Saturday, June 1, 2013

WTHB Pitcher and Player of the Month for May

Last month I started tallying the results of all of the WTHB Players and Pitchers of the Day in order to determine Player/Pitcher of the Month for that month. I have added up the honors for May. 48 players received shoutouts during the month (including honorable mentions) with numerous players receiving multiple honors. With that said, here are the May winners.

Aplin received Player of the Day honors a whopping FIVE times during May. He hit .333/.412/.517 at Lancaster in May and .465/.531/.767 in his last 10 games. Aplin currently leads the Astros minor league system in runs scored and doubles and is second in hits and RBIs. He is in the top five in all of those categories (plus walks) in the California League as well.

Jake Buchanan was in a three-way tie for Pitcher of the Month in April, but he was the hands-down winner in May. Jake leads the Texas League with an ERA of 0.77 and a WHIP of 0.686. He also leads all starters in the Astros minor league system in those categories. In May, he was 4-0 with a 0.00 ERA and a 0.651 WHIP in six appearances.

It almost doesn't seem fair because Buchanan was Pitcher of the Day every single time he pitched in the month of May. He was simply that dominating. So I would like to give an honorable mention to runner-up David Martinez. As far as I know, Martinez still leads all minor league teams with eight wins. In any event, he was the first to get to that mark. He is second in the Texas League with an ERA of 1.83 and third in WHIP at 0.981. In May, Martinez was 6-0 with a 2.30 ERA and a 1.053 WHIP in seven appearances.


Lance McCullers
Mike Foltynewicz
Brett Oberholtzer
Mike Hauschild
Jordan Jankowski
Jonathan Villar
Delino DeShields
Brett Wallace
Michael Burgess
Jonathan Meyer
Brandon Meredith
Erik Castro
Preston Tucker

April Player of the Month - Zach Johnson
April Pitchers of the Month - Jake Buchanan, Travis Ballew and Vincent Velasquez

Astros Minor League Recaps

Friday’s Games

Quad Cities River Bandits 6, Beloit Snappers 3 (14)
The River Bandits scored five runs in the 14th inning Friday to win and break a tie that had held since the third frame. Jordan Jankowski pitched the first five innings Friday, allowing one run in the third over two hits (HR) and recording 1-2-3 sets in every other inning he worked. Jankowski finished with four Ks and a pair of walks. Gerardo Sanchez, who threw four innings (9-12), had a nice outing, allowing one hit and striking out six. Mitchell Lambson (2-2) followed Sanchez and picked up the win while giving up two runs on two hits, walking one and striking out three. John Neely signed in for the last two outs and earned his ninth save of the season after giving up a hit and a walk. Quad Cities got on the board in the third inning when Carlos Correa (3X6 2B RBI SO) hit an RBI single to score Terrell Joyce (1X4 2R 2BB 2S0). Joyce was on board after hitting a leadoff double, his eighth of the year. The 14th inning scoring was initiated by a Jonathan Singleton (1X6 R HR 2RBI 3SO) two run homer and also saw a two RBI double by Jordan Scott (1X1 2B 2RBI) before Joyce scored the River Bandits’ final run on a Teoscar Hernandez single (1X7 RBI SO).

Visalia Rawhide 12, Lancaster JetHawks 10
Lancaster got out to a hot start in this game but dropped eight runs in the fourth and saw their winning streak come to and end on Friday. Blair Walters took the start and pitched three and a third before leaving the game because he was hit in the arm by a liner. Walters allowed four runs (2ER) on five hits (2HR) during his stint. Jonas Dufek (0-2) entered in the third to replace Walters and allowed six runs on five hits and a walk while recording just one out to earn the loss. Brandon Meredith (1X3 2R HR 4RBI 2BB) finished Friday with four RBI, three coming from a three-RBI homer in the first to get the JetHawks on the board. Matt Duffy (3X5 2R 2B HR RBI) and Andrew Aplin (3X5 R 2B RBI) both hit three-for-five in the game. Aplin tallied his ninth longball of the year on a solo shot in the fourth.

Corpus Christi Hooks 3, Arkansas Travelers 5
The Hooks didn’t have quite enough offensive momentum to overtake their opponents in this game Friday and saw their win streak end too. Bobby Doran started things off on the mound for Corpus and allowed a run on two hits, two walks and four Ks in his five innings at the wheel. Pat Urckfitz (2-2), who came on an out into the seventh, took the loss and tallied his first blown save after recording two runs on three hits, two walks and two strikeouts. Drew Muren went three-for-four at the plate Friday with a double and run scored. George Springer had two hits in the game (2X4), both doubles and also picked up a walk and a strikeout.

Omaha Storm Chasers, Oklahoma City RedHawks 

Player of the Day: Jon Singleton homered in his third straight game to help the River Bandits add to their win streak and start the game off in style. These honors are just icing on that cake.

Pitcher of the Game: The whole Quad Cities crew did well on Friday, but Jankowski, Sanchez and Lambson really stood out. So all three are gonna get it today. Jankowski threw four 1-2-3 frames, Sanchez gave up just a hit and K-ed six over four innings and Lambson, well, he K-ed three in a row in the 13th. Great games, guys.

Happy Birthday - 6/1

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP Aaron West (23)
Drafted out of the University of Washington in the 17th round in 2012, West had a spectacular freshman season at Tri-City going 6-2 with a 2.04 ERA with a 0.957 WHIP in 12 starts. So far this season at Lancaster, West is 2-1 with a 4.72 ERA and a 1.356 WHIP in nine games (five starts). Following a prolonged stint on the DL in May, West has been very effective, allowing only one run in his last two appearances.

OF Cristian Murillo (20)
Murillo was signed as a free agent out of Columbia in 2010 and has played the last two years with the DSL Astros, hitting a cumulative .196/.371/.254.

Tweet of the Day

Josh Zeid
We should be in the clear. Thanks for everyone's well wishes. Lots of flooding. Prayers for the few that were killed during storm

Friday, May 31, 2013

An Interview with Astros RHP Jake Buchanan

If you haven't been paying attention, you may not know that Jake Buchanan is having an extraordinary season. In 13 games (nine starts) for the Corpus Christi Hooks, he is 6-0 with a 0.77 ERA and a 0.686 WHIP. That's impressive enough until you look at little more closely at his May numbers. In six appearances (four starts) in May, he is 4-0 (having won his last four straight games) with a 0.00 ERA and a 0.651 WHIP. One of his most impressive stats to me is that he has only walked four batters all season.

Although Buchanan was named the Astros Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2011, his success didn't exactly translate in 2012. So what is different this year? I asked the man himself when I was in Corpus Christi last weekend.

Jake Buchanan - May 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

On what he's doing different this year: "Not too much different. I guess they're just hitting it at people this year is what I've been telling people. Been pretty lucky. The defense has been great. Everybody this year has made great plays behind me. I think about every break that could have been my way has gone my way. The other night, Santana throws a guy out at the plate, saves a run. Defense has been great. Been down in the zone more I guess. Getting more ground balls.

"It's just been different. I feel more like I belong here. My last year I was new. Last year was more veteran guys and this year, I kind of feel like the veteran guy now that all my friends have moved up to AAA."

Is he having fun?: "Definitely, a lot more fun this year. Last year was a down year, probably one of the worst years of my career for me ever since I've been playing. This year's been a lot more fun. Just enjoying it."

Is there a particular coach or manager in the organization that has made an impact on him?: "I've had [Pitching Coach Gary] Ruby for two years and this would be the third. He's pretty good with the mental approach of the game, just sticking with what works best for me, not trying to do too much. Just sticking with the sinker and trusting it. Other than that ... he's been my pitching coach for 3/4 of my career so I guess props to him for sticking with me and helping me with that."

Any rituals or superstitions?: "So far this year, everything's been the same. I've been afraid to change anything up because everything's going so well. Still wearing the same cleats and glove, undershirt, everything like that. I haven't changed that up yet. I guess when the bad one happens, I'll probably change something up after that."

On the tandem approach to pitching: "It's working well for me. I know some guys probably don't like it but I like knowing I have five innings that day to go out [and] get 15 outs and you can try to give it your all for five innings. I know last year when I was starting, you'd try to kind of conserve some in case you had to go seven or eight, trying to save some the first couple of innings but now you have five innings, you kind of let it go. Out of the bullpen, if you're on the road and you're down, you could possibly throw only three innings. You just go out and throw everything you've got."

On eventually stretching out his innings: "I've so far been pretty efficient, not throwing too many pitches in five innings. I still feel like I have some left. It's definitely going to be different when they tell you 'go as long as you can.'"

On having one less day of rest: "I've always been pretty lucky with recovering pretty quickly, not too sore after my starts. And this year I've been a lot better. I guess because we're not throwing as many pitches. For me, that's not really a big issue, but I know some of the guys, it could be hard to do."


When I told Coach Ruby what Jake had said about just being lucky this season, Ruby replied, "That's typical Jake. He's come so far. He's matured so much as a pitcher. Last year, he had struggled some times. Now he's been phenomenal because he's got better feel for everything around him. His stuff is really good. Besides his sinker, his cutter, curveball, changeup have all been effective. He's been great. He's got everything in order which is nice."

When I pressed Ruby on what one thing made the difference from last year to this, he responded, "I think it's more the maturity process, how to get out of trouble when he's pitching. He's a sinkerball pitcher. He throws a lot of double plays, a lot of ground balls. Now he knows how to use his weapons. That's the difference."

Manager Keith Bodie agrees, "Tremendous maturity. He's grown. All he does is go out there and throws the ball over the plate and gets soft contact, ground ball contact." Bodie added, "He has developed a curveball that he's mixed in which really has made him more consistent, more viable pitcher, especially starting. He's proven that he can get people out and get them out consistently."

Well, whatever he's doing, it's working. When I interviewed Mike Foltynewicz the next day, I told him that he was in danger of losing his Studmuffin of the Year crown from 2012 (a tongue-in-cheek award stemming from the nickname Folty's girlfriend bestowed on him) to Buchanan. Folty laughed and admitted that when Alex Sogard got promoted to AAA and Jake Buchanan took his old locker, Folty wanted Jake's locker in hopes that some of his incredible 2013 mojo might rub off.

But it's more than mojo. It's talent and maturity that are putting Buchanan back where he was in 2011, an early front-runner for Astros Minor League Pitcher of the Year (and a chance at the coveted WTHB Studmuffin of the Year award to boot).

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

Astros Minor League Recaps

Thursday's Games - Another day, another group of winners. Oklahoma City has won 3 in a row, Corpus Christi 4, Quad Cities 5 and Lancaster a whopping 9 in a row, thank you very much!!!

Oklahoma City over Omaha 8-1
Asher Wojciechowski (3H 2BB 4SO) got the start and was very effective in six innings as he allowed only one run on a solo home run. He was spelled in relief by scoreless innings from Kevin Chapman, Josh Zeid and Rhiner Cruz. The RedHawks got the scoring started in the third inning with a Jake Elmore RBI single. That was followed by two more in each the fourth and fifth innings and was punctuated by a three-run eighth featuring a Che-Hsuan Lin RBI single and a Carlos Perez two-run double. Fernando Martinez was two-for-four with a double, RBI and run scored.

Corpus Christi over Northwest Arkansas 5-0
Jake Buchanan earned his sixth win of the season as he and Carlos Quevedo combined to allow only three hits and one walk while striking out eight in the shutout. Buchanan's ERA has now dipped to 0.77, and he will end May with a 0.00 ERA. The Hooks put up all the runs they would need with an RBI double from Jio Mier (2x4 BB R) and an RBI single from Rene Garcia in the third, but added on singletons in the sixth, seventh and eighth, two of those coming on solo shots from George Springer and Erik Castro.

Lancaster over Visalia 15-2
Kyle Hallock (1BB 5SO) put up a strong five innings of one-hit ball for the start and was followed by three from Luis Cruz who allowed two runs on three hits and a walk while striking out three. Tommy Shirley pitched the final scoreless frame. The Lancaster bats put a beat down on Visalia, pounding out fifteen runs on sixteen hits. They started the scoring in the second and never let up until the eighth. All JetHawks starters got at least one hit. Amazingly enough with that many runs scoring in a game at Lancaster, only two of them came via the long ball, a two-run home run from Matt Duffy in the fifth inning. Chris Epps had a terrific night, going three-for-five with two doubles, a triple, three RBI and two runs scored. Delino DeShields stole his 11th and 12th bases of the season. Here's a look at how all the hitters fared:

Quad Cities - Game Cancelled

Player of the Day: Chris Epps is the man of the hour. Not only did he have a great game last night, he has had a very good month. After hitting only .209 in April, he has hit .358/.450/.672 in May.

Pitcher of the Day: It has just become almost automatic. Jake Buchanan pitches. Jake Buchanan is pitcher of the day. It has been an amazing season for Jake thus far. Note to Jeff Luhnow: Buchanan has nothing left to prove in Corpus.

Happy Birthday - 5/31

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

CF Kenny Lofton (46)
Drafted by Houston in the 17th round in 1988, Lofton only played in 20 games for Houston in 1991 out of his 17 year major league career. He was traded, along with Dave Rohde, to Cleveland for RHP Willie Blair and C Ed Taubensee in December 1991 in what turned out to be a spectacularly bad trade. In 1992, Lofton was second in Rookie of the Year voting to Pat Listach. He was a six-time All-Star and a four-time Gold Glove. He played for 11 teams and had a career batting line of .299/.372/.423 with 622 stolen bases.

Tweet of the Day

Christian García
Never trust American food at a Chinese restaurant.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

An Interview with Astros RHP Mike Foltynewicz

I talked to Mike Foltynewicz on Saturday, May 25th, the day after he threw five no-hit innings in his start at Corpus Christi. We talked about how the tandem pitching routine is going, his tandem partner David Martinez and the fantastic defense on the Corpus Christi team among other things. He also answers the ultimate question, In-n-Out or Whataburger?

I also spoke with Manager Keith Bodie and Pitching Coach Gary Ruby about Folty. Bodie said, "Folty's Folty. He's a franchise pitcher. He's a Verlander. That's his potential. His ceiling is limitless. If he stays helathy, he's got a chance to be a definite #1 starter in the big leagues and a perennial All-Star."

Ruby said of Foltynewicz, "Obviously he's gifted. His ceiling is so high. He's got good breaking stuff. He's working hard on his changeup. Once he gets his command a little bit better, he's going to be something." I also asked Ruby what Folty needs to work on to get to the next level as a pitcher, "I think the biggest thing for him is to just master the off-speed because big league hitters are going to catch up sooner or later. He's working hard on his changeup which I like very much, but his breaking balls, if he has command of those, they pretty much don't have a chance."

Mike is an exciting pitcher to watch. It's also fun to watch for this when he pitches. And I saw this several times.

I plan to continue to talk to Mike from time to time throughout the season. For our conversations from earlier this year, you can go here.

Astros Minor League Recaps

Wednesday's Games

Oklahoma City - Postponed

Corpus Christi over Northwest Arkansas
Starter Jorge de Leon (4H 1BB 4SO) allowed two runs on two home runs in his four innings and was followed by three innings from R.J. Alaniz (2H 1R 1BB 4SO) who earned the win and Sergio Escalona (2IP 2H 1R 2SO) who earned the save. Max Stassi (2x4 2-2B) got the scoring started in the fourth by driving in two with a double and then scoring on a double from Kiké Hernandez. The Hooks quickly added two more runs on back-to-back RBI doubles from Erik Castro (3x4 2-2B 2R) and Jonathan Meyer (2x3 BB R).

Lancaster over Rancho Cucamonga 9-4
Tyson Perez got the start and allowed three runs on six hits and two walks while striking out four over four innings of work and was followed by a perfect frame from Michael Dimock. David Rollins (0H 1R 1BB 4SO) got the win, pitching a strong four innings. He allowed one run in the ninth despite not allowing a hit as a hit batter, walk and wild pitch blossomed into a run. Telvin Nash (2x5 2HR 3RBI) got the party started with a two-run home run in the second. A Chris Epps (2x4 BB SB) double in the fourth brought in a third run and the score was tied at 3-3 going into the sixth inning. The 'Hawks put up a two spot in the sixth on a Matt Duffy (3x5 R) double and then put things out of reach with a four run seventh featuring back to back home runs from Preston Tucker (a three-run home run) and Nash. Tucker (2x3 2B HR 2BB 3RBI 3R) is a beast. He has driven in 19 runs in his last 10 games, nine in the last two. He is hitting .512/.571/.902 over that period. There were multi-hit games from Delino DeShields, Joe Sclafani and Tyler Heineman as well. The JetHawks have now won eight straight since I threatened to turn this blog around and go back to Lancaster.

Quad Cities over Kane County 2-1
Mike Hauschild (1H 2BB 5SO) got the start and threw four and two-thirds no-hit innings before allowing a single with two outs in the fifth, but it was Colton Cain (3IP 2H 0R 2BB 4SO) who got the win as Quad Cities didn't put up any runs until the sixth inning. John Neely converted his eighth save despite allowing one run on two hits in the ninth. All the River Bandits scoring came in the sixth via solo home runs from Teoscar Hernandez and Jon Singleton (2x4 2B). Rio Ruiz was two-for-four and stole a base, and Austin Elkins went two-for-three. That is now five in a row for the Banditos.

Player of the Day: I repeat. Preston Tucker is a beast. End of story.

Pitcher of the Day: Mike Hauschild, come on down. Mike was tantalizingly close to throwing five no-hit innings. That will definitely earn you some WTHB love.

Happy Birthday - 5/30

Happy Birthday to ~

OF Brett Phillips (19)
Drafted in the sixth round in 2012 out of Seminole High School in Florida, Phillips spent his first season with the Gulf Coast League team, hitting .251/.360/.360 with seven doubles and six triples. He is currently at Extended Spring Training and I cannot wait to see him back in action soon.

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

RHP Mike "Buffie" LaCoss (57)
A third round draft pick by the Reds in 1974, LaCoss was a waiver claim by the Astros in April 1982. He pitched in 118 games (43 starts) for Houston from 1982 to 1984. He had an 18-18 record with a 3.83 ERA and a 1.418 WHIP. LaCoss was an All Star for Cincinnati in 1979.

Tweet of the Day

Josh Zeid
Spent the morning helping piece back people's houses in Moore, ok. Honored to be able to help.
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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Astros Minor League Recaps

Tuesday's Games - It was another sweep in the minors with all teams getting a "W" on Tuesday.

Oklahoma City over Omaha 5-2
Jarred Cosart got the start and the win, his fifth, as he allowed two runs on three hits in five innings. It wasn't exactly a pretty win for Cosart though as he walked seven batters, including the first batter in three separate innings and was charged with two wild pitches as well. Jason Stoffel picked him up though by pitching three perfect innings in relief and Jose Valdez converted his 11th save of the season. The RedHawks got all the runs they needed in the first as Fernando Martinez drove in two with a triple and Che-Hsuan Lin scored Martinez on a single, but they added a pair in the second for good measure. Brett Wallace was two-for-three with a walk, RBI single and run scored, and Marc Krauss was two-for-three with a double and a walk.

Corpus Christi over Northwest Arkansas 6-3
David Martinez allowed two runs (one earned) in his five innings and was followed by four very strong innings from Mike Foltynewicz in which Folty gave up one run and struck out six batters for the win, his first AA win. The Hooks didn't get on the board until late, scoring one run in the sixth on a Michael Burgess (2x4 2R) home run, his third in the last two days. Then the flood gates opened up in the seventh as the Hooks scored five in an inning that featured a lead-off double from Jonathan Meyer (2x4 R), three wild pitches, one walk, a sac fly and four consecutive singles. Ben Orloff (3x5 2RBI R) and Rene Garcia (2x5 2RBI) had good outings at the plate as well.

Lancaster over Rancho Cucamonga 10-2
The 'Hawks were controlling this one from the start as Brady Rodgers and Chris Devenski combined for eight shutout innings before Devenski allowed two runs in the ninth. Rodgers only allowed two hits and a walk while striking out four in his five innings and was rewarded with his fourth win. The scoring got started in the second as Tyler Heineman drove in Telvin Nash in a rather unusual inside-the-park home run as described by Aaron West:

Aaron West
I saw a 200 foot inside the park homerun today. Thanks for showing me anything is possible.

Aaron West
In all fairness to the people who didn't see homerun the left fielder stopped to play musical chairs before throwin the ball in

Aaron West
But a homerun is a homerun no matter how it happens.

Aaron West
And when I say musical chairs I mean the bullpen stood up like bowling pins and the left fielder tried to knock them all over.

Another run scored in the frame following the "Heine Homer" as a Raoul Torrez (2x4 R) doubled and then scored on a Chris Epps (2x4 2B R) single and an error. Andrew Aplin (2x3 BB 3R) tripled in the third and scored on a Preston Tucker single. Tucker drove in two more in the fifth with a double and three more in the ninth with a three home-run, the other run in that frame coming from a Brandon Meredith RBI single. Yes, Preston Tucker drove in six runs last night. He is hitting .488/.542/.780 over his last 10 games. Aplin, Meredith and Joe Sclafani each stole a base.

Quad Cities over Kane County 7-5 in 5-1/2 innings (completed early due to rain)
Daniel Minor got the start allowing two runs on three hits and three walks while striking out three in his four innings of work. He was followed by Richard Rodriguez who gave up a three-run home run in the fifth and then Lance McCullers who earned his first professional win in a rather unusual manner. He only pitched one inning before the game was called, but it was a good one. After walking the first batter, he promptly proceeded to issue three consecutive swinging strikeouts and then the game was called due to rain. The other  big story of the game was the return of Jon Singleton from the restricted list. He homered in his first at-bat and then followed up with an RBI single and a walk. The first run of the game came across in the first as Teoscar Hernandez walked, advanced to second on a wild pitch, stole third base and came home on a throwing error. He was followed by the Singleton home run. In the third, the River Bandits added on another pair on a Carlos Correa RBI single and the Singleton singleton driving in Hernandez. Carlos Correa drove in two more in the fifth on an RBI double and was followed with a Miles Hamblin sac fly RBI. Correa is hitting .342/.432/.500 with four doubles, a triple and 11 RBI in his last 10 games.

Player of the Day: Six RBI in one game? Say no more. Preston Tucker is The Man.

Pitcher of the Day: Lance McCullers gets all my love today. It took a long time for him to get that elusive first  professional win, but he never got discouraged. I think now that the floodgates are open, the wins will start coming fast and furious.

Happy Birthday - 5/29

Happy Birthday to ~

OF Terrell Joyce (21)
Drafted by Houston in the 12th round in 2012 out of Florida College, Joyce spent his first season at Greeneville with solid results. So far this season, he has played in 40 games with Quad Cities, hitting .203/.306/.328 with seven doubles and three home runs.

RHP Cameron Lamb (24)
Originally signed out of Australia by the Giants in 2007, Lamb came to the Astros organization in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft in December 2012. In 10 appearances for Quad Cities, he has a 6.00 ERA and a 1.933 WHIP. Of particular note, he has been predominantly an extreme groundball pitcher in the past with good results, but his GO/AO ratio is 0.76 this season.

RHP Juan Delis (19)
Delis was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Panama and played in his second season for the DSL Astros in 2012. In 17 appearances, he was 1-0 with a 3.69 ERA and a 1.389 WHIP.

RHP Harold Arauz (18)
Arauz signed as a NDFA out of Panama in July 2011 and played his first season for the DSL team in 2012. In eight games (five starts), he was 1-1 with a 4.30 ERA and a 1.500 WHIP.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

LHP Trever Miller (40)
Originally drafted by Detroit in the first round in 1991, Miller first came to Houston in this trade:
December 10, 1996: Traded by the Detroit Tigers with Brad Ausmus, Jose Lima, C.J. Nitkowski and Daryle Ward to the Houston Astros for Doug Brocail, Brian Hunter, Todd Jones, Orlando Miller and cash.
He pitched on the major league level for Houston in 1998 and 1999 before being traded to Philadelphia in March of 2000. Miller came back to Houston for two additional seasons in 2006 and 2007. In 230 games for the Astros, he was 7-5 with a 3.96 ERA and a 1.435 WHIP. He holds the record for the most appearances in a season (76) without getting a decision in 2007.
A fourth round pick by the Giants in 1983, Hayes played in only 31 games for Houston at the end of his major league career in 2001. He played for seven teams over 14 seasons. His best season was in 1993 for Colorado when he hit .305/.355/.522 with 45 doubles, two triples and 25 home runs.

Tweet of the Day

Morgan Ensberg
Future Big Leaguers Andrew Aplin and Nolan Fontana. Notice the Power V-Necks". Couple of dapper dudes.
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Roster Moves

(A couple of these are older moves, but I'm posting in case you missed them.)

RHP Brad Peacock recalled to Houston

Oklahoma City
OF Robbie Grossman optioned to Oklahoma City
RHP Josh Fields assigned to Oklahoma City for rehab assignment

Corpus Christi
LHP Sergio Escalona assigned to Corpus Christi from Extended Spring Training

C Ryan McCurdy placed on the 7-day DL
RHP Aaron West activated from the DL

Quad Cities
1B Jon Singleton activated from the restricted list and assigned to Quad Cities

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Random Thoughts On My Corpus Christi Trip

I'm going to be a little slow in getting out all of my material from my Corpus trip this weekend because I wanted to actually relax and enjoy myself and not spend the entire weekend working. Mission accomplished! I'll be posting interviews with Jake Buchanan and Mike Foltynewicz (and maybe one more) this week with the rest to come out next week so keep checking back. In the meantime, let me leave you with some random thoughts.

I love Whataburger Field. There is nothing better than sitting there on a warm evening with a cool breeze blowing off the water. I got chastised for saying this to a Corpus friend of mine, but I had a hard time even caring whether or not the Hooks won on Sunday evening (they didn't despite a valiant comeback effort) because the atmosphere was just so wonderful and relaxing.

Part of what makes Whataburger Field special is the staff there. Everyone seems to enjoy being there. Every day the staff gathers together in the stands about a half hour before the gates open and they end their meeting with a rousing, "Go Hooks" cheer. Most of the faces I saw there last year were back again this year. Two in particular stood out for me. Unfortunately I didn't get names, but one of them is a former season ticket holder who really, really loves the Hooks ... a lot.

Which brings me to Reid Ryan. If you've ever been to Whataburger Field, you'll know what I mean when I say that they are a class operation all the way. That is due in no small part to Ryan's influence. The staff members there speak with pride about Ryan's hiring as the Astros new President. Ryan sat with several of us  for a late half-inning during the Astros game yesterday. He was honest and forthright in answering our questions and didn't try to "spin" us. I found him to be a breath of fresh air. Kind of like the breeze that comes in from right field off the bay at Whataburger Field. He gives me hope.

One player that I really enjoyed watching was Jonathan Meyer. I'm not sure why, because I'd always heard good things about him, but for some reason he just didn't stand out for me when I saw him in Lancaster last year. This year was vastly different. His energy and enthusiasm on the field, his sterling defensive plays and the way he plays the game ... with joyful abandon ... all combine to make him one of my new favorite players (granted it's a very long and crowded list these days, which is a good thing). I particularly enjoyed watching him take BP. He doesn't so much hit the ball as try to assassinate it. He makes good, hard contact. I'm keeping a closer eye on him now.

Jonathan Meyer - May 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

And speaking of BP, I loved hearing the chatter behind the cage. In particular, hearing Erik Castro referred to as "Big Sexy" when he hit the ball hard and far (which was often) made me grin. And I was really, really surprised to hear players in their early 20's singing along to "Amie" by the Pure Prairie League when it was played on the oldies station being piped in during BP as it was a hit in 1974-75, long before any of these players were even born.

And I decided that I would never make a good paparazzi. I sometimes felt like a stalker with my camera. Frankly, I was stalking the elusive Ben Orloff. I had interviewed Ben and he really isn't very comfortable talking about himself. And he really seemed to be avoiding my camera as well. I never really did get any good pictures of him.

Ben Orloff - May 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

One final thought. The team I saw this year really reflects the looseness and camaraderie that I saw last year in Lancaster. I didn't see that on last year's team. And at the center of it all is George Springer. Springer is quiet off the field, but he is loose and funny and goofy and silly on the field. From doing handstands during field work to whooping and hollering in the dugout before the games, he brings an element to his game that may turn out to be as important as his on-field accomplishments. It's fun to watch.

Astros Minor League Recaps

Monday's Games - It was a system sweep as Houston and all four full-season minor league teams won.

Oklahoma City over Iowa 4-3
Ross Seaton went five and a third to earn the win. He was charged with all three Cubs runs with one of the runs coming across under Alex Sogard's watch on a sac fly before Sogard, Rhiner Cruz and Jose Valdez shut it down for a scoreless final three and a third innings. The RedHawks got all the offense they needed in the third inning as four runs came across. Jake Elmore pushed across one run on a bases loaded walk and two more scored on a Brett Wallace single and a throwing error. The final run scored as Fernando Martinez grounded into a double play. Cody Clark and Andy Simunic were both two-for-four with a run scored.

Corpus Christi over Arkansas 14-4
Corpus Christi came from behind, first taking the lead, then playing add-on and then simply piling on in a lop-sided win over Arkansas. Nick Tropeano got his first win of the season, pitching five innings and allowing four runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out three. Bobby Doran pitched a beautiful final four innings allowing only two hits and no walks. He struck out two. The Hooks were down 4-1 going into the bottom of the third, having scored one on a Michael Burgess home run, before adding on four in the frame by way of back-to-back home runs from George Springer (3x6 2HR 5RBI) and Domingo Santana (4x5 2B HR 3R SB), and Burgess' second home run of the day, scoring Erik Castro who had doubled in front of him. Two more runs came across in the fourth on a Castro single, making the lead 7-4. And then the fifth happened. Yes, Springer hit his second home run of the game, a grand slam. And Jonathan Meyer doubled in a run before the final two runs scored on a wild pitch and a fielding error, respectively. Rene Garcia was two-for-five with a walk and scored two runs.

Lancaster over Rancho Cucamonga 6-4
Aaron West dominated in his first appearance since coming off the DL, allowing only one walk in the first and a single to lead off the fifth. He struck out four. He was followed with two and two-thirds innings from Blair Walters. Walters gave up three runs on two hits and three walks, with one of those hits being a three-run home run. Travis Ballew came in to finish things up and convert his ninth save of the season despite allowing a solo home run in the ninth. Rancho Cucamonga shut down Lancaster's offense through the first four innings as well, allowing only one single (and three walks) through the first four frames, but the 'Hawks got on the board in the fifth on a Joe Sclafani two-run double. Three more scored in the eighth thanks to RBI singles from Raoul Torrez (3x4 R) and Delino DeShields (along with a couple of Rancho errors), and one last insurance run came across in the ninth on a Preston Tucker single. DeShields was four-for-four with a walk and scored a run. Preston Tucker and Andrew Aplin now have 11-game and 7-game hitting streaks, respectively.

Quad Cities over Clinton 11-4
The River Bandits led this one from the first inning on. With 16 total hits, every starter collected at least one hit. Vincent Velasquez collected his fourth run of the season, allowing three runs on six hits and two walks in five innings and was followed by Jamaine Cotton who allowed one run across in his three innings of work. John Neely pitched a scoreless ninth. Quad Cities got on the board with one in the first on a Miles Hamblin (2x4 BB 2RBI 2R) home run and added another in the third. A pair of runs came in the fifth on a Carlos Correa (3x5 4RBI 2R) RBI double and a Hamblin single, and Correa drove in two more in the sixth. Jobduan Morales (3x5 2RBI) added on another run in the seventh on an RBI double to make it 7-4. Then the Bandits put the game out of reach with four more runs in the eighth. Austin Elkins was three-for-six and scored a run. Jordan Scott walked three times and scored three times.

Player of the Day: George Springer gets the honors for his two home run, five RBI outing and Michael Burgess gets honorable mention for his two home run, three RBI outing.

Pitcher of the Day: Welcome back, Mr. West!!! Four no-hit innings and five innings of one-hit ball on your first day back from the DL is not too shabby.

Happy Birthday - 5/28

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

2B Bill Doran (55)
Doran was drafted in the sixth round in 1979 by Houston and played nine seasons for the Astros before being traded to the Reds in August of 1990. In 1165 games for Houston from 1982 to 1990, he hit .267/.355/.374. In 1987, he hit .283 while playing in all 162 games and leading the National League in fielding percentage for a second baseman.

2B/SS Rafael Landestoy (60)
Landestoy was signed by the Dodgers in 1972 out of the Dominican Republic and came to Houston in a July 1978 trade. He played for the Astros from July 1978 until he was traded in June 1981 to the Reds. In 372 games, he hit .250/.312/.315. His best season was 1979 when he hit .270 in 129 games.

C Skip Jutze (67)
Originally drafted by the Cardinals in the fourth round in 1968, Jutze came to Houston in a November 1972 trade and played for the Astros from 1973 to 1976. In 191 games, he hit .210/.250/.244.

Tweet of the Day

It's a sweep!!! Houston, Oklahoma City, Corpus Christi, Lancaster and Quad Cities all win. Happy Birthday to me!!!!

I had a simply amazing 24 hours on my birthday, literally starting from 12:01 a.m. and continuing throughout the day. Thank you so much for all the well wishes. Getting the wins made the day even more special for me.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Astros Minor League Recaps

Sunday's Games

Quad Cities River Bandits 5, Clinton LumberKings 2
The River Bandits came back to win this one after a rain delay of over an hour on Sunday. Brian Holmes threw the first three innings and allowed both opposing runs over three hits while walking a pair and striking out five. Gerardo Sanchez (1-0) came on next and picked up the win, going two innings and allowing just a hit and K-ing one. Jordan Jankowski picked up his second save after pitching the last four frames and giving up a lone hit while striking out five. Austin Elkins was busy at the plate, hitting three-for-four with an RBI single to score Brian Blasik (1X3 R 2BB SB) in the fourth. Jordan Scott hit two-for-three and drew a pair of walks in the contest as well while Terrell Joyce (1X2 2R HR RBI 2BB) hit his third homer of the season, a solo-shot in the fifth. 

Inland Empire 66ers 10, Lancaster JetHawks 18
Lancaster came back twice in this game and the second time it stuck, thanks in large part to a 10-run seventh inning. Luis Cruz started on the mound and lasted two innings, giving up five runs in the second frame. Cruz finished with those runs and seven hits, a walk and two Ks. Kyle Hallock (2-0) was the third pitcher on for the JetHawks and picked up the win. Hallock pitched four innings and allowed four runs on five hits (3HR), walked one and struck out the same. Brandon Meredith didn’t make it into the game until the sixth inning but still managed to hit two homers in his time, finishing three-for-three with two runs scored, those homers and five RBI. Meredith, Chris Epps (3X4 4R 3B HR 3RBI BB) and Preston Tucker (1X4 2R 3RBI BB) all hit three-run homers in the game. Delino DeShields went four-for-six with two runs scored, a triple, RBI and stolen base.

Arkansas Travelers 8, Corpus Christi Hooks 6
The Hooks fell behind early in this one and tried to mount a comeback in the eighth, but fell short of the win. Carlos Quevedo (1-4) picked up the loss after working the first three. Quevedo allowed four runs on eight hits (2HR) and struck out one. Andrew Robinson followed him for four outs and gave up another three runs on four hits and a walk while K-ing two. Kiké Hernandez hit two-for-four, scored a run and collected his seventh double in the game. Domingo Santana (1X3 2RBI) and Ben Orloff  (1X5 R 2RBI SO) both recorded two RBIs in the match. 

Oklahoma City RedHawks 1, Iowa Cubs 2 (7) Game 1
The first game of this doubleheader in Iowa saw only seven hits from the two teams combined and the RedHawks were on the losing side. Brett Oberholtzer (3-4) got the start and the loss after throwing five and a third and allowing both opposing runs on four hits (HR) while striking out two. Jake Elmore collected two of the three hits for Oklahoma City in this game in three ABs and Andrew Simunic (0X3 RBI SO) drove in his team’s lone run in the second inning on a groundout, scoring Marc Krauss (1X3 R 2B SO).

Oklahoma City RedHawks 3, Iowa Cubs 4 (7) Game 2
The second contest of the day ended in another one run loss for the RedHawks. Phillip Humber worked the first four frames and despite allowing three runs (1ER) across four hits and a walk (5SO HR), his successor, Eric Berger (1-1) took the loss. Berger pitched for one and two thirds on Sunday and allowed one run on a homer in the sixth inning and also walked a batter. The RedHawks had three hits again in this game and Jonathan Villar (1X4 3B RBI 2SO) and Fernando Martinez (1X2 BB SO) collected all the RBIs.

Player of the Day: If you think Brandon Meredith doesn’t deserve it today you were probably hit in the head by one of his homeruns yesterday. Anytime a player comes off the pine in the sixth and has as much of an impact in a game as Meredith did, they’re playing full-tilt… and that is always worthy of player of the day.

Pitcher of the Day: Jordan Jankowski is top banana today. He picked up a save Sunday, but did so after operating on the mound longer than any other pitcher in the game (even opponents) and gave up just a hit in that time while striking out five. We saw you, Jordan. Nice game.

Happy Birthday - 5/27

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

1B Jeff Bagwell (45)
Originally drafted by Boston in the fourth round in 1989, Bagwell came to Houston in the infamous Larry Andersen trade in August 1990 and played his entire major league career from 1991 to 2005 as an Astro. In 15 seasons he hit .297/.408/.540 with 488 doubles, 32 triples, 449 home runs and 202 stolen bases. From Baseball-Reference, here are just some of his accomplishments:
  • 1991 NL Rookie of the Year Award
  • 4-time NL All-Star (1994, 1996, 1997 & 1999)
  • NL MVP (1994)
  • NL Gold Glove Winner (1994)
  • 3-time NL Silver Slugger Award Winner (1994, 1997 & 1999)
  • NL Slugging Percentage Leader (1994)
  • NL OPS Leader (1994)
  • 3-time NL Runs Scored Leader (1994, 1999 & 2000)
  • NL Total Bases Leader (1994)
  • NL Doubles Leader (1996)
  • NL RBI Leader (1994)
  • NL Bases on Balls Leader (1999)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 12 (1993-2004)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 9 (1994 & 1996-2003)
  • 40-Home Run Seasons: 3 (1997, 1999 & 2000)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 8 (1994, 1996-2001 & 2003)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 9 (1994, 1996-2001, 2003 & 2004)
Anyone who doubts that this man belongs in the Hall of Fame doesn't deserve to vote for the honor.

MGR Terry Collins (64)
Collins managed the Astros from 1994 to 1996 and compiled a 224-197 record with the team finishing in second place each of his three seasons. He is currently managing the New York Mets.

One more birthday today ~

Your friendly neighborhood blogger celebrates a birthday today as well, but I'd rather not say which one if you don't mind (but I'm somewhere between Jeff and Terry).

Tweet of the Day

Jake Elmore
If you want to eliminate your dating life, shop here.
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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Astros Minor League Recaps

Saturday’s Games 

Quad Cities River Bandits 0, Clinton LumberKings 1 (7) Game 1
The first game of the doubleheader Saturday for Quad Cities was all pitching and very little offense on both sides. Colton Cain (1-5) started on the hill and gave up the game's only run in the fifth inning, finishing with that run on four hits, two walks and five strikeouts over his four and two thirds innings of work. Richard Rodriguez replaced Cain for the final four outs of the game and retired everyone he faced in order, striking out the last batter. The River Bandits had just four hits in the match and Jordan Scott (2X2) hit two of them, both singles.

Quad Cities River Bandits 6, Clinton LumberKings 5 (7) Game 2
Quad Cities came back from five runs behind to take this win and split the doubleheader. Mike Hauschild (3-0) took the win after pitching the first five innings and allowing five runs (4ER) on seven hits with a strikeout. Outside of the five-run third inning, Hauschild gave up just one hit, recording 1-2-3 frames in the first and fourth. Cameron Lamb followed Hauschild for the final two innings of the game and earned his second save of the year, allowing three hits. The River Bandits had three hits in the second game Saturday and only one of those hits came in the fifth and sixth innings when they were scoring runs. Quad Cities took advantage of seven walks, a pair of wild pitches, two errors and a Carlos Correa stolen base to aid them in their comeback. Miles Hamblin (2X3 3RBI SO) collected two of the game's hits and finished with three RBI. Hamblin scored Teoscar Hernandez (OX3 2R BB SO) in the fifth with a sacrifice fly and then scored Hernandez and Carlos Correa (1X2 R 2B 2BB) in the sixth with an RBI single. 

Inland Empire 66ers 1, Lancaster JetHawks 5
Lancaster allowed just a run and two hits to their opponents at home Saturday as they moved towards their fourth consecutive win in a row. David Rollins got things started from the bump, throwing the first four and allowing one run on two hits . Rollins also walked three and struck out the same. Tyson Perez (2-3), who pitched the sixth through eighth, picked up the win after facing the minimum in his frames and striking out four. Andrew Aplin (1X2 2B RBI 2BB) got the scoring started Saturday with an RBI double in the bottom of the first to score Joe Sclafani (0X3 R 2BB). Aplin also stole his sixth base of the year in the seventh inning. Brandon Meredith (1X3 R 3B SO) hit a huge triple in the fourth inning and two batters later, attempted a steal of home. A catcher's balk was called on the play and Meredith scored Lancaster's second run of the game. Delino DeShields hit the JetHawks last extra-bagger of the game, a double in the seventh and finished one-for-four with a run scored, that double and a walk.

Arkansas Travelers 3, Corpus Christi Hooks 10
The Hooks came out swinging in this game and concluded with a six-run eighth inning to mark their fourth consecutive win as well. Ruben Alaniz (1-5) took the mound first and earned his first win of the season after working the first five innings. Alaniz gave a couple runs on six hits and walked one during his turn. Sergio Escalona pitched the eighth and was the only other Hooks pitcher to allow a run in the game, a homer. Escalona was also the only pitcher for Corpus to record a strikeout (1) and earned his first hold of the season. The first run of the game Saturday came by way of wild pitch scoring Jiovanni Mier (2X4 2R BB) in the bottom of the first. Two more runs would score before the inning ended. The eighth inning saw 11 Corpus Christi batsmen at the plate, four walks, two errors, a wild pitch, a HBP RBI and two, two-RBI singles by Kiké Hernandez (1X4 R 2RBI SO) and George Springer (1X3 2R 2RBI 2BB). Rene Garcia (1X4 R 2B RBI) hit his ninth double of the year in the first inning and recorded 14th RBI when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the eighth. Here's a look at the play-by-play of the eighth inning:

Oklahoma City RedHawks 3, Iowa Cubs 7
The RedHawks struck first in Iowa on Saturday but fell behind after dropping a four-run second inning and they never caught back up. Asher Wojciechowski (1-2) got the start and took the loss after going five and a third on the hill. Wojo recorded five runs (4ER) on seven hits, two walks and five Ks Saturday. Kevin Chapman, who followed Wojo for the next five outs, allowed one more run on two hits (HR), walked two and struck out one. Valdez came on for the final three outs and faced six batters in that time, allowing another run on two hits, walking two and striking out one of his own. Brett Wallace (1X4 R HR 3RBI) got the scoring started in the first inning when he hit a two-run dinger that scored Jake Elmore (1X4 R BB) and then finished the scoring as well in the seventh with an RBI ground out to score Cody Clark (2X4 R SO). Marc Krauss had the only other multi-hit performance for Oklahoma City, going two-for-four with a walk.

Player of the Day: Andrew Aplin takes it today, without question. The guy always plays solid baseball and Saturday was no different. Besides adding to his California League lead in RBIs and stealing a base, Aplin made a catch in the sixth inning that stunned just about everyone that saw it. Jason Schwartz's description of the play can be found here and Jayne has already posted a few tweets from Schwartz and Rodney Linares that were in response to that catch— here and here. So for the second day in a row, it's all about Aplin.

Pitcher of the Day: Ruben Alaniz is taking the honors today to go along with his first win. Six decisions in and he now has a "W" and WTHB honors. Nice game.  

And Here Is The Play ...

Here is the play that had Jason Schwartz gushing with praise for Andrew Aplin in last night's game courtesy of this tweet from Manager Rodney Linares. The original photographs are credited to Terry Lawton.

Rodney Linares
CF Andre Aplin made one of the best plays my eyes have ever seen of the boyz
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Bonus Tweet of the Day

Jason Schwartz
Here’s what Aplin’s catch looks like in my scorebook. Clearly I don’t want to forget it.
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Happy Birthday - 5/26

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

LHP Rob Murphy (53)
A first round pick by Cincinnati in 1981, Mahoney came to Houston as a free agent in January 1992 and played just that one season for Houston. In 59 games pitched, he was 3-1 with a 4.04 ERA and a 1.383 WHIP.

SS Jim Mahoney (79)
Mahoney came from Cleveland prior to the 1963 season and only played in five major league games for Houston in 1965. Those games proved to be his final major league games although he continued to play for various minor league teams until 1970.

Tweet of the Day

Jake Elmore
How's everyone's women's softball bracket looking?