old could open some eyes this season.

RHP Tanner Bushue
Drafted in the second round in 2009, Bushue took a giant step backward in his development in 2012 as he struggled badly at Lexington at the start of the season and was subsequently sent back to extended Spring Training. He ended up back in Greeneville where he made 16 appearances, all but one out of the bullpen, and ended with a 5.65 ERA, a 1.849 WHIP and 10.7 SO/9 at the level. He finished the season very strongly, however, with a 0.57 ERA, 0.894 WHIP and 13.2 SO/9 in August in seven long relief outings. There is still time for Bushue to get back on track as he will only be 22 in June, but coming into his fifth season in the system, he has a lot to prove and he will need to do so quickly and emphatically.

LHP Christopher Lee
There are two reasons that the fourth round 2011 pick is probably not in danger of being released if he doesn't have a good season. He won't turn 21 until August and he's a lefty. Lefties always get extra looks. But with the infusion of left-handed pitching into the system by Jeff Luhnow and another draft imminent, he could find himself stuck back in Greeneville for his third season. If he can't find his way out of Greeneville and competing effectively at a higher level by the end of the season, all bets are off. Lee only pitched eight and two-thirds innings in five games in 2012 and had very poor results. He was never officially placed on the disabled list, but did not pitch again after July 26th.

Undoubtedly, 2013 will prove to be a BIG YEAR for many players in the Astros organization. These are just a few that I'm keeping my eye on.

Spring Training Update

The Astros improved to one game shy of .500 for the spring, largely on the strength of a five-run inning in which Jonathan Singleton smoked, er, bashed a bases-loaded triple in his cameo performance with the big league club. Trevor Crowe contributed an RBI single and Matt Dominguez an RBI double to round out the five-run seventh. Marwin Gonzalez and Fernando Martinez both had multi-hit games.

Starter Alex White allowed four runs on nine hits and two walks over five innings, but the bullpen shut the door with scoreless frames from Josh Fields, Jose Veras, Hector Ambriz and Xavier Cedeno.

The opening day roster situation was further clarified as the Astros announced nine additional players who had made the cut. The only one of these that was still in doubt (for me) was Brandon Barnes who beat out Trevor Crowe for the final outfield position. I am thrilled to see him given the opportunity. The other odd man out was Brandon Laird, who despite having a terrific spring, was the victim of a numbers game.

In addition, Erik Bedard and Rick Ankiel will reportedly be making the team (no surprise) which means they will need to be placed on the 40-man roster. It has already been reported that Tyler Greene will not be making the team, but the Astros will need to remove another player from the 40-man roster in order to make those moves official.

According to Brian McTaggart, Chia-Jen Lo was reassigned to minor league camp and will start the season in Corpus Christi as the team's closer. It is my understanding that the minor league players will be given their assignments within the next day or so.

Spring Training Record: 13-14-2

Spring Training Game 29 Results: Astros 6, Nationals 4

Spring Training Game 30:
Astros at Yankees at 6:05 CST (Radio and MLB Network)

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
Spring Training Game 14 Results: Braves 14, Astros 9
Spring Training Game 15 Results: Mets 9, Astros 6
Spring Training Game 16 Results: Phillies 7, Astros 1
Spring Training Game 17 Results: Astros 9, Marlins 4
Spring Training Game 18 Results: Nationals 9, Astros 7
Spring Training Game 19 Results: Nationals 6, Astros 3
Spring Training Game 20 Results: Pirates 3, Astros 2
Spring Training Game 21 Results: Astros 4, Nationals 2
Spring Training Game 22 Results: Astros 11, Blue Jays 2
Spring Training Game 23 Results: Blue Jays 10, Astros 6
Spring Training Game 24 Results: Mets 7, Astros 5
Spring Training Game 25 Results: Astros 7, Tigers 2
Spring Training Game 26 Results: Astros 3, Cardinals 2
Spring Training Game 27 Results: Braves 3, Astros 2
Spring Training Game 28 Results: Astros 4, Marlins 1

Happy Birthday - 3/26

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

RHP Shane Reynolds (45)
Drafted by the Astros in the third round in 1989, Reynolds pitched for Houston from 1992 to 2002. He had a 103-86 record over 274 appearances (248 starts) with an ERA of 3.95 and a WHIP of 1.292. His best season was 1998 when he went 19-8 with a 3.51 ERA and a 1.329 WHIP. In 1999 he led the National League in SO/BB ratio and sacrifice hits, and was finally given an All-Star nod in 2000.

IF Jose Vizcaino (45)
Vizcaino played in 18 seasons for eight different teams, five of those for Houston from 2001 to 2005 where he batted .276/.316/.369 in 559 games. He led the National League in fielding percentage and assists by a shortstop in 1995 for the Mets. In 2000, he had the game-winning hit for the Yankees in Game 1 of the Subway World Series between the Yankees and the Mets.

Tweet of the Day

Jake Elmore
Alarm clock, I hate you.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Checking in with Mike Foltynewicz

As you may recall, Mike Foltynewicz has agreed to check in from time to time throughout the season and let us know how things are going for him. (Here's the first of our chats from back in early February.) I had the opportunity to talk with Mike this past Friday, shortly after his golf outing.

Mike Foltynewicz
Photo by Jayne Hansen

WTH: How would you compare this Spring Training with Spring Training a year ago?

MF: We didn't have that many trade guys coming in and that much competition really last year. It was more laid back, just trying to go in and to get your work done. We kind of knew our positions already half way in Spring Training. This year, I got called in and [was told], 'You'll compete with eight guys to go to a team.' And that's way different from last year. It's a lot more competition this year. We've got more guys that came in from trades and the new draft guys and older guys trickling down from [major league camp] and it's a whole different level. It's friendly competition basically, but it's a little more competitive than last year. You can kind of feel it in the air when you're out there practicing. Guys are really trying to compete for the club out there.

WTH: How would you characterize the general atmosphere and the coaching as compared to a year ago?

MF: Last year it was a lot more laid back I guess you could say, and this year they're really pushing us and really getting on us. They want to compete and they want to win also, just like us. They're out there every day giving it their all just like us. It's a pretty big difference. Mr. Luhnow did a good job bringing in a lot of new guys that are pretty good and know what they're doing so it's really exciting this year. Last year was just kind of going through the motions and this year it's pretty intense, pretty exciting.

WTH: What do you feel you've accomplished so far this spring?

MF: I think I've accomplished a lot. I've proved myself. I think the number one question was, 'Was last year a fluke or could he do it again, have a good year wherever he's at.' I think I've proved a lot. I even got a big league inning a couple weeks ago and I've done pretty good. I think I've thrown about seven innings in Spring Training so far and I've only given up two hits and one walk and some of those were against major league batters and AAA guys.

My fastball command has been a lot better than in previous years and my curveball's coming along great and my change up is coming along outstanding. I think I've basically started where I left off last year and brought it into Spring Training, more confident and doing a little bit more to try to earn a spot in Corpus because, like I said, they told me when I came in that there would be eight or nine fighting for a spot in Corpus. 'You've got to go out there and show us that's where you want to be,' and I think I've gone out there and done that for sure.

Good Luck, Mike! I hope to check in with you again in a few weeks.

Roster Moves

There were another two minor league cuts this morning, OF Adam Bailey and C Ben Heath. These things are never easy, but this one feels a little personal for me. I've never had the opportunity to meet Ben, but I did have the privilege of getting to know Adam just a little. He is a tremendous person - funny, smart and a great friend to his teammates. I wish the best for both players, but a little piece of my heart will be leaving with Adam.

In addition, Brian McTaggart reported that Mike Kvasnicka, a first round pick from 2010, was traded to the Twins for minor league RHP Gonzalo Sanudo.

Spring Training Update

I'll be offering up an abbreviated post on what turned out to be an abbreviated game as monsoon season came to Florida early this year. Minor-leaguer David Martinez had a solid start in his outing against the Marlins, allowing one run on eight hits and no walks over four innings. With the wind blowing out at about 35 mph on Sunday, the Astros couldn't have picked a better man than Martinez who survived last season intact after pitching at Lancaster, where gusty winds are the norm. Jose Veras allowed two hits and no runs in his one inning of work in the rain-shortened game.

As far as the offense goes, the Astros collected three more hits than they did on Saturday despite the game being called with two outs in the bottom of the fifth. And they were not cheap hits. Fernando Martinez had an RBI double; Ronny Cedeno tripled; and Brett Wallace hit a two-run shot into the atmosphere, seeding the clouds and causing the heavens to open (not really, but it was a no-doubter, wind or not). Rick Ankiel was 2-for-2 with a walk and Jose Altuve walked twice and stole a base.

It was also announced on Saturday that J.D. Martinez was being optioned to AAA and Jason Jaramillo was being sent to minor league camp as well, leaving 34 in major league camp. Brian McTaggart also reported that Tyler Greene is not making the team and the Astros will try to deal him.

Spring Training Record: 12-14-2

Spring Training Game 28 Results: Astros 4, Marlins 1

Spring Training Game 29:
Nationals at Astros at 5:05 CST (Radio, CSN and MLB Network on delay)

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
Spring Training Game 14 Results: Braves 14, Astros 9
Spring Training Game 15 Results: Mets 9, Astros 6
Spring Training Game 16 Results: Phillies 7, Astros 1
Spring Training Game 17 Results: Astros 9, Marlins 4
Spring Training Game 18 Results: Nationals 9, Astros 7
Spring Training Game 19 Results: Nationals 6, Astros 3
Spring Training Game 20 Results: Pirates 3, Astros 2
Spring Training Game 21 Results: Astros 4, Nationals 2
Spring Training Game 22 Results: Astros 11, Blue Jays 2
Spring Training Game 23 Results: Blue Jays 10, Astros 6
Spring Training Game 24 Results: Mets 7, Astros 5
Spring Training Game 25 Results: Astros 7, Tigers 2
Spring Training Game 26 Results: Astros 3, Cardinals 2
Spring Training Game 27 Results: Braves 3, Astros 2

Happy Birthday - 3/25

No future Astros with birthdays today, and only one former Astro ~

RHP Mike Nagy (65)
Obtained in a trade from the Cardinals in December 1973, Nagy only pitched in nine games for Houston in 1974 at the end of his major league career with less than desirable results.  His best season was his rookie season in 1969, when he was 12-2 with a 3.11 ERA and a 1.469 WHIP in 33 appearances (28 starts) for Boston.  He was second only to Lou Pinella in AL Rookie of the Year voting that year.  According to Baseball-Reference:
After his stint in the US ended, Nagy starred in the Mexican League from 1976-1979. He led the Liga in ERA in 1978 and his 2.01 career ERA is the lowest in LMB history among hurlers with 500+ innings.

Tweet of the Day

Michael Dimock 
Wow Florida Gulf Coast is stupid good

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Spring Training Update

Saturday was one of those days where you just tip your cap to the opposing pitcher and move on. Braves top prospect Julio Teheran showed why he is so highly regarded as he no-hit the Astros through six innings, striking out 10. Rick Ankiel collected the only two Astros hits, including a two-run home run that kept the game from being a shutout.

Starting pitcher Phillip Humber allowed three runs on three hits (all solo homers) in his six innings of work. He didn't walk a batter and struck out four. Josh Fields and Rhiner Cruz each pitched a perfect inning in relief.

Spring Training Record: 11-14-2

Spring Training Game 27 Results: Braves 3, Astros 2

Spring Training Game 28:
Marlins at Astros at 12:05 CST (Radio, CSN and MLB Network on delay)
Astros minor league pitcher RHP David Martinez will take the mound for the Astros. Here is what I had to say about Martinez in my season recap for Lancaster at the end of the 2012 season:
In particular, RHP David Martinez had a solid season finishing 11th in the league among qualifying pitchers with a 4.38 ERA and eighth in the league with a 1.335 WHIP in 27 games (26 starts). But it was the way that he finished the season that should open some eyes. In his last 10 appearances, he was 7-1 with a 2.87 ERA and a 1.293 WHIP. He went on to a 2-0 record in the post-season with a 3.75 ERA and a 1.250 WHIP.
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
Spring Training Game 14 Results: Braves 14, Astros 9
Spring Training Game 15 Results: Mets 9, Astros 6
Spring Training Game 16 Results: Phillies 7, Astros 1
Spring Training Game 17 Results: Astros 9, Marlins 4
Spring Training Game 18 Results: Nationals 9, Astros 7
Spring Training Game 19 Results: Nationals 6, Astros 3
Spring Training Game 20 Results: Pirates 3, Astros 2
Spring Training Game 21 Results: Astros 4, Nationals 2
Spring Training Game 22 Results: Astros 11, Blue Jays 2
Spring Training Game 23 Results: Blue Jays 10, Astros 6
Spring Training Game 24 Results: Mets 7, Astros 5
Spring Training Game 25 Results: Astros 7, Tigers 2
Spring Training Game 26 Results: Astros 3, Cardinals 2

Roster Moves

1B Nate Freiman was claimed off waivers by Oakland on Saturday, a move that wasn't totally unexpected as the Astros didn't have the luxury of keeping Freiman on the roster in addition to 1B Carlos Pena and 1B Brett Wallace (not to mention Chris Carter whose natural position is first base). It was widely reported that GM Jeff Luhnow tried to work a deal to keep Freiman and put him on a minor league contract, but the Rule 5 draft pick was instead claimed off waivers.

Nate Freiman
Photo by Jayne Hansen

The Astros are also going to have to clear a couple (or more) 40-man roster spots if they intend to break camp with Rick Ankiel and Erik Bedard (or even possibly Brandon Laird) since none of those players are currently on the 40-man. So, color me surprised when the 40-man vacancy was immediately gobbled up by the imminent signing of SS Ronny Cedeno who was recently released by the Cardinals. The move does not bode well for the future of Tyler Greene who has struggled during Spring Training.

In addition, according to Baseball America, the Astros signed OF Raoul Torrez to a minor league contract. Torrez was recently released by the Diamondbacks organization.

Finally, although I haven't seen any official confirmation of this, I have been told by a source that Erick Abreu and Adalberto Flores have signed to play in Mexico and that Henry Villar is out of baseball. Abreu and Villar pitched out of the bullpen for Corpus Christi last season and Flores split his time between Corpus Christi and Oklahoma City. Again, I have no independent confirmation of this.

I have also updated the Off-Season Transaction List, which I have neglected for the last couple of weeks.

Happy Birthday - 3/24

RHP Josh Zeid (26)
Drafted by the Phillies in the 10th round in 2009 from Tulane, Zeid came to Houston as part of the Hunter Pence trade in July 2011. Zeid spent the 2012 season with the Corpus Christi AA team. In 47 appearnces, he was 2-0 with a 5.59 ERA and a 1.367 WHIP. Zeid proudly represented Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic Qualifier last fall.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

OF Jesus Alou (71)
Alou originally came to Houston as a part of the Rusty Staub trade with the Expos in January of 1969 and spent 1969 through part of the 1973 season with Houston and returned to the team for the 1978 and 1979 seasons as well. In 553 games for Houston, he hit .282/.313/.366. He spent all or parts of 15 seasons in the major leagues playing for four different teams, including the 1973 and 1974 World Series champion Oakland teams. He is the brother of Felipe and Matty Alou and uncle to Moises Alou.

RHP Jose Cabrera (41)
Acquired in a trade with Cleveland in May 1997, Cabrera pitched in 93 games over four seasons for Houston with a 4.32 ERA and a 1.302 WHIP before being claimed off waivers by Atlanta in April of 2001.  He had his most successful season in the majors for Atlanta that year, going 7-4 in 55 games with a 2.88 ERA and a 1.298 WHIP. After one final season in the majors with Milwaukee in 2002, he kept playing in the minors, in independent ball and in Mexico.  In 2012, at age 40, he pitched in 30 games for Tobasco in the Mexican League, going 1-0 with 23 saves, a 1.14 ERA and a 0.663 WHIP.

RHP Jose "Papa Grande" Valverde (35)
Acquired in a trade with Arizona for Chris Burke, Juan Gutierrez and Chad Qualls in December 2007, Valverde pitched for Houston for two seasons, going 10-5 with 69 saves, a 2.93 ERA and a 1.159 WHIP.  A three-time All-Star for Arizona and Detroit, he was the league leader in saves three times as well. He is currently a free agent.

Tweet of the Day

Bobby Doran
Bold Prediction of the Night: A #5 or higher seed will win