Saturday, May 18, 2013

Roster Moves

2B Jose Altuve activated from the Bereavement List

Oklahoma City
2B Jake Elmore assigned from Houston to Oklahoma City

IF Jean Batista assigned from Extended Spring Training to Lancaster

Astros Minor League Recaps

Friday’s Games

Beloit Snappers 3, Quad Cities River Bandits 1
Quad Cities manufactured a run in the first inning Friday, utilizing a Teoscar Hernandez (3X4 R 2B) stolen base and a Carlos Correa (2X4 RBI SO) RBI single, but that would be their last score of the game. Brian Holmes (3-3) picked up his third loss after pitching the first four, allowing two runs on four hits (2HR) and striking out three. Jordan Jankowski had the second shift of the tandem and through his four frames, he allowed one more run on three hits and struck out seven opposing batters. Outside of the sixth inning Jankowski gave up just one hit and recorded 1-2-3 sets in the fifth and seventh. 

Lancaster JetHawks 6, Visalia Rawhide 4
Lancaster got out to an early lead Friday and never looked back. Luis Cruz (2-3) was on the mound for the first five innings and kept them scoreless, giving up two hits, two walks and striking out five. Kyle Hallock tallied his first hold and followed Cruz for the next three frames. Hallock found a little trouble in the seventh inning, giving up four runs and he finished at four runs on five hits a walk and two strikeouts. Delino DeShields had an awesome night at the plate, batting two-for-three with two RBI, two walks, a run scored and two stolen bases. MP Cokinos also had a productive night, recording two hits in four ABs, two runs, two RBIs and his third home run of the season-a solo shot in the seventh.

Corpus Christi Hooks 1, Midland RockHounds 0
The Hooks broke a scoreless tie in the fifth inning Friday on the road at Citibank Ballpark. They went on to win, in shutout fashion, behind solid pitching. The fifth-inning-run was a product of Max Stassi’s (2X3 2B RBI) first double of the season, scoring Jonathan Meyer (1X4 R). Jake Buchanan (4-0) took the start and threw the first five innings, picking up his fourth win along the way. Buchanan gave up five hits, walked one and struck out five, including all three he faced in the fourth frame. Josh Fields took the mound for an inning in the sixth as part of his rehab assignment and recorded a 1-2-3 frame to earn a hold. Pat Urckfitz picked up his first save after coming on for the last four outs. Urckfitz gave up a hit to start the ninth but erased the runner at first on a pick off during the next at bat, finishing with the save and that lone hit. George Springer was the only other batsman of note, recording two hits in four ABs and a strike out.

Oklahoma City RedHawks 2, Sacramento River Cats 4
The RedHawks started strong but allowed two runs in the fourth and fifth inning and that was enough to seal their fate. Ross Seaton (0-4) recorded the loss after taking the hill for the first four frames of work. Seaton cruised through the first three innings in 1-2-3 fashion and then gave up the runs in frames four and five, leaving with four runs on six hits, a walk and three Ks. Kevin Chapman replaced Seaton in the fifth and pitched two shutout innings, walking 3 and striking out two with no hits. At the plate things were pretty quiet, but Andrew Simunic went two-for-four with a double, stolen base and RBI while Che-Hsuan Lin went two-for-three with a double, walk and RBI of his own.

Player of the Day: Delino De Shields is the man today for his great night at the plate and on the base paths Friday. 

Pitcher of the Day: Jake Buchanan, come one down. Buchanan pitched a solid five on the road Friday to help his team earn another win. Good job.

Happy Birthday - 5/18

Happy Birthday to ~

LHP Edwin Villarroel (18)
A non-drafted free agent signed out of Venezuela in July 2011, Villarroel spent his first professional season with the DSL in 2012. In 14 games (11 starts), he was 4-7 with a 2.25 ERA and a 1.353 WHIP.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

OF Carroll Hardy (80)
After coming to Houston from the Red Sox, Hardy played in 61 games for the Colt .45's in 1963 and 1964. His career numbers, as well as his numbers for Houston, are uninspiring. More interesting are these tidbits from Baseball-Reference:
He is the answer to a trivia question as the only player to pinch hit for Ted Williams; it happened on September 20, 1960, in the last weeks of Williams' career. Williams fouled a ball off his foot in the first inning, Hardy took over for him and lined into a double play. He is also the answer to an even more trivial question, as the only player to break a scoreless tie with a walk-off grand slam in the 12th inning (No-one has done this in a later inning). It happened for the Boston against Cleveland on April 11, 1962.
He is also from Sturgis, South Dakota. No word on whether or not he is a motorcycle enthusiast.

Originally drafted by the Mets in the 30th round in 1995, Figueroa pitched in 26 games for Houston in 2010 and 2011 with a 5-6 record, a 4.88 ERA and a 1.563 WHIP. Figueroa has played in nine major league seasons for six different teams. He has also played in 18 seasons for numerous minor league teams, the independent league Long Island Ducks, and the Dorados de Chihuahua in the Mexican League. And he was MVP for the Uni-President Lions in the 2007 Taiwan Series. And he's played in the Dominican Winter League and in the Mexican Pacific League. He also played for the Puerto Rican national team in the 2009 World Baseball Classic and again in 2013 when he was instrumental in sending the USA team to defeat in the second round. Figueroa is the regular United Nations of baseball. He is currently playing for the Diamondbacks organization for their AAA club.

Tweet of the Day

Jose de Jesus Ortiz
Reid Ryan said his top priority is to take care of the fans and take care of the players.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Photo Friday - Lancaster Edition

I haven't labeled my Lancaster trip photos yet. I haven't even finished weeding out the bad ones, but if you're game to look through a ton of photos, you can find them here. In the meantime, here are some of my favorites.

 Brady Rodgers 

Chris Devenski

T.J. Geith

Delino DeShields

Luis Cruz

Tyler Heineman

David Rollins

Telvin Nash

Brady Rodgers

Photos by Jayne Hansen
 All Rights Reserved*

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

Checking in with Delino DeShields

As you may recall, Delino DeShields has agreed to check in from time-to-time throughout the season. This time, I was able to literally catch up with him in person on Sunday, the day he was activated from the DL.

DeShields hasn't been able to get much momentum going yet this season with injuries to his finger and thumb. According to Hitting Coach Darryl Robinson, Delino's timing was off after the first injury and he was just getting back in stride when he was injured again. Robinson is working with DeShields to make sure he sees some pitches, works the counts and does what a good lead-off man does. If he does that, the hits will follow.

Astros Minor League Recaps

Thursday's Games

Oklahoma City over Sacramento 7-2
Because of the tornadoes in the Dallas area on Wednesday night, the RedHawks ended up taking a bus to Dallas early Thursday morning to catch a flight, only to encounter more delays. Several team members barely made it to Sacramento before game time.

Andy Simunic
24 hrs later....we finally made it to California....that was some kind of travel day

CJ Fick
we are in California too. Except, you're in Sacramento, and we are still in LA.

Andy Simunic
Minor detail

All of which makes their win Thursday night even more impressive. Brett Oberholtzer (4.1IP 4H 4BB 4SO) gave up the only two runs of the game before handing things off to the bullpen. Four relievers combined (Alex Sogard, Josh Zeid, Rhiner Cruz and Eric Berger) to allow only one hit the rest of the way. And that was a good thing because OKC trailed most of the way and the bullpen gave them the chance to get on top with a four-run seventh in which Andy Simunic (3x5 2R) hit a three-run double before scoring on a passed ball and error. Brett Wallace (2x5) added on a pair in the ninth with a two-run double. Jonathan Villar (2x4 2B BB R) and Austin Wates (2x4 R) also had good nights at the plate.

San Antonio over Corpus Christi 6-2
Starter R.J. Alaniz allowed two runs on four hits and three walks while striking out five in his four and two-thirds innings. Matt Heidenreich finished off the frame. Josh Fields pitched a perfect sixth with one strikeout in his rehab appearance. Jorge de Leon allowed four runs, including a three-run homer, in his three innings of work. The Hooks offense struck early with an RBI single from Erik Castro in the first and late with a Rene Garcia (3x4) home run in the eighth. But in between, they were unable to capitalize on two Jio Mier doubles and a Jonathan Meyer double.

Visalia over Lancaster 6-5
David Rollins got the start, allowing four runs on six hits and two walks while striking out five in three innings and was followed by two scoreless innings from T.J. Geith. The 'Hawks took the lead in the seventh, but Tyson Perez (3IP 3H 2R 1BB 1SO) surrendered two runs in the eighth to give the lead back to Visalia and was charged with the loss. Matt Duffy drove in two in the fourth and one in the seventh as he went three-for-five. Tyler Heineman (2x5) and Preston Tucker (1x4 BB) drove in the other two. Joe Sclafani went two-for-four with a double, walk and two runs scored. Sclafani is hitting .346/.433/.423 in his eight games with Lancaster. Andrew Aplin was two-for-three with two walks and a stolen base.

Quad Cities over Wisconsin 3-1
Colton Cain put up a solid four and a third innings, allowing the only Wisconsin run on five hits and two walks. Cain's tandem partner, Mike Hauschild came in with one out and one on in the fifth and gave up a single before inducing a double play ball. In three and two-thirds innings he allowed four hits while striking out three. John Neely pitched the ninth for his seventh save of the season. The River Bandits put up a trio of runs in the fifth by playing a little small ball. Austin Elkins scored on a throwing error, Carlos Correa drove in a run on a ground out and Miles Hamblin contributed an RBI single. There were no extra base hits in the game and Ariel Ovando had the only multi-hit game, hitting two singles.

Player of the Day: Despite all the travel delays and lack of sleep, Andy Simunic came through in the clutch with a two-out bases-clearing double for OKC in a very nice three-for-five night.

Pitchers of the Day: The OKC bullpen gets some love today for keeping the RedHawks in the game. Congratulations in particular go to Alex Sogard for a great AAA debut and Josh Zeid for his third win of the season in relief.

Happy Birthday - 5/17

Happy Birthday to ~

1B/DH Carlos Pena (35)
Originally drafted by the Rangers in the first round in 1998, Pena signed with Houston as a free agent in December 2012. Pena has a Silver Slugger, Gold Glove and All-Star appearance to his name during his time playing for Tampa Bay. In the 2013 season, he is hitting .231/.335/.358 through 40 games.

RHP Jordan Jankowski (24)
Drafted by Houston in the 34rd round in 2012, Jankowski had a great deal of success out of the bullpen at Greeneville in 2012, going 4-0 with a 2.23 ERA, a 1.082 WHIP with four saves in 23 appearances. This season, Jankowski is a part of the piggy-back rotation and is 2-0 with a 2.87 ERA and a 1.213 WHIP in eight appearances (five starts).

Tweet of the Day

Nick Tropeano
You don't know part of a song, so instead of not singing, you mumble what it sounds like.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Roster Moves

Oklahoma City
LHP Alex Sogard assigned from Corpus Christi to Oklahoma City
IF Raoul Torrez assigned from Lancaster to Oklahoma City

Corpus Christi
RHP Josh Fields assigned to Corpus Christi to continue his rehab assignment

OF Chris Epps activated from the temporary inactive list
SS Nolan Fontana placed on the 7-day DL

An Interview with Astros RHP Travis Ballew

When I talked to RHP Vincent Velasquez a couple of weeks ago in Quad City, I asked him what Astros pitcher had a pitch he'd like to steal. He cited Travis Ballew's slider as a pitch he'd love to be able to add to his already impressive aresenal.

So, just how good is Ballew's slider? Lancaster Manager Rodney Linares recently told Ballew, "I'm telling you right now, that's a big league slider." Pitching Coach Don Alexander calls it filthy, "It's hard. It's late. It's a swing-and-miss pitch. It's one of the best I've ever seen. It just disappears."

But the key to Ballew's success is his fastball which Alexander calls a plus pitch that sits around 93 to 94 miles an hour. According to both Alexander and Linares, Ballew will need to learn to trust his fastball and pitch off the fastball in order to keep from becoming predictable as hitters start to see him more.

I spoke with Travis over the weekend and we talked about using his fastball more, how his slider evolved and much more (edited for brevity and clarity).

Travis Ballew - May 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

What has he accomplished and what is he working on?: "I feel like I've done pretty well this year. It's been a nice time out here in Lancaster. I've been closing off and on when Kenny [Long] was here, me and him would swap off, but now [that] he's gone, I think I'm still sitting back in the closer role. I think the first month went pretty well. One big thing I've been trying to work on is throwing more fastballs because I was getting to places where I was throwing 25 sliders so I'm trying to get a 1:1 ratio between my slider and my fastball which is the main thing for me."

On being told that Velasquez would love to have his slider: "I've had quite a few people ask [about the slider]. Me and Brady [Rodgers] talk about it all the time because he throws a slider and he asks me sometimes how I throw it. I just kind of learned it through college and my college coach helped me out. I picked it up really quick which is surprising because I'd never thrown it and I learned it in about two weeks in college, and it ends up being my best pitch. It's what got me drafted so it worked out really well."

On having better numbers against lefties so far this season: "I saw that the other night and I was like 'What the heck? That doesn't seem right. That's backwards.' That's not normal for me. In college, against lefties, it [batting average] was a little higher and against righties, I was pretty dominant. I've been working on getting a pitch to throw to lefties ... I do that and the righties start getting hits so [I'm trying to land] right in the middle somewhere."

Whose pitch would he like to steal?: "You know what I would like overall?  I'd love to have Brady's control because you watch his bullpens and the catcher doesn't move his glove. That'd be nice to have, but I really like his changeup because my changeup's kind of iffy. He spots it up pretty well and it's a good pitch for him so I'd probably go with Brady's changeup."

Who would he least like to face in the batter's box?: "I'd probably have to go with [Nolan] Fontana. I mean, he hits everything and me facing lefties is always hit or miss for me. Fontana or [Andrew] Aplin would be the two I wouldn't want to face. I faced Fontana once in Spring Training and he got a hit off me."

Who does he like having behind him when he pitches?: "Defensively, I can't complain with anybody we've got in the field. I know Fontana's a really good defender and [Matt] Duffy over at third ... that left side's pretty strong. Aplin and [Preston] Tucker for sure in the outfield, they cover a lot of room. Aplin is a good centerfielder, but pretty much all around, I don't mind having anybody out there."

Who on the team makes you laugh?: "I hang around with the bullpen guys a lot so it's Long, [Jonas] Dufek and [T.J.] Geith. Geith's pretty funny. He'll talk to anybody. Say anything. Whatever's on top of his head, he'll say to somebody ... he doesn't even know them. He'll just start talking to them. It's pretty funny. If you followed Geith around for a day, you'd probably get a pretty good laugh. He's pretty funny."

What would he do if he couldn't play baseball?: "I've probably still got a year left of school which I was doing Exercise and Sports Science. I only need about a year for a degree so I'd probably be back doing that. After that, I'd want to coach but that's about it. That's all I've thought about so far because [I thought I] was probably going to get drafted and so I didn't really work and think about that so much. I focused more on baseball."

Something most people don't know about him: "Most people don't know that I've had grey hair since I was about 16. I have a lot of grey hair like on the sides. I have to dye my hair all the time. It gets out of hand. I just cut my hair maybe two and a half weeks ago and the grey hair that was falling out was just unreal. My Dad had grey hair kind of young but not young like I did. Nobody really notices it because I've always worn a hat. I've had a few grey facial hairs before. I had a grey eyelash one day. I'm getting old, I guess."


On April 16th at High Desert, Ballew pitched two innings. Six up, six down, six strikeouts swinging. He may have a few grey hairs, but if he keeps that up, he may be handing out a few grey hairs to the hitters who face him as well.

Thanks for your time, Travis. The best of luck as the season unfolds.

Reid Ryan as Astros President

With the semi-official news this morning that Reid Ryan will be replacing George Postolos as the Astros President, I am finally seeing something I haven't seen in a very long while. I'm seeing a glimmer of hope. Hope that Ryan, as a baseball man with good business acumen, will understand the frustrations of Astros fans who understand re-building the team on the field, but don't understand the wholesale destruction of the Astros image off the field. Hope that the constant PR disasters will either come to an abrupt end or at least slow to a trickle. Hope that I can once again take pride in my Astros off the field as well as on the field.

Ryan is a class act all the way. He runs fantastic operations in Round Rock and in Corpus Christi. And he understands baseball. And baseball fans. He will be friendly, approachable and sensitive to the fans' needs while also being a good steward of the business operations for Jim Crane.

I am hard-pressed to think of a better choice. Jim Crane deserves a great deal of credit for this choice. It is a chance to re-set the narrative for the Astros, a narrative which has been on a downward spiral for quite some time.

As far as I'm concerned, Jim Crane now gets a clean slate. This is his mulligan. Let's do this right this time.

Astros Minor League Recaps

Wednesday's Games

Oklahoma City - Off Day

Corpus Christi over San Antonio 10-8
Mike Foltynewicz got the start and allowed three runs (two earned) on three hits and three walks while striking out four in four innings (and reportedly hitting 103 on an admittedly hot radar gun). He was followed by four innings from David Martinez (W, 6-0) who also allowed three runs on seven hits and and a walk. He also struck out four. Andrew Robinson gave up two runs in the ninth, but Corpus held the lead they had since a big six-run second inning. In that inning, the Hooks scored five of the six runs with two outs despite getting no extra-base hits as they benefited from two errors and two hit batters. Jonathan Meyer (3x5 4RBI) added on two additional runs in the fourth via the long ball and Ben Orloff (2x5 2B) drove in the final two in the seventh with an RBI single. Domingo Santana (2x4 2B R), Erik Castro (2x5 2B) and Kike Hernandez (2x4 BB) all had nice nights as well.

Visalia over Lancaster 5-2
Chris Devenski got the start and took the loss as he gave up four runs on seven hits and a walk in four innings. Jonas Dufek (1H 1BB 2SO) pitched a scoreless fifth before giving way to Brady Rodgers (4H 2BB 3SO) who allowed one run in his three innings of work. Visalia led from the first inning on. The 'Hawks managed two runs in the fifth, one on a Tyler Heineman single and one on a Matt Duffy sac fly, but they never reached the run column again. The only extra base hit was a Telvin Nash double; Telvin also walked two times. Brandon Meredith did his best Matt Duffy impression as he was hit by a pitch.

Quad Cities over Wisconsin 9-4
Lance McCullers left after one inning with hip tightness and his quest for that elusive first win will have to wait at least a few more days. Mitch Lambson was pressed into service for two innings and allowed four runs (three earned) on three hits and three walks. Michael Dimock already has his fifth win in relief for the season as he pitched two scoreless innings, striking out five. Daniel Minor pitched a very strong final four scoreless frames, allowing only three hits, striking out four and walking none. Quad Cities scored early with one run scored on a Miles Hamblin (2x2 2RBI 3BB0 double in the first, but didn't manage to get on the board again until a four-run fifth and a four-run sixth cemented their lead. Teoscar Hernandez was four-for-five with an RBI, walk and three runs scored. Carlos Correa (3x5 2B 2RBI 2R), Roberto Pena (2x4 2B BB 2R), and Jordan Scott (2x4 BB R) also had nice games.

Players of the Day: I love my man Teoscar, scoring three runs on a four-for-five night and making things happen! And Johnny Meyer is definitely heating up at the plate, going .325/.372/.500 in his last 10 games and driving in 11 runs, four of them last night alone.

Pitcher of the Day: Daniel Minor gets to be king for the day. Not only did he have a good night, he also had his best outing of the season.

Happy Birthday - 5/16

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP and Pitching Coach Doug Brocail (46)
A first round draft pick by San Diego in 1986, Brocail was part of the Houston organization on three separate occasions as a player. The Houston trades he was a part of (from Baseball-Reference):
December 28, 1994: Traded by the San Diego Padres with Derek Bell, Ricky Gutierrez, Pedro Martinez, Phil Plantier and Craig Shipley to the Houston Astros for a player to be named later, Ken Caminiti, Andujar Cedeno, Steve Finley, Roberto Petagine and Brian Williams. The Houston Astros sent Sean Fesh (minors) (May 1, 1995) to the San Diego Padres to complete the trade.
December 10, 1996: Traded by the Houston Astros with Brian Hunter, Todd Jones, Orlando Miller and cash to the Detroit Tigers for Brad Ausmus, Jose Lima, Trever Miller, C.J. Nitkowski and Daryle Ward.
December 11, 2000: Traded by the Detroit Tigers with Brad Ausmus and Nelson Cruz to the Houston Astros for Roger Cedeno, Chris Holt and Mitch Meluskey.
He pitched in 151 games for Houston at the major league level in 1995, 1996, 2008 and 2009 with a 15-14 record, a 4.24 ERA and a 1.422 WHIP.

After retiring from baseball, Brocail became a special assistant to the Astros General Manager until he was pressed into service as the Astros pitching coach when Brad Arnsberg was fired in June 2011.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

RHP Bob Bruce (80)
Obtained in a trade with Detroit in December of 1961, Bruce pitched in 219 games for the Colt .45's and the Astros from 1962 to 1966. He was 42-58 with a 3.78 ERA and a 1.279 WHIP in a mostly starting role for Houston. His best season was 1964 when he went 15-9 with a 2.76 ERA and a 1.107 WHIP. He pitched in the final game at Colt Stadium and in the first game at the Astrodome.

RHP Rick Rhoden (60)
Rhoden was drafted by the Dodgers in the first round of the 1971 draft and came to Houston as part of a trade with the Yankees in January 1989. Houston was the final stop in a 16 year career in the majors that saw Rhoden earn two All-Star nods and three Silver Slugger Awards. After retiring from baseball, he went on to have a second, very successful career in golf.

Tweet of the Day

Aaron West
It doesn't matter who you are. The bus will leave without you.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

An Interview with Telvin Nash

Before I talked with Lancaster 1B Telvin Nash on Monday, I touched base with Hitting Coach Darryl Robinson about Nash's progress, "Telvin's doing good. He's doing real good right now. His head is on right this year. He's more positive. We've had some good conversations just to get him in a good spot, get him to free his mind and go out and just perform on the field. Don't worry about the outside interferences that go on because there's always something. Just the other day, we talked about mental toughness, being able to concentrate on the job at hand under adverse conditions. And that's something that he's really doing this year. He's a year older and a year wiser. He's going about his business and I like it."

Despite having a couple of rough games on Friday and Saturday (as far as strikeouts go), Nash has definitely been making strides in that area. And when he connects, as he did with two very impressive home runs on Friday night, there is no doubt that his power is the real deal.

I spoke with him briefly the day after Lancaster no-hit the Stockton Ports.

Random Thoughts on My Lancaster Trip

I conducted several interviews and took a ton of pictures and video during my trip to Lancaster. While I sort through it all, let me leave you with some random thoughts for now.

My first game on Friday was a slugfest, a total of 32 runs scored by the two teams and a 7-RBI night from Telvin Nash as he hit two homers. How do you top that? You top it by turning a 6-0 deficit into a 10-6 win on Saturday with help from one of the craziest innings I've ever seen, featuring back-to-back batters striking out and reaching on wild pitches and followed by a Matt Duffy grand slam. Stockton graciously gave the JetHawks three extra outs to work with.

Lancaster Bottom of the 8th
  • Brandon Meredith reaches on a fielding error by shortstop Addison Russell.
  • Nolan Fontana singles on a line drive to right fielder Myrio Richard. Brandon Meredith to 3rd.
  • Joe Sclafani strikes out swinging.
  • With Andrew Aplin batting, wild pitch by Jose Macias, Brandon Meredith scores. Nolan Fontana to 2nd.
  • Andrew Aplin grounds out, second baseman Antonio Lamas to first baseman Max Muncy. Nolan Fontana to 3rd.
  • Pitching Change: Jonathan Joseph replaces Jose Macias.
  • With MP Cokinos batting, wild pitch by Jonathan Joseph, Nolan Fontana scores.
  • MP Cokinos walks.
  • Preston Tucker strikes out swinging. Wild pitch by pitcher Jonathan Joseph. MP Cokinos to 2nd. Preston Tucker to 1st.
  • Telvin Nash strikes out swinging. Wild pitch by pitcher Jonathan Joseph. MP Cokinos to 3rd. Preston Tucker to 2nd. Telvin Nash to 1st.
  • Tyler Heineman walks. MP Cokinos scores. Preston Tucker to 3rd. Telvin Nash to 2nd.
  • Matt Duffy hits a grand slam (6) to center field. Preston Tucker scores. Telvin Nash scores. Tyler Heineman scores.
  • Brandon Meredith strikes out swinging.
So how do you top that? How about a combined no-hitter, the first nine-inning no-hitter in JetHawks history, tossed by Kyle Hallock and Luis Cruz on Sunday. I was almost afraid to come to the ballpark on Monday. What next? Turns out, it was a fairly standard win despite the fact that the Lancaster team had to work around four walks issued by starter Blair Walters and three errors from 3B Carlos Perdomo in order to prevail.

Now for the truly random observations ~

Rodney Linares is a talker and an interesting dude. I could just sit and talk with him about baseball for hours on end. And I know I've said it before, but I really like his management style.

I could pick out the JetHawks coaching staff from a mile away just based on their coaching stances. The Alexander and The Ensberg are very similar, but for the fact that Alexander is a lefty.

The Linares is very no-nonsense.

But my favorite is The D-Rob.

Speaking of coaches, the most fun thing I learned about Morgan Ensberg while I was in Lancaster is that he looks at each Anthem singer, takes their measure and then guesses their Anthem time, which he then measures with his stopwatch. He was rather disappointed with himself on Monday for guessing 1:27, almost two seconds under the actual.

The best thing I overheard during the trip came from Athletic Trainer Grant Hufford upon seeing Telvin Nash hit the rail trying to catch a pop-up during BP, "Is the railing OK?"

Personally, I think Nolan Fontana bears a resemblence to one former Astros icon, and it's not just the chin hair and the flow. You be the judge.

And speaking of resemblences to Astros icons, there is something about 2B Joe Sclafani that reminds me of Craig Biggio, not facially at all, but his build and his mannerisms at the plate. Even though I've only seen the switch-hitter bat lefty so far, he's like a mirror image of Biggio in the box.

I simply loved meeting and talking to Andrew Aplin. He is truly a character (and if you saw my post-game interview with Kyle Hallock after his no-hitter, it was Aplin that video-bombed us).

The one player that surprised me more than any other was Matt Duffy. The change that I saw in him defensively from April 2012 at Lexington and May 2013 at Lancaster was night and day. I'll be writing more about him later.

Delino DeShields gets style points for his Mother's Day accessories.

As always, JetHawks' play-by-play announcer and media director Jason Schwartz is simply the best to work with. I enjoyed spending time with him and getting to meet Stockton broadcaster Zack Bayrouty and Eric Smith of the Antelope Valley Press.

Speaking of Bayrouty, he had a very tough four days in Lancaster as the Stockton Ports were swept by the 'Hawks, but the worst of it was undoubtedly when he found out (the hard way) just exactly what happens to a laptop when it gets hit with a foul ball.

Schwartz and Bayrouty convinced me that it was time for me to try my first In-N-Out burger as they waxed poetical over "cheese paper." I did so, and although the In-N-Out fries were amazing, I'll happily stick with Whataburger. And, yes, before you ask, I did go "animal style."

I'll leave you with a final observation. As tight-knit as last year's Championship-winning team was, this team appears to be even closer. And with all the incredible talent on the team, the sky is the limit.

Astros Minor League Recaps for Monday's and Tuesday's Games

Monday's Games

Salt Lake City over Oklahoma City 3-2
Brad Peacock got the start and the loss as he allowed two runs (both off solo homers) on four hits and a walk with nine strikeouts over four innings. Eric Berger gave up the final run in his three innings while Josh Zeid allowed only one hit in the final inning. Jonathan Villar had a heckuva day going three-for-four with a double, a triple, a walk and he scored two runs. Brett Wallace went two-for-five with a double and drove in two. OKC drew within one run in the seventh, but fell short as they dropped their third straight game.

Corpus Christi over San Antonio 13-3
Corpus Christi got off to an early lead with a two-run home run from George Springer in the first and a Jonathan Meyer solo shot in the second. But a five-run third in which the Hooks put up four singles with two outs before Michael Burgess cranked out a three-run bomb put the game out of reach. But that didn't stop Burgess from piling on with a three-run home run in the fifth and a two-run double in the sixth. Yes, you read that right. Michael Burgess drove in eight runs, a new Hooks single game record. Jonathan Meyer was four-for-five and scored four times and Eric Castro was three-for-four with a double, walk and scored three times. Oh, yeah, and there was some pitching in there too. Carlos Quevedo got the start and gave up two runs via the long ball in his four innings and was followed by Jake Buchanan who continues to amaze with four innings of one-hit ball. Alex Sogard gave up his first earned run of the season in the ninth.

Lancaster over Stockton 6-3
Blair Walters got the start and did a Houdini impression in order to limit the damage from four walks and three errors in his four innings, but he did just that as only one unearned run scored and he struck out five in his four innings. He was followed by a perfect inning from T.J. Geith who was awarded his fourth win of the season. Tommy Shirley put in two and two-thirds allowing two runs and was followed by Travis Ballew who converted his sixth save of the season. All of the 'Hawks scoring occurred in the six-run fourth inning as they kept the line moving with four singles, two doubles (Preston Tucker and Carlos Perdomo) and a two-run home run from Brandon Meredith (2x4 2B HR). Delino DeShields also went two-for-four with an RBI single.

Quad Cities over Peoria 8-0
Jordan Jankowski (5IP 3H 3SO), Josh Fields (2IP 2H 2SO) and Brian Holmes (2IP 2H 1BB 2SO) tossed the combined shut out. Much like Lancaster, Quad Cities put up all their runs in one big inning, also the fourth. After one out, nine straight runners reached base. In total 12 batters came to the plate in the frame. The biggest knocks of the inning were a two-run single from Jobduan Morales and a two-run double from Austin Elkins. Carlos Correa was two-for-four, scored a run and stole a base; Rio Ruiz was three-for-four with an RBI double and a run scored; and Ariel Ovando was two-for-three with a walk, RBI and run scored.

Player of the Day: When you go three-for-five with a double, two home runs and eight RBI, you too can become my player of the day. Michael Burgess is king for the day.

Pitcher of the Day: Jake Buchanan got his third win and lowered his ERA to 1.04. He has not allowed a run in his last four outings.

Tuesday's Games

Oklahoma City over Salt Lake City 3-2
Asher Wojciechowski allowed one run on three hits and four walks and three strikeouts in five and two-thirds innings before giving way to Jason Stoffel who allowed the final SLC run in the seventh. Kevin Chapman and Jose Valdez took it the rest of the way with scoreless outings and Valdez was awarded the win as OKC scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth on an RBI single from Austin Wates. Che-Hsuan Lin was two-for-three with a triple and Jason Jaramillo had an RBI triple as well.

San Antonio over Corpus Christi 11-5
In rare hiccups from pitching tandem Bobby Doran (L, 5-1) and Nick Tropeano, the tandem allowed nine runs (seven earned) with four of the runs scoring via the long ball. Pat Urckfitz allowed two of Doran's runners to score and added on two of his own. Jorge de Leon was perfect in his inning of work while Kenny Long walked one and struck out one in the ninth. Eight of the San Antonio runs scored in the first three innings before the Hooks put up a single run. The Hooks came back with five in the middle innings, but the deficit proved to be too large. George Springer (3x5 RBI R), Erik Castro (2x4 2B RBI) and Michael Burgess (2x4 R) all had good games at the plate. Domingo Santana contributed an RBI double to the mix.

Wisconsin over Quad Cities 9-7
Jamaine Cotton got his first start, allowing four runs (two earned) on five hits and a walk in five innings. Vincent Velasquez (1.2IP 5H 4R 2BB 1HR) couldn't hold the Quad Cities lead and was charged with the loss. Richard Rodriguez made his first appearance of the season, allowing one run on a hit and a walk in one and a third innings. Despite a four-run first from Wisconsin, Quad Cities took the lead with a five-spot in the second. Brian Blasik went three-for-four with a double, stole a base, and scored a run. Carlos Correa (2x5 3R) and Jesse Wierzbicki (2x4 2B BB 2RBI R) also had multi-hit games. Terrell Joyce had an RBI double, and Roberto Pena doubled as well.

Player of the Day: Brian Blasik didn't only have a good day, he is having a good season since getting called up from Extended Spring Training, and is hitting .379/.438/.483 in his last ten games.

Pitcher of the Day: Asher Wojciechowski gets the honors. Wojo is 1-0 with a 1.15 ERA and a 1.213 WHIP in his first three starts with Oklahoma City.

Happy Birthday - 5/14 and 5/15

A belated Happy Birthday to those born on the 14th ~

Bullpen Coach Dennis Martinez (59)
Martinez, the first major league player to come out of Nicaragua, is in his first season as bullpen coach for the Astros. In 23 years in the major leagues (most of those years for Baltimore and Montreal), Martinez was 245-193 with a 3.70 ERA and a 1.266 WHIP and was a four-time All-Star.

One former Astro ~

C Pat Borders (50)
Originally drafted by the Blue Jays in the sixth round in 1982, Borders came to Houston in an August 1995 trade with the Royals and only played in 11 games for the Astros with forgettable results. He had a 17-year major league career with nine different teams. His most notable years were with the Blue Jays where he won two World Series championships in 1992 and 1993. He was MVP in the 1992 Series as he hit .450/.500/.750 in six games. He also won a gold medal with the U.S. Olympic team in the 2000 Sydney games.

Also, a Very Happy Birthday to Astros Assistant Director of Player Development Allen Rowin!

And for the 15th, we want to wish a very Happy Birthday to ~

CF Brandon Barnes (27)
Originally drafted by the Astros in the sixth round in 2005, Barnes made his major league debut on August 7, 2012. With a crowded field of outfield candidates going in to Spring Training, Barnes set himself apart and earned a spot on the Astros major league roster. Through 26 games so far this season, Barnes is hitting .323/.403/.475 and was in consideration for the AL Rookie of the Month in April.

Brandon Barnes - Spring Training 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Tweet of the Day

brandon meredith
Weed wackers outside the window at 8:30 am on my day off???

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

WTHB Going Dark for Charity

UPDATED: I've been traveling today, but Andy at the Houston Sports Counterplot and James at Astros County have weighed in post-official Astros response. They have made their points better than I ever could.

In solidarity with an idea from The Crawfishboxes, WTHB is taking a one-day hiatus. If you are not aware, the Astros Wives Organization has disbanded and will no longer be holding the Wives Gala this summer to raise money for the Houston Area Women's Center, a charitable organization devoted to helping the victims of domestic and sexual violence.

No matter what the reasons for disbanding the Astros Wives Organization, the Astros have been associated with this charity for a number of years and I find it very unfortunate that they no longer intend to support it as a part of their charitable endeavors. I also find it very unfortunate that this was announced the day after Mother's Day.

So I will be taking one day off from supporting the Astros organization. I ask that you consider helping out by contributing anything you can to the HAWC. The link to donate can be found here. I'll be back on Wednesday.

UPDATED: Timothy de Block at The Crawfishboxes is questioning his Astros fandom over this, and James at Astros County is embarrassed not by the thought of 110 losses but by this (in)action by the Astros organization.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Astros Minor League Recaps

Sunday's Games

Most of these will be short because I put a lot of time and effort into recapping one very special game.

Salt Lake over Oklahoma City 9-3
Jarred Cosart had another strong start, allowing one run on two hits and three walks, striking out four in six innings. The bullpen started out well with a scoreless frame from Jason Stoffel, but Kevin Chapman and Rhiner Cruz struggled mightily, combining to allow eight runs across in the final two frames. The offense was held to five hits and Brandon Laird got the only extra base hit, an RBI double.

Frisco over Corpus Christi 5-2
R..J. Alaniz got his fourth loss of the season as he allowed four runs on six hits (two home runs) in five innings of work. The final run was charged to Matt Heidenreich. Andrew Robinson pitched the final inning, allowing only one hit. The offense was largely silent with Jio Mier providing the fireworks with a two-run home run. It was Mier's fourth home run of the season.

Peoria over Quad Cities 4-2
Mike Hauschild allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits and three walks in five innings. His tandem partner, Colton Cain, was charged with the loss as he gave up an additional pair of runs in his four innings. This is another game where the offense was quiet and yet another game in which a two-run home run represented the only runs for the home team, this time from Rio Ruiz (his second of the season).

Lancaster over Stockton 2-0
My recap of the Lancaster no-hitter is here.

Pitchers of the Day: Kyle Hallock and Luis Cruz share the honors, but it is my honor to have been there to witness their no-hitter on Sunday.

Players of the Day: I'm giving this to the entire JetHawks team. No win is a team win more than a no-hitter. Everyone contributed offensively, defensively or behind the dish to make it a reality.

Happy Birthday - 5/13

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP John Ely (27)
Ely was originally drafted by the White Sox in the third round in 2007 and came to Houston in a December 2012 trade with Los Angeles for Rob Rasmussen. Ely has pitched in 25 games at the major league level from 2010 to 2012 with a 5.70 ERA and a 1.509 WHIP. However, he spent the vast majority of his 2012 season at AAA, going 14-7 with a 3.20 ERA and a 1.103 WHIP. Ely made one appearance at Oklahoma City this season before being placed on the DL and subsequently having Tommy John surgery in April.

Tweet of the Day

brandon meredith
I'm so damn happy for my teammate Ryan mccurdy.. His first time catching a no hitter..

Just Another Day in Lancaster

So, how was your day on Sunday, Jayne? Well, I'm glad you asked. After lazing around the hotel room, it started out with a fantastic brunch at a wonderful local Mexican restaurant before I headed over to The Hangar about 11:00 or so.

I got to the ballpark and had a simply terrific conversation with Manager Rodney Linares, just talking baseball. Then I did a couple of interviews with David Rollins, Brandon Meredith and Delino DeShields that I enjoyed immensely.

Before long it was getting close to time for the game and players started to filter out on the field. I hung out down by the dugout, getting some pictures and shooting the breeze with Jonas Dufek about our mutual midwestern roots.

Before you know it, it was time for the anthem and I took my seat ... front row and slightly to the left of home plate. And when I say I took my seat, that was a process that took a few minutes because of the blistering heat of the day. I don't know if that's where the phrase "hot seat" originated, but it might as well have.

But I was ready, slathered in sunscreen and wearing my floppy Panama hat and soon the action got started at about 2:01.  It wasn't long before it became obvious that we were going to be treated to a pitchers' duel. Kyle Hallock was very impressive through the first few innings as was Stockton's Jake Brown. After three and a half innings, only three batters had reached base, all on errors and the scoreboard was looking like this. The time was 2:45.

In the bottom of the frame, Andrew Aplin led off with a double, ending Brown's shot at a no-hitter for the day.

Aplin then advanced on an M.P. Cokinos ground out ....

... and scored on a Preston Tucker sac fly.

Jake Brown's shot at a no-hitter might have been over, but Hallock's kept going, as he induced his last two outs of the fifth inning on a ground out and a line out.

After five innings, the scoreboard was looking like this. The time was 3:03.

Then lefty Luis Cruz came in for the sixth. Six minutes later, at 3:09, he had already retired his first three batters.

After seven innings, the scoreboard was looking like this. The time was 3:29 and Cruz had struck out his second and third batters of the day in the top of the frame.

Another six minutes elapsed and another "0." The time was 3:35.

In the bottom of the frame, Brandon Meredith singled, stole second base, and then motored around on a Matt Duffy ground out and a Delino DeShields sac bunt to score an insurance run.

I was a little wrapped up in the moment and forgot to take a scoreboard picture between innings, but this was taken at 3:53, just seconds before ...

... this happened. (I apologize for the screeching on the video.)

And then this happened ...

And this is what it looked like after all was said and done. Time of game - 1:52.

After the game, I headed to the clubhouse and caught up with Kyle Hallock who was as cool ...

... as Luis Cruz was excited.

I also found out it was Rodney Linares' 300th win as a Manager. A combined no-hitter, a team win (with sterling defense from Matt Duffy and Nolan Fontana, among others, and great catching from Ryan McCurdy) and a milestone for the skipper. It doesn't get much better than that.


My mother is no longer with me, and I have no children of my own. Since I think of all the Astros minor leaguers as my boys, I thought it was a fitting Mother's Day present. All I can say is ... it was a lovely day. Thank you.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Roster Moves

In addition to the news that OF Fernando Martinez cleared waivers and has been assigned to Oklahoma City, RHP Philip Humber has been DFA'd and RHP Edgar Gonzalez has been resigned, there are a couple of additional moves at Quad Cities.

RHP Mike Hauschild assigned from Quad Cities to Extended Spring Training.
RHP Cameron Lamb assigned from Quad Cities to Extended Spring Training.
RHP Richard Rodriguez assigned from Extended Spring Training to Quad Cities.

There have been a lot temporary re-assignments back and forth to/from Extended Spring Training so don't read too much into these except for the assignment of Richard Rodriguez to Quad Cities since that is a new assignment. I'm assuming that Lamb is a temporary move to make room for Josh Fields on his rehab assignment.

Astros Minor League Recaps

Saturday's Games

Peoria Chiefs 6, Quad Cities River Bandits 3 (7) Game 1
Saturday marked the second day in a row Quad Cities played doubleheaders and in the first game they couldn't overcome falling behind early. Daniel Minor (2-1) got the start and pitched through the first four frames. After a pretty routine first inning, Minor went on to allow runs in each of his next three, finishing at five runs on nine hits with two Ks. Michael Dimock closed out the game on the mound and after giving up a homer in the fifth, settled down. Dimock did not allow any more hits in the game while striking out three. Jobduan Morales (2X3 R) and Rio Ruiz (2X2 BB) both collected a couple hits in the game and Jesse Wierzbicki (1X3 R 2B RBI BB SO) picked up his 25th RBI on a double in the third inning, scoring Carlos Correa, Wierzbicki currently leads the River Bandits in that column.

Peoria Chiefs 2, Quad Cities River Bandits 3 (7) Game 2
Quad Cities scored three runs in the second game Saturday as well, but this time three runs was good for the "W". Not only that, their third run was of the walkoff variety, a Terrell Joyce (2X3 R RBI) single that scored Jordan Scott (0X1 R) for the win at home. Lance McCullers gave up a run in the first, but afterwards cruised through his next four innings allowing only two hits throughout that stretch. McCullers finished with a run on four hits, three walks and six strikeouts. Mitchell Lambson (1-1) pitched the final two and allowed another run on a solo homer in the seventh before picking up the win. Lambson finished with that run on two hits, two walks and four Ks. Austin Elkins finished two-for-two at the plate and Ariel Ovando didn't record any hits (0X1 2RBI BB), but was still responsible for two runs. Ovando scored Terrell Joyce on a groundout in the second and then scored Brian Blasik on a sac' fly in the sixth.

Stockton Ports 6, Lancaster JetHawks 10
This was another great comeback story on Saturday. After heading into the eighth inning down three runs, the JetHawks batsmen combined their talents with some uncommon baseball for seven runs to all but seal their triumph. David Rollins (3-3) sealed it for Lancaster and earned the win after tossing a 1-2-3 top of the ninth. He threw 1-2-3 frames in the seventh and eighth as well. Rollins came in to pitch in the sixth and threw four scoreless frames, giving out a lone hit and striking out four. Tyson Perez started on the hill and aside from a hit and a walk, made it through the first three innings with no problems. In the fourth however, Perez gave up six hits, including a three-run homer, leaving him responsible for six runs on seven hits, a walk and one strikeout. The offensive star of the day for the JetHawks was surely Matt Duffy. Duffy hit one-for-four with four RBI coming by way of a grand slam to cap off the seven-run eighth inning. Duffy is now second in RBIs (30) in the California League to his teammate, Andrew Aplin (33). Tyler Heineman hit one-for-two with a run scored, walk and two RBI of his own. One of his RBI was the result of a walk in the eighth inning that followed two consecutive, wild-pitch strikeouts on which Preston Tucker and Telvin Nash both reached base. You can read Jason Schwartz's firsthand account of the unusual eighth inning here.

Frisco RoughRiders 3, Corpus Christi Hooks 9
The fans at Whataburger Field got their money's worth on Saturday as they watched the Hooks roll to a victory. David Martinez (5-0) allowed his first run in over 25 innings and still went on to pick up the win. Martinez moved through the first four frames in familiar fashion, recording 1-2-3 sets in the third and fourth and even picked off a runner at first in the first. Martinez gave up a couple runs in the fourth and ended his outing with those, six hits a walk and three Ks. Next up to pitch for Corpus was Mike Foltynewicz, making his first appearance in front of the home crowd. Folty' closed out the final four, tallying two hits, an unearned run and strikeout, earning him his first save (Folty picked off a runner at first too). George Springer had a productive night at the plate after not getting a hit in the last two games (5 SO, BB in 5 AB). Springer went three-for-four, coming up a triple short of the cycle, scored two runs and was responsible for two RBIs. Erik Castro recorded multiple hits as well, swatting two-for-four, scoring two runs with two  RBI of his own. Castro was the first run across the plate Saturday, coming around on Kiké Hernandez's (1X3 R HR 2RBI BB) third homer of the season in the second inning.         

Salt Lake Bees 6, Oklahoma City RedHawks 4
The RedHawks fell behind early on the scoreboard and even after a three-run, bottom of the ninth rally, they couldn't pull ahead. Ross Seaton had the helm for the first five innings and allowed three runs on four hits in that time while walking three and K-ing one. Seaton ended up with his third loss of the year, moving his record to 0-3. Wes Musick took over for the next six outs and left with nearly identical numbers, lacking only the strikeout. The man responsible for all four RedHawks runs in the game was Che-Hsuan Lin. The first run came on Lin's sacrifice fly in the second, scoring Marc Krauss. The final three marked his first homer of the season, a three run shot. Lin closed his day at the plate two-for-three. Austin Wates hit three-for-four in the game and both Carlos Perez (2X3 R BB SO) and Jonathan Villar (2X4 BB SO) had a couple hits of their own.    

Player of the Day: It was a tough decision today and the honors are going to have to be split. Matt Duffy gets the first nod. Duffy's grand salami Saturday pushed the JetHawks ahead and capped off an unbelievable eighth inning. George Springer gets the other nod. He came close to hitting for the cycle yesterday and now leads all of MiLB in homers with 12. Those were two really great performances. Good game, guys.    

Pitcher of the Day: David Rollins is at the head of the class today. It was Rollin's performance on the mound, four shutout innings to close the game, that kept Lancaster in the hunt late in the game. That kind of composure and focus is invaluable and is always worthy of the honors.