Saturday, May 4, 2013

Getting to Know Astros Catcher Roberto Peña

Roberto Peña, a seventh round pick in 2010 out of Puerto Rico, is seen by many to be the best defensive catcher in the Astros system. But it is his bat that is getting some attention right now. Peña has hit .371/.412/.532 with four doubles, two home runs and ten RBI in 16 games for Quad Cities this season. He is currently on an 11-game hitting streak and has hit safely in 15 of 16 games.

Peña, who won't be 21 until next month, started last season with Low A Lexington but was pressed into service at High A Lancaster when catcher injuries in the system took their toll, and although he was starting to catch up to the High A level with his bat toward the end of the season, the Astros wanted him to really concentrate on his hitting, working with Hitting Coach Joel Chimelis in Quad Cities to start this season. So far, so good.

According to Chimelis, he has been working with Peña on making a minor adjustment and "right now he feels pretty comfortable with it." Chimelis continued, "Now he's hitting the ball and he's hitting it with some authority whereas before ... he'd get his hits, but it was soft contact. I wanted him to drive the ball and the position he was getting into wasn't allowing him to do that. So far, he feels pretty comfortable with [the adjustments] and he's seeing the ball great."

Ariel Ovando and Roberto Peña (R) - April 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

I spoke with Peña on Sunday about his hitting, among many other things, "I’m trying to be more balanced on my stance because I was leaning forward when I was hitting last year. I was talking to our hitting coaches, [Minor League Hitting Coordinator] Ralph [Dickenson] and Chimelis, and they put me on a plan that I can be more balanced on my stance so that’s been working a lot with me." Peña was a little disappointed to be starting the season at Low A after finishing 2012 at High A Lancaster, but he assured me, "I’ve got to still play and still play hard and do my stuff. They sent me over here to work on my hitting with Chimelis and that’s what I’m doing."

I wondered how the tandem pitching program affects the catcher. According to Peña, his preparation for games does take a bit more time, "It’s tough but we’ve got to deal with it. It’s the minor leagues. That’s our job."

Are there any pitchers on the Quad Cities staff that really stand out for one reason or another? "They’re all pretty good. I love to catch this pitching staff that we’ve got here. They throw a lot of strikes, and they throw the ball down. That’s pretty good for a catcher and for them too. If I were to name a guy, probably [Vincent] Velasquez is pretty good. He throws hard. He throws the ball down and can throw all his pitches for strikes."

I then asked him some of my random questions. On which Astros pitcher he would least like to face, Peña noted, "Probably [Nick] Tropeano. He’s filthy. He’s got a good change up, a good split, throws hard, good curveball." On who on the team makes him laugh, "Probably [Teoscar] Hernandez and [Jesse] Wierzbicki. They’re the two funniest guys on our team. [Hernandez is] quiet on the field. In the clubhouse, he’s a funny guy." On what he'd do if he couldn't play baseball, "Probably [be] an engineer. That’s what I like. I was going to go to school to study engineering."

Most people probably don't know that Peña was originally a shortstop, "I was a shortstop and when I was in Puerto Rico, [I was] getting a little big [and was told] you’ve got to move to third base or catching, but we’re going to try you at catching. And I said, 'OK, let’s go.' And I got my times [throwing to second] and my first time, my pop time to second base was 1.87 and that was my first throw, and I [thought] 'Wow!' And after, I threw a couple [at] 1.76, 1.79 and I stayed there." Which is probably why Peña has a career caught stealing percentage of 39% and is actually throwing out 67% of runners trying to steal on him this season.

Which brings us back to the core of who Roberto Peña is. He is a catcher, pure and simple, and a very good one at that. I talked to Quad Cities Pitching Coach Dave Borkowski who had this to say about Peña, "It's like throwing to a pillow back there. He's smart. He calls a great game so all you've got to do is concentrate about executing pitches. He's a lot of fun to throw to. He's energetic. I think he makes the guys focus and concentrate better when he's back there. He makes sure they're locked in and they're in the game." Chimelis added this in describing Peña, "If you don't notice a catcher, like just so quiet back there [that] you don't even know he's there, that means he's catching every ball, nothing's getting past him. That's the sign of a good catcher."

When I asked Peña to brag on himself, he told me that he tries to "call a good game, throw good, block good" adding, "If the pitcher struggles, [I] go talk to him. I’m probably average to above average with all that stuff." Borkowski would disagree with Peña's assessment of himself, "He's a very good catcher. He could probably catch in the big leagues right now."

And that brings us full circle to Peña's hitting. When I spoke with Chimelis, I theorized that Peña has what it takes to be a major leaguer and that his floor is that of a very good back-up catcher in the major leagues. But if he can hit, he can write his own ticket. Chimelis agreed that if Peña can hit .250 or .260 at every level, the sky is the limit for him and that's what they've been working on, "We're trying to put him in a position where he can have success at the higher levels, where it doesn't matter where he hits, he could compete and have some success." .371/.412/.532 ... so far, so good.

Thanks to Roberto Peña, Joel Chimelis and Dave Borkowski for taking the time to speak with me. And the best of luck to Peña as the season unfolds.

Happy Birthday - 5/4

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

3B/2B Ken Oberkfell (57)
Oberkfell played in 16 seasons in the majors for six different teams.  A career .278 hitter, he played for Houston in 1990 and 1991 toward the end of his career and only managed a .214 batting average over 130 games for the Astros. In two World Series (1982 for St. Louis and 1989 for San Francisco) he hit .300 in 11 games.

OF Jason Michaels (37)
Originally drafted by the Phillies in the fourth round in 1998, Michaels came to Houston as a free agent before the 2009 season. In three years with the Astros, Michaels hit .231/.296/.400 over 297 games. He finished his career with a .263/.335/.407 batting line.

C Robinson Cancel (37)
Cancel was drafted by Milwaukee in the 16th round in 1994 out of high school in Puerto Rico. He has played in 20 seasons of minor league, independent ball and now Mexican League baseball.  He played in 45 games at the major league level, but only two games for Houston in 2011 (in which he went hitless). He is currently playing for Minatitlan in the Mexican League.

Tweet of the Day

Kevin Chapman
100% chance we play today either in the snow or on the field
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Astros Minor League Recaps


Friday's Games

Quad Cities River Bandits 3, South Bend Silver Hawks 2
The River Bandits were no-hit for the first six innings on Friday, but the offense came alive and pitching held strong as they rallied to snatch the win. Jordan Jankowski took the hill first for Quad Cities and after giving up a run in both the first and second innings, settled down and went on to record 1-2-3 innings in the third and fifth frames. Jankowski left after five, having allowed two runs on four hits, walking two and striking out five. Brian Holmes (3-2) came on next and earned his third win of the season after pitching three innings. Holmes allowed just three hits and struck out three during his shift. John Neely earned his fourth save after finishing the 1-2-3 ninth inning, all batters being retired on ground balls. Miles Hamblin got things started offensively for the River Cats in the seventh inning with their first hit of the game and ended up two-for-three with a walk and a lead-clinching RBI single in the ninth. Teoscar Hernandez batted one-for-four in the game with a run scored and RBI on his two-out homer in the eighth frame, his first homerun of the season. Also of note, Roberto Peña hit one-for-three on Friday and extended his hitting streak to 11 games.

Lancaster JetHawks 7, High Desert Mavericks 9
The JetHawks lost what ended up being a roller coaster ride of a game on the road in Adelanto on Friday. Lancaster got on the board early with three runs in the first but lost the lead after dropping six unearned runs in the fourth. Tyson Perez, who threw for those first three and two thirds, left the game after recording seven runs (1ER) on nine hits with two walks and two Ks. Jonas Dufek followed Perez for an inning and a third on the bump and retired the four batters he saw in order, striking out the first. David Rollins (2-3) came to the mound in the sixth inning to finish out the game and ended up with the tough loss even though Lancaster tied the game in top of the seventh on a Nolan Fontana long ball. With two outs in the seventh Rollins walked a batter then gave up a single followed by a two-RBI double to put the JetHawks behind again. Fontana finished with an outstanding night at the plate, hitting four-for-five with an RBI, three runs scored and a stolen base. At one AB shy of 100, Fontana is batting .384 on the season so far. Telvin Nash and Andrew Aplin both hit two-for-four with RBIs; Aplin also had a double, walk and scored two runs.  

Midland RockHounds 4, Corpus Christi Hooks 10
Corpus Christi crept out to an early lead in the first inning and followed that with a five-run second; four runs and six and a half innings later, they were celebrating their fourth win a row, marking their second series sweep at home this season. Ruben Alaniz was first on the mound and through his three innings he gave up four runs on six hits while walking two and striking out four. Pat Urckfitz came on for one inning after Alaniz and after walking the first batter he faced, retired the next three on ground balls. Matt Heidenreich (2-2) took the helm for the final five innings and combined with Urckfitz's inning for six shutout innings at home, Friday. Heidenreich walked one, K-ed three and gave up just three hits during his time, all singles, while recording 1-2-3 innings in the seventh and eighth frames. The Hooks' offense was on fire, all but three batters recorded a hit in the game and of those three, all but one walked. Corpus Christi collected 13 hits and 6 were for extra bases including a triple and George Springer's ninth homer of the season; Springer leads the Texas League. Here's the box score, because a picture here will save about 1,000 words:

Oklahoma City RedHawks, Iowa Cubs
-Game postponed due to weather, will be played Sunday (5/5) as part of a doubleheader.

Player of the Day: I have two words for you, Nolan Fontana. The guy was a one man show Friday in Adelanto. The JetHawks may not have gotten the "W", but either way Fontana gets the crown today. Great game, Fontana.

Pitcher of the Day: Matt Heidenreich pitched a solid five frames Friday and not only earned the win, but the WTHB honors as well. Giving up just three singles over five innings is the baseball version of a wrestler kissing his bicep then flexing it while standing with one foot on his defeated opponent's chest.


Friday, May 3, 2013

Astros Minor League Recaps

Thursday's Games

Oklahoma City over Nashville 9-1
Oklahoma City extended its winning streak to seven games with some great pitching and ridiculous offensive output from birthday boy Jonathan Villar. Asher Wojciechowski didn't waste any time getting his feet wet at AAA, pitching four innings and allowing one run on three hits and a walk with five strikeouts. He was followed by a scoreless inning from C.J. (Don't Call Me Chuckie) Fick and perfect outings from Jason Stoffel (1IP), Josh Zeid (2IP 3SO) and Jose (Don't Call Me Juan) Valdez (1IP). Jonathan Villar got things started offensively by driving in two with a double in the fourth. He then promptly stole a base and scored on a balk. The fifth inning featured back-to-back triples from Jake Elmore and Jimmy Paredes (3x4 RBI R). In the sixth, it was back to the Jonathan Villar show with a solo home run. Then in the seventh, Villar shared the glory with Carlos Perez (2x3 BB) as they each drove in two runs via singles. Brett Wallace was one-for-three with a walk and scored twice. Marc Krauss also scored twice and walked thrice.

Corpus Christi over Midland 6-1
David Martinez got his third win of the season as he pitched five scoreless innings. His ERA currently stands at 0.98. Jorge de Leon pitched the final four and allowed one run on three hits and two walks. The scoring got started up right off the bat in the first as lead-off man Austin Wates' hit by pitch blossomed into a steal of home, part of a double steal with George Springer. Domingo Santana (1x2 2BB) singled in Springer and then Max Stassi paid it forward by driving in Springer on a two-run home run in his first game of the season. The Hooks added on two more in the fourth on a Springer RBI single and a J.D. Martinez ground out that brought in Austin Wates (2x3 BB 2R 2SB).

Lancaster over Inland Empire 5-4
Brady Rodgers put up five very strong innings (1H 1R/0ER 1BB 2SO 11GO) and was followed by tandem partner Chris Devenski who was charged with three runs in the eighth. Those runs turned a 5-1 lead into a too-close-for-comfort 5-4 squeaker. Travis Ballew allowed one of Devenski's runners across, but then settled in nicely to convert his fourth save of the season. Delino DeShields (0x3 2BB 2R) scored on an Andrew Aplin double play in the first and Preston Tucker (2x3 2B BB SB) scored on a Tyler Heineman sac fly in the second. In the fifth, DeShields scored for the second time of the game (both after drawing lead-off walks), advancing to second on a wild pitch and then scoring from second on a single from Nolan Fontana (2x5). Fontana in turn scored on a Matt Duffy ground out. The final run, which came across in the top of the eighth and proved to be the game winner, came from a Heineman double followed by an M.P. Cokinos RBI single. Cokinos is now on a 10-game hitting streak. This was a more impressive win to me than one where the 'Hawks hit a bunch of long balls. They scraped together these runs with a good team effort. As a side note, Telvin Nash drew another walk last night. He has seven walks to nine strikeouts, a very encouraging stat. He also stole his first base of the season.

South Bend over Quad Cities 6-4
Quad Cities has dropped the first two of the series at South Bend. The Bandits got in an early hole as starter Mike Hauschild allowed three runs (two earned) in the first inning, and another in the fourth. After a perfect frame from Mitch Lambson, Colton Cain then pitched two scoreless innings before hitting a wall in the eighth inning. Cain allowed one run without recording an out and John Neely allowed one of Cain's runners to score, giving South Bend the lead in what had been a tied game. The Bandits scored in the first on a Ryan Dineen (1x1 4BB) bases loaded walk and in the third on a Jesse Wierzbicki (2x3 BB 2R) solo home run. They added on two more in the seventh with RBI singles from Ryan Dineen and Jobduan Morales. The team drew 11 walks, including two from Joe Sclafani and two from Roberto Pena.

Player of the Day: Jonathan Villar celebrated his 22nd in style. He went four-for-four with a double, a home run, five RBI and a stolen base. He also scored three runs. I have doubted Villar in the past, but if he keeps this up, I will happily eat crow and admit I was wrong.

Pitcher of the Day: It's a tie. David Martinez has pitched impressively for Corpus Christi. He is now 3-0 with a 0.98 ERA and a 0.904 WHIP. Brady Rodgers only allowed one hit in his outing and had an eye-popping 11 ground outs in his five innings. Nicely done, gentlemen.

Happy Birthday - 5/3

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP Elieser Hernandez (18)
A non-drafted free agent from Venezuela, Hernandez spent his first season in the Houston organization pitching for the DSL Astros. In 12 appearances (eight starts), he was 1-4 with a 4.11 ERA, a 1.286 WHIP and two saves. He walked only eight batters in 35 innings while striking out 25.

One former Astro with a birthday today ~

2B/OF Davey Lopes (68)
Drafted by the Dodgers in the second round in 1968, Lopes played in 84 games for Houston at the end of his career in 1986 and 1987. Lopes was a four-time All Star and one-time Gold Glove winner with the Dodgers, and also appeared in four World Series with the team. A career .268 hitter, Lopes was known more for his stolen base prowess than his batting as he swiped 557 in 16 seasons and led the league in steals in 1975 (77) and 1976 (63).

Tweet of the Day

Morgan Ensberg
Scouting Report: Dude throws a Hundred. Great Mustache. Golden locks. Illinois guy.Looks like he should be in biker gang.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Quad Cities April 2013 Photos

You can find most of my photos from my recent Quad Cities trip up on Flickr here. In the meantime, here are just a few of my favorites from the trip.

Carlos Correa

Rio Ruiz

Jobduan Morales

Teoscar Hernandez

Joe Sclafani

Brian Holmes

Roberto Peña, Ariel Ovando and Teoscar Hernandez

Cameron Lamb


Photos by Jayne Hansen
 All Rights Reserved*

*The players and coaches featured in these photos are hereby granted permission to use these photos for personal use. All other uses require permission and acknowledgment. 

Astros Minor League Recaps

Wednesday's Games

Oklahoma City over Nashville 6-2
The RedHawks made it six in a row on Wednesday with strong pitching performances from Wes Musick (6IP 2H 1R 1BB 4SO 1HR), Eric Berger (2IP 0H 0R 0BB 2SO) and Jason Stoffel (1IP 1H 1R 1BB). The OKC offense got all the runs they needed by putting up a four-spot in the third via four RBI doubles in the inning from Che-Hsuan Lin, Carlos Perez, Jake Elmore (2x4 R 2B) and Brett Wallace. They drove in two more in the fifth with a Wallace single and a Jonathan Villar double. Trevor Crowe was two-for-five and stole a base; and Andy Simunic was two-for-four and scored a run. Jimmy Paredes was only one-for-two but walked twice and stole a base as well.

Corpus Christi over Midland 3-2 in 11 innings
A pitchers duel through six innings, the two teams swapped runs in the seventh and again in the 10th before the good guys ultimately prevailed via a Ben Orloff (2x3 R) walk-off hit in the 11th. Nick Tropeano got it started and pitched four scoreless innings, allowing two hits and two walks while striking out two. Bobby Doran gave up one run in his third and final inning (2H 0BB 2SO) before giving way to Pat Urkfitz who gave up the go ahead run in the 10th. Andrew Robinson hasn't gotten much work as of late, but he didn't show any rust as he retired the Midland hitters in order in the top of the 11th on only 10 pitches, and was rewarded with the win as the Hooks scored in the bottom of the frame, walk-off style. An Erik Castro (2x3 BB R) double brought the first run across in the seventh and a Rene Garcia single re-knotted things in the tenth. Kike Hernandez also doubled in the game, and Domingo Santana stole his fourth base of the season. J.D. Martinez went two-for-four in the second start of his rehab.

Lancaster over Inland Empire 5-3
After a bit of a rough start to the season, Mike Foltynewicz has settled in nicely his last few starts. In four innings on Wednesday, Folty allowed one run on six hits and two walks while striking out six. He was followed by a perfect inning from Jonas Dufek who bridged the gap to tandem starter Blair Walters. Walters was the beneficiary of late scoring on the part of the JetHawks as he earned his third win of the season despite allowing two runs, including a solo home run. Kenny Long converted a two-inning save, allowing only one walk and striking out two. The 'Hawks scored one in the third on an Andrew Aplin RBI single, but weren't destined to get on the board again until the seventh when Aplin drove in two more. Back-to-back doubles from Preston Tucker (2x5 R) and Telvin Nash, followed by a Chris Epps RBI single in the eighth accounted for the final runs. Aplin and Nash each walked twice as well. M.P. Cokinos was two-for-four with a double and a walk.

South Bend over Quad Cities 4-3
Quad Cities scored early and South Bend scored late. Daniel Minor (5IP 5H 2R 0BB 2SO) and Lance McCullers (3IP 3H 2R/1ER 1BB 1SO) split the duties on the mound and McCullers was charged with the loss. He is pitching much better than an 0-3 record might indicate. Quad Cities drove in one run in the first on a Jesse Wierzbicki sac fly on which Joe Sclafani (2x4 SB) scored.They added another in the second on a Terrell Joyce RBI double, and they recorded their final run of the game in the fourth on a Teoscar Hernandez RBI single. Roberto Pena was two-for-four with a double and scored two runs. Austin Elkins also doubled in the game.

Player of the Day: Andrew Aplin leads off May as my first Player of the Day as he went two-for-three with two walks, three RBI and a stolen base.

Pitcher of the Day: Wes Musick, who most people had forgotten about last year when his season was cut short by injury, is quietly going about making a statement at Oklahoma City. He's only started two games this season but has won both, including his very impressive outing last night.

Happy Birthday - 5/2

Happy Birthday to ~

SS Jonathan Villar (22)
Widely regarded as one of the top prospects in the Astros organization, Villar came to Houston as a part of the Oswalt trade in 2010. His bat was coming around last season in Corpus when he broke his hand and was shut down for much of the latter portion of the 2012 season. This year, at Oklahoma City, he is off to a good start, hitting .287/.333/.436. Over the last 10, he has hit .395/.435/.605.

Tweet of the Day

Brady Rodgers
This off season, I plan to grow a beard that is just like

Roster Moves

HOUSTON
The moves of RHP Jordan Lyles and LHP Dallas Keuchel from AAA to Houston were finalized today. RHP Brad Peacock and RHP Rhiner Cruz were optioned to AAA in the corresponding move.

OKLAHOMA CITY
RHP Lance Day assigned from OKC to Extended Spring Training

Although I've seen nothing official, Asher Wojciechowski's mother tweeted yesterday that the RHP had been  promoted from Corpus Christi to OKC. Mom and Dad Wojo were on their way to Corpus Christi to see their son and did a U-turn to head to OKC instead. (Confirmed this afternoon.)

CORPUS CHRISTI
RHP Mike Foltynewicz tweeted this morning (and it was confirmed this afternoon) that he was being assigend from Lancaster to Corpus Christi.

GREENEVILLE
OF Jose Monzon traded to Colorado as the player to be named later in the Wilton Lopez trade

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

WTHB Pitcher and Player of the Month for April

I'm going to try something new this year. I will tally the results of all the WTHB Players and Pitchers of the Day during a given month in order to determine Player/Pitcher of the Month for that month. I have added up the honors for April, and the results are impressive. FIFTY players received accolades (or at least an honorable mention) in the daily minor league recaps last month. With that said, here are the winners.

PLAYER OF THE MONTH - ZACH JOHNSON
Johnson earned Player of the Day honors three times during April. He hit .298/.362/.536 at Lancaster in April and was just promoted to Corpus Christi today. He leads the Astros minor league system in doubles with 10, and has two triples, two home runs and 20 RBI so far this season.

PITCHERS OF THE MONTH - (THREE-WAY TIE) JAKE BUCHANAN, TRAVIS BALLEW, AND VINCENT VELASQUEZ
All three of these players were named as Pitcher of the Day three separate times during the month of April.

Jake Buchanan is 2-0 in seven appearances (five starts) with a 1.47 ERA and a 0.717 WHIP. He has walked only two batters this season while striking out 16.

Travis Ballew has three saves and 17 strikeouts over only seven and two-thirds innings. His SO/9 is 20 and batters are hitting only .172 against him.

Vincent Velasquez is one of only four Astros farmhands to have gotten to three wins already this season. His ERA is 2.45 and his WHIP is 0.818. He has accumulated 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings and a .156 batting average against.

OTHER PLAYERS RECEIVING TWO PITCHER/PLAYER OF THE DAY HONORS DURING THE MONTH OF APRIL:

Carlos Correa
Bobby Doran
Carlos Perez
Nick Tropeano
Terrell Joyce
Asher Wojciechowski
David Rollins
Jake Elmore
Luis Cruz
Austin Wates
Brian Holmes

An Interview with Astros RHP Vincent Velasquez

Last Friday, I was in for a treat. I had just gotten into Davenport, Iowa that afternoon and was settling in on the first row at Modern Woodmen Ballpark to see the Quad Cities River Bandits take on the Lansing Lugnuts. Vincent Velasquez took the mound and dominated, scattering three singles and two walks over five innings while striking out eight batters, including striking out the side in his final inning of work. By the time the night was over, Velasquez secured his third win of the season and dropped his ERA to 1.17.

Before I caught up with Velasquez, I first talked to Pitching Coach Dave Borkowski about Velasquez, his recovery from Tommy John surgery and the type of pitcher he is, "He's full go. He has no health restrictions. He's fun to watch. He is focused. He's a gamer. He's a bulldog on that mound. He gets after it and challenges guys." When asked about Velasquez' velocity, Borkowski played it coy with me, "He's hitting hard enough. It's good. He's where he needs to be."

I spoke with Velasquez the next day. He comes across as very confident and dedicated. He is a self-described "simple guy" whose sole focus since coming in to the Astros system in 2010 as a second round draft pick has been to build upon his talent and abilities in order to forge a successful career.

Vincent Velasquez - April 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

The first question was about whether or not he felt 100% since having Tommy John surgery in 2011. He confirmed Borkowski's diagnosis, "I have no worries about it anymore at all, not holding back or anything like that. That was actually last year, where I was kind of hesitating at Tri-City, but I’m pretty much fully ready to go."

As a matter of fact, when I asked about his pitch repertoire, he admitted that the surgery was actually beneficial, "My fastball’s pretty much over-powering. Due to the Tommy John, I gained velocity. You might at first lose some control, but that’s why you have a whole year of rehab to work on that. My changeup has always been there for me. I’ve been working a lot on the curveball the whole last year, but that’s pretty much all I throw. Of course your best pitch should always be your fastball. My second pitch should be a curveball, but I’ve been working on that a lot." When I quizzed him about his velocity, he was more forthcoming than Borkowski, "I’ve been sitting 94-95 and I touch 96. Last year I hit 97."

When I mentioned his dominance from the previous night, he surprised me when he told me that his "arm was dragging a little bit," which launched us on a discussion about the mental aspect of the game. He asserted that it was his mindset that helped him push through on Friday. That led me to ask if that mindset helped with the tandem pitching regimen, and he agreed that it did, "It’s all in your head. You’re either going to fail or succeed. Gotta be optimistic. Just pretty much go out there and do your best and look for success." And he feels that pitching in relief early in his career also helped.

When I asked Velasquez what Astros pitcher had a pitch he'd like to steal, he recalled seeing Asher Wojciechowski in Spring Training, "His slider is really nasty. To have that slider as a starter, it’s pretty legit. There’s also some relievers … Travis Ballew has a great slider. He has a whip. For him to be that skinny and to throw that hard, it’s very impressive. [His slider] just falls right off the table. I’d probably say a slider, but that would be hard to choose from. Either it’s Travis or Wojo."

I asked what Astros hitter he would least like to face and he responded, "We’ve got a lot of good hitters. You’ve got [Jon] Singleton. You’ve got [George] Springer. Austin Wates is a good hitter. Those guys are at those levels for a reason. They’re competitive hitters. They battle. It’s just so hard to choose from because we have great hitters in our upcoming prospects. I can’t even choose one because there are so many." I definitely got the impression that he wouldn't hesitate to face any of them, a suspicion he quickly confirmed, "I’m pretty much the challenging type. I go out there and challenge myself. That’s the whole point of the game, to challenge yourself and then you get one batter and you go to another. I just like to go out there and see what I can do against the hitter."

Had any leaders started to emerge on the Quad Cities squad? According to Velasquez, not really. "I can’t particularly pick out a certain leader because we’re all leaders on the team. We all pick each other up defensively, offensively, we’re all working together as a team so we’re pretty much all leading the whole team. We all work together as one. We win as a team. We lose as a team. And that’s just how we go down. I’m not that type of person where I want to go out and lead a whole team or anything like that. I just want to go out there and show my talent and just do what I gotta do. I pick my teammates up. I’m kind of that personality. That’s just who I am. That’s just how I was born and raised to be, and thanks to my father for teaching me to be that person. I don’t particularly pick one person on the team who’s actually a leader because we’re all leaders."

When queried about who on the team makes him laugh, the discussion evolved to the importance of having friends from home to make the minor league life a little easier. "We all laugh. My personality is just I’m a kid who likes to laugh a lot. It can be any little silly thing. Rio [Ruiz] and I, we grew up in the same area so we’ve known each other for quite some time. We’ve been hanging out a little bit. It’s a blessing to have someone you know from home. There’s another guy, Wallace Gonzalez, who came on to the team and I knew him. Of course, we weren’t on the same team at the time, but just to have some friends from home is just a good feeling to have. We all laugh together in the locker room with the coaches, the manager, everything like that. We all have a good laugh even in the down times. We move on from the bad and we just continue with happiness."

Velasquez had a little difficulty answering my next question in which I asked him to tell me something about himself that most people didn't know, "I’m pretty much just a simplistic person, hang out with friends, pretty much like playing golf in the off-season." But as the conversation continued, he told me this little tidbit about growing up with sports, "I’ve been playing since I was three years old. My Dad was the one who put the ball and the bat in my hand. Also, he put a golf club, he put golf shoes, soccer cleats, all sorts of things in my hand. I loved playing basketball. I love sports. I’m pretty much just a simple guy who likes playing sports, dedicated to baseball, who likes hanging out with friends and just getting to know other people and things like that."

Velasquez would like to start working on some college courses in the off-season, something he's had to postpone, "I didn’t do any classes right out of high school because I was focused on my first year to see how I would develop and [then] I ended up having the injury. After that injury, I pretty much focused on the injury and [trying] to bounce back, but now I’m back on pace. I have absolutely no idea what I want to get into. Once I get into college, I’ll probably get a general idea what I want to do."

Was the decision to sign right out of high school a difficult one? "I was considering college at first. I was going to go to Cal State Fullerton to be a shortstop, but my [comfort] level was going towards getting drafted. That’s always been an all-time goal coming through high school. That’s just the ultimate goal for a high schooler. Growing up as a little kid, I wanted to get drafted. I wanted to start my career a little bit early and see how I would do. But then also it’s a learning experience as you go. It’s been successful for the most part and I’ve just been enjoying the ride, just keep on cruising."

I told him that I thought that he would quickly move up the prospect rankings now that he's healthy. He responded, "That’s what I kind of had the feeling of after I had Tommy John surgery. You go down [in the rankings], but I’m just trying to make my way back up, not because of the top prospect or anything like that, trying to get number one or anything like that. I’m just trying to show people that have this injury that it is possible to come back and that it’s all about your work ethic. You’ve got to get over that hump because it’s the mental part. When it comes to this injury a lot of people they don’t want to do the work. I’ve experienced that so many times where I didn’t want to do anything that had to do with my elbow because it hurt so bad. The thing is you have to do it in order to be successful, to move on, to proceed, to continue the job that you were assigned to do. I pretty much overcame that mental aspect and I just pushed myself and now I’m back in a good place. That’s pretty much what I’m trying to express with other people, show other people that anything’s really possible."

As a final question, I asked Velasquez what he would say to frustrated Astros fans. "We’ve got a lot of talent. You’ve got [Carlos] Correa. You’ve got Rio. You’ve got Lance [McCullers]. Springer. You’ve got a lot of prospects. I want to say within the next few years, this team could really turn around. I mean there’s so much talent. If these people [Astros fans] haven’t noticed, it’s going to be noticeable soon because this team is really going to turn around and it’s a high possibility we might win a ring back-to-back-to-back years. We have so much talent in this organization. If we keep working all together, we could be unstoppable. Don’t give up on us too quick because we’ll turn it around. Two plus years. I’m going to be looking forward to it."

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

Velasquez is a very, very confident young man. He is confident in himself and he is confident in the ability of his fellow players to turn things around for the Astros. His confidence could easily be mistaken for cockiness, but that assessment couldn't be any further from the truth. The truth is that he simply believes in himself and in his talent, much as others do. Borkowski told me one last thing about Velasquez, "There's just no fear in what he does." And why should there be. He's just a simple guy, a simple guy who just happens to throw a 97 mph fastball from time to time.

Thank you for your time, Vincent, and the best of luck as the season unfolds.

Astros Minor League Recaps

Tuesday's Games

Oklahoma City over Nashville 4-2
Jarred Cosart got the start for Oklahoma City, squashing any rumors that he might be the Thursday starter for Houston. In five and a third innings pitched, he allowed one run on four hits and two walks while striking out six. He was followed by scoreless outings from C.J. Fick and Kevin Chapman. Josh Zeid finished things off in the ninth allowing the second Nashville run on a solo home run. The RedHawks got on the board early with a three-run second that was highlighted by a Marc Krauss (2x3 BB) solo home run and Jonathan Villar's steal of home. Jimmy Paredes scored the final 'Hawks run in the sixth, scoring on a passed ball after leading off the inning with a double. Brett Wallace was one-for-three with a double and a walk and Trevor Crowe was one-for-three with a triple and a walk. The RedHawks are now on a five-game winning streak.

Corpus Christi over Midland 1-0
Corpus Christi prevailed in a nail biter at home as Jake Buchanan earned his second win of the season with five scoreless innings allowing only three singles and no walks. He was followed by scoreless outings from Carlos Quevedo and Alex Sogard (S, 2). The only Hooks run came courtesy of a Rene Garcia single in the third. Ben Orloff went two-for-four. J.D. Martinez was hitless in his first rehab start.

Inland Empire over Lancaster 3-2
Luis Cruz bounced back after a tough start his last go around by allowing only two hits in five scoreless innings and striking out five. The JetHawks drew first blood scoring two on a Preston Tucker (1x3 BB) double in the top of the sixth, but Tommy Shirley gave those back and more in the bottom of the frame as two lead-off walks were parlayed into three runs from Inland Empire. T.J. Geith pitched the next two innings without incident, but the 'Hawks never got anything going offensively the rest of the game. Nolan Fontana was two-for-four with a double and a run scored. Andrew Aplin also doubled and walked. Matt Duffy's hitting streak ended at 15.

Quad Cities over Great Lakes 17-6
Starter Joe Bircher kept the Loons at bay until the fourth inning when a lead-off hit batter was followed by a RBI double, the only extra base hit allowed by Bircher. Michael Dimock bailed Bircher out of a bases-loaded situation to get the final out of the fifth and to ensure that fourth inning run was the only run that Bircher would allow. Vincent Velasquez had a rare hiccup, allowing five runs (four earned) on four hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Two of Velasquez' runners came across under Gera Sanchez' watch. But by the time Velasquez gave up the first of those runs in the seventh, Quad Cities was already leading 12-1. Roberto Pena (2x5 4RBI) got the party started with an RBI double in the first. Three more came across in the second by way of a Terrell Joyce (2x4 2B BB) single, Teoscar Hernandez (2x5 BB 3R SB) double and a Carlos Correa (2x3 BB 3R) single. Jesse Wierzbicki (3x6 2B 2RBI 3R) added one in the fifth, scoring on a wild pitch. It was the seven-run sixth inning that put an exclamation point on the night with runs scoring on a Wierzbicki single, a Pena sac fly and a Jobduan Morales (2x5 5RBI) grand slam. But the Quad Cities crew weren't quite finished yet. Joe Sclafani (2x3 3BB 2RBI 2R) and Morales drove in three more runs in the seventh. And Roberto Pena capped things off with a two-run home run in the eighth. Ryan Dineen was one of only two starters to go hitless, but since he drew four walks, we'll let it go. Carlos Correa was hit on the hand and will be checked out further today.

Player of the Day: When you hit a grand slam, you are pretty much assured of getting Player of the Day honors. Jobduan Morales is the man for his five RBI night.

Pitcher of the Day: Jake Buchanan has simply been locked in on the mound so far this season. Not only did he only allow three singles in his outing last night, he didn't walk a batter. As a matter of fact, he's only walked two batters so far this season while striking out 16. He is now 2-0 with a 1.47 ERA and a 0.717 WHIP. He should definitely be a front runner to fill any vacancies that arise at Oklahoma City.

Come Join the Bloggers at Minute Maid Park


REPOSTING - THE TIME IS UPON US. PLEASE JOIN US!!!

Here is your chance to meet a few of the Astros bloggers and ask us all of those burning questions you have about the team and the farm system.
  • Who do you expect to have a breakout season for the Astros?
  • Who will be a bust?
  • Who is the most underrated prospect in the system?
  • What prospect is generating the most excitement?
  • Which Astro has the dreamiest eyes? (Terri of Tales from the Juice Box is all over this one!)
If we don't have the answers, we'll make them up! But we will do so with conviction. (That's what bloggers do.)

So far, we expect Terri, De and Greis of Tales from the Juice Box and John Burgess of Climbing Tal's Hill to attend, in addition to yours truly of course! We hope to have more.

Here are the details.

WHO: Anyone and everyone who is interested. The more the merrier!

WHAT: A fun get-together and a chance to meet some of your fellow Astros fans and the bloggers who write about the team.

WHEN: Saturday, May 4th at 6:10 p.m. vs. Detroit

WHERE: Section 134, starting with Row 18 in right field

WHY: Why not?!?

HOW: Click on this link for discounted tickets. Go to the interactive map and click on Section 134, starting with Row 18. Make sure you enter the code "WTHB" for the discount.


We hope to see you there!

Happy Birthday - 5/1

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP Travis Ballew (22)
Drafted by Houston in the 23rd round in 2012 out of Texas State University, Ballew had an excellent first season with the Tri-City team with his 1.62 ERA and 1.026 WHIP in 23 appearances. Through his first seven appearances for Lancaster this season, he has a 3.52 ERA and a 1.043 WHIP. Ballew is allowing a  very stingy .172 batting average against him.

One former Astro with a birthday today ~

LHP Steve Randolph (39)
Drafted by the Yankees in the 18th round in 1995, Randolph pitched 1257.1 innings in minor league and foreign leagues from 1995 to 2010. He only managed 155 innings pitched in the major leagues, though.  He pitched for Arizona in 2003 and 2004 and pitched 13.1 innings over 14 games for Houston in 2007 with rather dismal results.

Tweet of the Day

Brady Rodgers
According to espn I cashed in but I have yet to receive money
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Roster Moves

HOUSTON
According to Brian McTaggart, RHP Jordan Lyles and LHP Dallas Keuchel are being assigned from Oklahoma City to Houston.

OKLAHOMA CITY
RHP Jason Stoffel assigned from Corpus Christi to Oklahoma City
C Carlos Perez assigned from Corpus Christi to Oklahoma City
OF Austin Wates activated from the DL

CORPUS CHRISTI
OF J.D. Martinez assigned to rehab at Corpus Christi
C Max Stassi assigned from Extended Spring Training to Corpus Christi
1B Zach Johnson assigned from Lancaster to Corpus Christi
1B Rafael Valenzuela released

QUAD CITIES
3B Rio Ruiz placed on the 7-day DL (reported to be a minor back/oblique injury)
IF Brian Blasik assigned from Extended Spring Training to Quad Cities

It's a part of the process, but it's never easy. Rafy Valenzuela is one of the good guys and he will truly be missed. Thanks for the hugs, Rafy, and good luck.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Man, The Myth, The Moustache

There is currently a friendly competition at Quad Cities as several of the players are working on the facial hair component of their games. I can only surmise that this was inspired by the legendary caterpillar of Michael Dimock.


Ryan Dineen's offering is coming along quite nicely.


As is Jesse Wierzbicki's (but he's not exactly helped out by the light blonde hair).


Daniel Minor impressed me with this Fu Manchu that he assures me is only two weeks in the making.


He is followed in the pecking order by Catfish Elkins. I might rank Elkins higher, but with a nickname like Catfish, he needs to have more impressive whiskers (but he's working on it).


Lance McCullers is working on his as well and should benefit from his darker hair color (he and Elkins posed for this quick shot on my phone).


After that, the quality drops off considerably. Thankfully, Carlos Correa is better at fielding his position than he is at growing moustaches.


And finally I bring you the Rio Ruiz moustache, a work in progress. After I took this photo, he asked to see it, and then he ran off excitedly into the dugout, "You can see it! You can see it!" Ummm, yeah, well, kinda ...


Carry on gentlemen. I wholeheartedly approve. The quality 'stache and baseball go hand-in-hand. And baseball is nothing without tradition.

Astros Minor League Recaps

Monday's Games

Oklahoma City over Nashville 9-8
It did not look good for Oklahoma City as Nashville took a 7-1 lead in the top of the second, but the RedHawks battled back with big innings in the second and the fourth to make this a tight one. Ross Seaton was charged with all seven of those runs and was chased after only one and two-thirds innings. Kyle Hallock then came on to do a beautiful job in four and a third innings. He stranded the two runners he inherited from Seaton and then went on to allow only two hits (both singles) and two walks in a scoreless outing and was rewarded with his first win with the 'Hawks. Eric Berger pitched a scoreless seventh, but allowed one run and bases loaded in the eighth without recording an out and was bailed out by Jose Valdez. Valdez stranded the runners and then pitched a perfect ninth as well for the save.

The RedHawks put up a run in the first inning on a Brett Wallace (2x5) RBI single and added three more in the second on a Jason Jaramillo RBI double and a Trevor Crowe (3x3 2BB 4R 3SB) two-run home run. Not to be outdone, my man Elmore (2x4 BB SB) hit his own two-run shot in the fourth and was followed by back-to-back triples from Jimmy Paredes (2x5) and Marc Krauss. Jonathan Villar (3x4 BB 2SB) finished things off in the fourth with an RBI single. Elmore then added an RBI triple to his resume in the fifth, a run which proved to be the difference maker in the game.

Frisco over Corpus Christi 4-2
Matt Heidenreich had his best outing since his first one, allowing only one unearned run in four innings on four hits. Pat Urckfitz bridged the gap to the tandem, issuing a lead-off double that quickly turned into a run, and was followed by R.J. Alaniz. Alaniz gave up two runs (one earned) on three hits while striking out two in his three innings. The Hooks got on the board with a two-run home run from George Springer in the third inning, his eighth of the season, but that was all they could muster offensively. Domingo Santana and Michael Burgess were both two-for-four for the day with Santana and Ben Orloff both contributing doubles to the effort.

Lancaster - Off Day

Quad Cities over Great Lakes 6-1
Brian Holmes (5IP 2H 1R/0ER 2BB 10SO) and Jordan Jankowski (4IP 2H 0R 0BB 4SO) combined to put the hurt on the Loons. All but one of the 14 strikeouts recorded by the duo were swinging strikeouts. The Quad Cities offense wasn't overwhelming in this one as they only recorded one extra-base hit, an RBI double from Jobduan Morales, but they just kept the line moving. Teoscar Hernandez and Joe Sclafani (RBI single) were both two-for-four, and Terrell Joyce contributed a two RBI single to the mix.

Player of the Day: Trevor Crowe not only went three-for-three, he also walked twice, stole three bases, drove in two and scored four times!

Pitcher of the Day: I really can't choose today because there were too many excellent outings. I'll make it a tie between Kyle Hallock and Brian Holmes with a tip of the cap to Jordan Jankowski and Jose Valdez. They are all worthy of the honor.

Happy Birthday - 4/30

No future Astros with birthdays today, but a few former Astros are celebrating ~

3B/2B Phil "Scrap Iron" Garner (64)
Originally drafted by Oakland in the first round in 1971, Garner came to Houston from Pittsburgh in an August 1981 trade. In 753 games for Houston from 1981 to 1987, Garner hit .260/.323/.389/.712. The three-time All Star played for five teams over 16 seasons and won a World Series ring while playing for the Pirates in 1979. Garner managed the Astros from 2004 until 2007 with a 277-252 record and led the team to a NL pennant in 2005.

1B Mark Saccomanno (33)
A 23rd round draft pick by the Astros in 2003, Saccomanno only got to the show for ten games, but his first game was memorable. On September 8, 2008, he became the 20th player in MLB history to hit a home run on the first major league pitch thrown to him. It was a pinch hit AB off Ian Snell. Who cares what else he did ... he can tell that one to his grandkids.

RHP Mike Barlow (65)
Barlow pitched in 16 games for Houston in 1976, going 2-2 with a 4.50 ERA and a 2.000 WHIP.




Tweet of the Day

Nick Tropeano
I absolutely crush food samples at the mall.

Roster Moves

Since I've been travelling, it's been a few days since I've checked the transactions. Here's what I found over the last few days:

OKLAHOMA CITY
Rudy Owens placed on the 7-day DL, but effectively he is out for the season after having foot surgery yesterday

CORPUS CHRISTI
Domingo Santana activated from the DL
Austin Wates placed on the 7-day DL

LANCASTER
Tyson Perez activated from the Temporary Inactive list
Aaron West placed on the 7-day DL retroactive to 4/26

QUAD CITIES
*Colton Cain assigned from Extended Spring Training to Quad Cities
*Ariel Ovando assigned from Quad Cities to Extended Spring Training

*Note - There have been several phantom moves at Quad Cities as of late so don't read too much into these assignments back and forth to/from Extended Spring Training. The only real move so far appears to be the move from last week that sent Chase Davidson back to Extended Spring Training and brought Miles Hamblin from Extended to Quad Cities.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Astros Minor League Recaps

Sunday’s Games

Great Lakes Loons 10, Quad Cities River Bandits 6
Quad Cities fell behind early on Sunday and even after scoring six runs couldn't catch up. Colton Cain (0-2) took the start and the loss after going three and a third while giving up four runs on ten hits and walking one. Mitchell Lambson followed Cain and was the only Quad Cities pitcher not to give up a run, lasting one and two thirds and allowing one hit. Miles Hamblin hit two-for-four on Sunday with an RBI, scoring Carlos Correa for the last River Bandits run in the ninth. Austin "Catfish" Elkins went two-for-five with an RBI on the day as well.

Inland Empire 66ers 12, Lancaster JetHawks 7
Lancaster crept out to an early lead Sunday, but by the fifth they were playing catch-up at home. David Rollins (2-2) was the starter on Sunday and took the loss after pitching four and two thirds and giving up six runs on five hits and two walks. Rollins also struck out two in his time on the mound. Tyson Perez, who came on in the sixth, gave up five more runs on four hits while striking out one over two innings of work. Andrew Aplin got busy at the plate, hitting a huge grand slam in the third to get Lancaster on the board. Aplin finished one-for-four with five RBIs (22 all season), a run scored and a walk. Zach Johnson went two-for-five, picking up his 10th double.
  
Corpus Christi Hooks 3, Frisco RoughRiders 4
The Hooks took the lead right out of the gate at Dr. Pepper Ballpark, but stumbled in the seventh. David Martinez started the game at the helm and threw five scoreless innings, with four hits, a walk and two Ks. Asher Wojciechowski (2-1) came on next for Corpus Christi and after pitching a scoreless sixth, loaded the bases and gave up a game-clinching grand slam.  Wojciechowski picked up his first blown save and loss, finishing with four runs on four hits, a walk and a pair of strikeouts. The Hooks collected 4 hits all night at the plate and George Springer had two of them. Springer batted two-for-three, both hits for doubles, with a run scored, RBI and walked twice. 
New Orleans Zephyrs 3, Oklahoma City RedHawks 5
The RedHawks stayed ahead of the competition Sunday at home in Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark thanks to some steady offense and solid pitching. Brett Oberholtzer (1-2) took the start and the win after going six innings on the mound and giving up two runs on six hits and K-ing five. Kevin Chapman (2IP H 2BB 3SO) and Josh Zeid (1IP H ER 2BB) both earned holds, their third and second respectively, for their efforts following the starter. Jose Valdez tallied his sixth save after coming on for the last three outs, giving up a hit and striking out two. Jonathan Villar had a great game swinging the stick, hitting two-for-four with two runs scored and an RBI on his first homer of the year-a solo shot to cap OKC scoring in the seventh. Andrew Simunic also had a nice game, batting two-for-three with a run scored. 
Player of the Day: Rio Ruiz, Catfish Elkins and Miles Hamblin are sharing the prize today for their parts in a tremendous 5-4-3 triple play on Sunday in front of the home crowd. It was the 14th triple play in team history and the first since 2007.
Pitcher of the Day: Oberholtzer is the man today after recording the QS and win in OKC on Sunday. This was his first outing since rejoining the team last week and he did it in style. Good game, Oberholtzer. 

Quad Cities Random Thoughts

It will take me a little while to transcribe interviews and upload and label photos and videos from my Quad Cities trip this past weekend so let me leave you with some random thoughts for the time being.

The bridge as a backdrop at Modern Woodmen Park is what makes the stadium special. Without that view, it would be a fairly average minor league ballpark. I sat on the first row slightly to the left of home plate and, unlike other parks I have been to, there is literally nothing but net separating you from the action, about two inches from the knees with lots of give to it. I kept expecting to have Roberto Pena trying to catch a pop-up and ending up in my lap. Thankfully, that never happened.

I liked Teoscar Hernandez before. A lot. Now I really, really, really like him. He's an exciting young player to watch and he really could be one of those rarest of rare creatures ... a legitimate 5-tool player.

Teoscar Hernandez - April 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Roberto Pena is locked in at the plate, and with his fantastic defensive abilities behind the plate, he appears to be on track. His floor is major league back-up catcher. If he hits, he can write his own ticket.

Vincent Velasquez was a joy to watch pitch. He appeared to get stronger as his outing went on. He's very aggressive and works quickly. Nothing was hit hard off of him in his five innings. Velasquez' tandem partner, Joe Bircher, had some balls hit hard off of him in his first inning of work, but then settled in very nicely to keep batters off balance the rest of the way.

There are no holes on the team defensively. In particular, the athleticism and energy from the left side of the infield is spectacular. If a ball is hit anywhere near Carlos Correa, he will get to it. Even more impressive to me is his arm and his instantaneous recognition of the game situation. Everything is very fluid with no wasted movement. And Rio Ruiz made one play on Friday, leaping to snag a ball that looked to be five feet over his head, that had the crowd gasping in appreciation.

Random random: Austin "Catfish" Elkins can motor, and he is very aggressive on the basepaths. Jobduan Morales' first name is a mash-up of the names of two or three relatives. Joe Sclafani is friendly, funny and very personable.

Personally, I don't like Lance McCullers game tempo, but since it seems to work for him, I'll let it go. His tandem partner Daniel Minor, on the other hand, works at a fast clip and keeps hitters off balance. He looked good on Saturday and appears to be building on that good freshman season at Greeneville.

I don't know what's going on with Colton Cain, but he just wasn't fooling anyone on Sunday. Mike Hauschild looked good, fast paced and aggressive, until he had base runners. After that, his pace slowed down a lot and he appeared to lose his aggressiveness.

The team as a whole is very loose and very confident. They know they have a ton of talent and they expect to win. Going in to the bottom of the ninth on Sunday, they were down 10-3, but they played as though they were only down by one run. They scored three before running out of outs and everyone was on the dugout rail, cheering on their teammates.


Happy Birthday - 4/29

No future Astros with birthdays today, but one of the Astros minor league coaches celebrates ~

Pitching Coach Hector Mercado (39)
Mercado was a lefty pitcher drafted by Houston out of Puerto Rico in 1992, but he never played in the big leagues for Houston. He pitched for the Reds and the Phillies from 2000 to 2003 and was still playing in the Mexican League up through 2008. In 2010 and 2011, he was the pitching coach for the Gulf Coast League Astros, and he will be back with the Gulf Coast League team this season after spending 2012 as pitching coach for the Greeneville Astros.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

IF Ron Washington (61)
Originally signed as a free agent by the Royals in 1970, Washington played in only seven games for Houston at the end of his major league career after having played for the Dodgers, Twins, Orioles and Indians. Despite hitting a rather impressive .320/.347/.447 for the Astros AAA affiliate, he only managed a .143/.143/.286 line for the big club. Rumor has it that, after his playing days, he was reduced to managing some team in the southern Oklahoma area - the Rangers, I believe.

1B/OF J.R. Phillips (43)
Phillip played 16 seasons of minor league and foreign ball from 1988 to 2005. You've got to respect the desire to keep playing. He saw limited action (242 total games) in the major leagues from 1993 to 1999, playing for the Giants, Phillies, Astros (49 games in 1997 and 1998), and Rockies.

OF Louie Meadows (52)
Meadows was drafted by Houston in the second round in 1982 and played for the Astros in 87 games in 1986 and 1988 to 1990.


Tweet of the Day

Allie Hewett
Super proud of . Just saw this on the website! Way to go brother!
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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Astros Minor League Recaps


Saturday’s Games


Lansing Lugnuts 2, Quad Cities River Bandits 3
The River Bandits didn't score a run until the fifth inning at Modern Woodmen Park, but solid pitching kept them in the hunt and they went on to win at home. Lance McCullers started the match and through five, recorded one run (0 ER) on two hits, walked one and struck out five. Daniel Minor (2-0) took the win after entering the game in the sixth. Minor gave up just two hits of his own, striking out six of the ten batters he faced. John Neely earned his third save after coming on in the ninth and giving up a run on three hits. Quad Cities had just three hits all night, but thanks to forcing a few errors and crafty baserunning it was plenty. Austin Elkins didn't even record a hit in the game (0X2 2BB), but after reaching on a fielding error, he advanced to second, stole third and scored for the third and final run of the game off of a RBI groundout by Jesse Wierzbicki (0X3 RBI).

Inland Empire 66ers 10, Lancaster JetHawks 7 (10)
This was a roller-coaster ride of a game Saturday at The Hangar. The JetHawks came out to an early, five-run lead, but by the ninth were tying the game via the long ball to force extra innings. Chris Devenski took the hill to start at home Saturday and through the first four was in excellent form, recording 1-2-3 innings in the second, third and fourth frames. Devenski pitched through the fifth and recorded three runs on two hits, a walk, five Ks and hit a batter on the night. Brady Rodgers came on for the next three and earned his third hold. Despite giving up eight hits, all singles, Rodgers allowed just one run and struck out a pair. Travis Ballew took the hill in the ninth and blew his first save of the season, allowing two runs on two hits while striking out a pair of his own. Jonas Dufek (0-1) took the loss after allowing four more runs on four hits in the tenth inning, he struck out one. Zach Johnson had a productive night swinging the bat. Johnson hit three-for-four with two runs scored, two doubles, two RBIs, a walk and a solo shot in the ninth inning to tie the game and force extra innings. Telvin Nash hit two-for-five and recorded a run scored and RBI on his own solo shot in the tenth. Unfortunately, this was the only offense the JetHawks managed in extras.

Corpus Christi Hooks 11, Frisco RoughRiders 0
Corpus Christi didn't score after the third inning on Saturday, but when you are riding an 11-run lead  after three frames and your pitching tandem records 11 strikeouts through nine shutout innings, it's usually not too hard to hold on to the lead. Bobby Doran (3-0) started on the bump and through his five frames allowed four hits, three walks and struck out four, earning him his third win of the year. Nick Tropeano finished out the game and collected his third tandem-save. Trope' gave up three hits and K-ed seven during his shift. On the offensive side of the plate Kiké Hernandez had a giant game, hitting three-for-five with a three-RBI triple in the first inning. Hernandez also scored two runs. George Springer went two-for-four at the dish with two runs scored and an RBI coming by way of his Texas League-leading, seventh homerun. Here's the rest of the box, just for fun:   




















New Orleans Zephyrs 1, Oklahoma City RedHawks 11
OKC put up 11 runs of their own on Saturday and went on to win back-to-back games at home. Jordan Lyles (2-2) took the win after pitching the first five and allowing the opposition's only run on 3 hits. Lyles also walked a pair and struck out twice as many. Wes Musick (H, 3), C.J. Fick and Eric Berger came on, respectively, after Lyles to pitch, all giving up a hit and a walk and all but Berger recording two Ks. Brett Wallace hit just one-for-four Saturday, but his one hit was his second homer of the year, a two-out solo shot in the eighth inning. Marc Krauss hit a homer as well, a two-run shot in the fifth. Krauss finished two-for-four with those two RBIs, two runs scored, a walk and two stolen bases. Jonathan Villar and Andrew Simunic both hit two-for-four with doubles in the game. Villar had two RBIs and Simunic walked once.

Player of the Day: It's a tie between Zach Johnson and Superman, Mark Krauss. These guys accounted for something like 8 runs on Saturday among all the offense and personally I'm a little scared of them. So, if you honestly think one of them did better, you can tell them.
Pitcher of the Day: Trope' takes the cake after what can only be described as "whoopin' up on" Frisco Saturday. Tropeano struck out seven guys in the game and now has 29 Ks on the season. More impressive, he has only issued five walks in the same time and in three starts as the second half of a tandem he has K-ed 17 without issuing a single walk.