Saturday, June 8, 2013

Astros Minor League Recaps

Friday's Games

DSL Astros 6, DSL Royals 4
The DSL Astros turned five hits, two walks and an error in the fourth inning into six runs. Outside of the fourth inning they only had two other hits and scored no runs, but the offense in the fourth was enough to take the win. Elieser Hernandez (1-0) started on the mound and threw five innings, allowing three hits, a run, a walk and struck out a quartet to earn his first win. Harold Arauz came on for the last out of the eighth and after facing nine batters in the ninth, escaped with his second save of the season. Arauz recorded a hit, two runs, a walk, a HBP, a walk and a K in his time on the hill. None of the runs scored against the DSL Astros in this game were earned. Victor Tavarez (2X4 R) and Brian Pena (2X4 R RBI SO) both had multi-hit games on Friday while Jarico Reynoso and Luis Payano both stole their second base of the season so far.

Quad Cities River Bandits 6, Cedar Rapids Kernels 1
The River Bandits shut down their opponents in this commanding win on the road to take the series. Daniel Minor pitched the first three innings and allowed a run in the first and four hits overall, while walking two and striking out one. After Minor left the game, Quad Cities would not allow another hit through the next six shutout innings. Mitchell Lambson worked the fourth in perfecto fashion, striking out every batter he faced. Lance McCullers (3-4) pitched the fifth through eighth and walked a pair as he tallied five Ks and picked up the win. John Neely closed out the game and faced just three batters even though he hit the second he faced with a pitch. Neely had already struck out the first before the second took his base and the third batter up hit into a double play to end the game. At the plate, the River Bandits were working hard too, making the most of some timely extra base hits (four of their six runs were products of extra-base hits). Jordan Scott (1X3 R 3B 2RBI BB) got the scoring started in the third inning with a massive triple that scored Ariel Ovando (1X4 R 2SO) and Teoscar Hernandez (1X3 R 2B BB SO). Carlos Correa (2X5 R 2B RBI) hit a double later in the same inning to bring Scott home and Jesse Wierzbicki (1X5 R 2B RBI) hit a double in the fifth inning that scored Correa.

Lancaster JetHawks 4, San Jose Giants 8
After getting on the board first in the third, the JetHawks allowed seven runs (including a grand slam) in the fourth inning Friday and it proved to be too much to overcome for the win. Kyle Hallock (3-1) started on the mound and took the loss after allowing those seven runs (6ER), three hits, three walks and a strikeout in his three innings of work. Theron Geith pitched the fourth and gave up another run on two hits and struck out one before yielding the mound to Luis Cruz, who finished out the game for Lancaster. Cruz kept his four frames scoreless and allowed a pair of hits, while walking one and K-ing five. Cruz retired the first ten batters he faced in order and ended up facing two over the minimum. Delino DeShields had a good night swinging the bat, ending up three-for-five with a strikeout and two RBI on a single in the sixth inning. Nolan Fontana went two-for-five with a strikeout and Matt Duffy went two-for-four with a run scored.

Midland Rock Hounds 0, Corpus Christi Hooks 5
The Hooks didn't score outside of the second inning on Friday, but five runs there combined with the work on the mound was more than enough for the win. Mainly because David Martinez and Mike Foltynewicz were true to form at home yesterday, combining this time for a two-hit shutout. Martinez (9-0) was on the mound for the first five innings and allowed just a hit, walked one struck out five in route to his ninth win of the season. Folty followed for the next three and picked up his third save after allowing one hit, walking two and striking out a trio. Together the faced five over the minimum (Folty also had a HBP). Jose Martinez hit one-for-four in the game with a two RBI single in the second that capped off the Hooks' scoring. George Springer went one-for-four too, with a strikeout, run scored and RBI double. Jonathan Meyer finished one-for-two with a run scored, double and two walks. 

Oklahoma City RedHawks 5, Omaha Storm Chasers 2
The RedHawks rode a tie into the sixth inning Friday before breaking ahead for the lead and eventually the win. Brett Oberholtzer (4-4) picked up the win to even out his record after throwing the first six innings. Oberholtzer had a nice outing, allowing just a run and three hits as he walked three and struck out seven. Rhiner Cruz came on for the last out of the eighth and sent all four batters he saw down in order, picking up his first save. Jonathan Villar (2X4 2RBI SO) and Brandon Laird (2X4 R 2B RBI BB) were productive at the plate Friday for Oklahoma City, combining to bat in three of their five runs. Villar also stole second twice in the game; he now has 19 swiped bags on the season.

Player of the Day: Villar gets the honors today because he played hard yesterday. The two bags he swiped yesterday were enough to push him into the lead in the Pacific Coast League in that category (he already led OKC). Hard work always pays off, boys and girls.

Pitcher of the Day: What a pickle picking today's honor is. There's the six no-hit innings by Quad Cities, Martinez and Folty combining for a two-hit shutout in Corpus, even Rhiner earned his first save. It was definitely a day full of great pitching and all those guys are worthy of accolades. I'm going to go the tough luck route though and give the honors today to Luis Cruz. Here's a guy that was down seven runs when he entered in the fifth and was absolutely unfazed. Cruz stepped onto the rubber and into the zone, retiring the first ten batters he saw in order. To put it simply, that's tough personified. Well done, Cruz.

Happy Birthday - 6/8

C Roberto Pena (21)
Pena was drafted by Houston in the seventh round in 2010 out of Puerto Rico. He ended the 2012 season playing for the California League Champion JetHawks, but he is back at Low A Quad Cities to start the 2013 season as he works on getting his bat to catch up with his superior defensive abilities. In 37 games, he is hitting .284/.333/.390 and has a caught stealing percentage of 59% this season (40% during his minor league career).

RHP Gerado Sanchez (24)
A native of New Mexico, Gera Sanchez was signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2012 and played for the GCL in his first season. This season, Sanchez has appeared in 13 games out of the bullpen at Quad Cities so far this season with a 4.07 ERA and a 1.151 WHIP. He has struck out 27 batters in 24 and a third innings while walking only five.

GM Jeff Luhnow (47)
Jeff Luhnow became the 12th General Manager in franchise history on December 7, 2011 (a day which will not live in infamy) after spending nine seasons in the Cardinals organization. Luhnow has Bachelor degrees in Economics and Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from Northwestern. He was born and raised in Mexico City. His parents, U.S. Citizens, relocated from New York to Mexico to run a publishing business. Luhnow attended an American school and holds a dual nationality. Naturally, the chronic overachiever is fluent in Spanish as well. He attended his first major league games as a child in the Astrodome. That's about the only thing I have in common with him.

Last year, I asked Jeff to tell me something about himself that most people don't know. He was generous enough to answer my question, and one of his answers had to do with holding two patents. Again, overachiever!!! His other answer, however, was one I could get behind. He completed an accelerated free fall program and jumped out of a plane at 12,000 feet. Ha!!! So did I! Except I jumped out between 10,000 and 11,000 feet ... even on that, he's an overachiever.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

LHP George Brunet (Died October 25, 1991 at 56)
Brunet came to Houston in a trade with the Milwaukee Braves. In 22 games for the Colt .45's in 1962 and 1963, he was 2-7 with a 5.00 ERA and a 1.695 WHIP. He spent six seasons with the California Angels where he was 54-69 with a 3.13 ERA and a 1.202 WHIP. After his major league career was over, he played in the Mexican League for 13 years, finally retiring at 50.

RHP Dave Mlicki (45)
A 17th round pick by Cleveland in 1990, Mlicki came to Houston in June of 2001 in a trade with the Tigers for Jose Lima. He spent the final two years of his career pitching in 41 games in Houston, going 11-13 with a 5.21 ERA and a 1.465 WHIP.

Tweet of the Day

Kenny Long
It might be more financially responsible for me to become the new dancing Bat boy

Roster Moves

A couple of these are a few days old, but I didn't see them at the time.

Oklahoma City
OF Austin Wates placed on the 7-day DL on 6/2

Corpus Christi
SS Ben Orloff released

roster move: IF Ben Orloff has left organization to pursue other opportunities.

LHP Blair Walters placed on the 7-day DL on 6/3

Quad Cities
2B Ruben Sosa assigned to Quad Cities

DSL Astros
SS Daniel Aquino activated

Friday, June 7, 2013

Astros Minor League Recaps

Thursday's Games

Omaha over Oklahoma City 2-1
This one was a heartbreaker as Asher Wojciechowski pitched a beauty, but wasn't awarded the win. Wojo put up seven shutout innings allowing four hits and a walk while striking out five and Jason Stoffel pitched a scoreless eighth, but Jose Valdez couldn't hang on to the razor-thin margin. Valdez allowed two runs in the ninth and was charged with the blown save and the loss as the runs came across on an error and a balk. It didn't help that the RedHawks only managed one run in the first inning as Robbie Grossman, walked, stole second, advanced to third on a ground out and scored on a wild pitch. The 'Hawks only scraped together three singles and four walks in the game and fell into second place with the loss.

Midland over Corpus Christi 14-4
Can we just forget this one happened? I think all of the pitchers involved except Andrew Robinson would probably just as soon put this one behind them. Robinson was the only pitcher out of five who didn't allow any runs in the game.

The Hooks scored two in the first via a Jon Singleton sac fly RBI and on a Jonathan Meyer RBI single, and two more in the fourth on Jio Mier and Jose Martinez bases-loaded walks. The Hooks were held to five hits, with a George Springer double being the only extra-base hit.

San Jose over Lancaster 8-3
Lancaster has now dropped four in a row and I'm considering going all Cher on them again. Be forewarned, lads, I will be returning to Lancaster sooner rather than later so get it together or we will be having words. And believe me, you don't want that. Starter Tyson Perez just simply had a really bad night starting off by allowing four runs in the first and capping off his night by pitching to four batters in the fifth without recording an out. He was subsequently charged with another three runs for a total of seven runs (six earned). Michael Dimock allowed the final run across in the seventh and was followed with a perfect ninth from Travis Ballew. Ballew has only allowed one earned run in his last 10 outings. The JetHawks got one run across in the sixth as Nolan Fontana hit a lead-off triple and scored on a ground out. The final two runs in the ninth came on a Chris Epps two-run home run. The 'Hawks were held to five hits in the game.

Quad Cities over Cedar Rapids 9-5
Finally, a game I can recap without getting totally depressed! Vincent Velasquez pitched four and two-thirds innings, allowing one run on five hits and three walks while striking out three. He was followed by Jamaine Cotton who allowed three runs (one earned) on three hits and a walk in three and a third. Gera Sanchez allowed the final run to come across in the ninth. Quad Cities took an early lead with one run in the first on a Carlos Correa home run, his fourth of the season, and added on another four in the second in less conventional fashion with runs scoring on a Jordan Scott bases-loaded walk, a force out, an Ariel Ovando steal of home and a Carlos Correa RBI single that he tried unsuccessfully to stretch to a double. Correa was more successful in his second try for a double in the fourth inning, driving in three runs in the process. Correa later scored on a force out to complete the four-run frame.

DSL Royals over DSL Astros 3-1
Geronimo Franzua got the start and the loss as he allowed two runs on two hits and five walks. Carlos Vasquez (1.1IP 2H 1R/0ER 2BB 1SO) and Yonquelys Martinez (2.2IP 1H 2SO) took it the rest of the way. The Astros offense consisted of a Brauly Mejia solo home run and two singles, but they did walk nine times, including three walks from Luis Payano.

Player of the Day: On Draft Day, Carlos Correa reminded us all as to why exactly Jeff Luhnow made him the number one pick in 2012 as he went three-for-four with a double, home run, walk, five RBI and two runs scored.

Pitcher of the Day: Since Asher Wojciechowski didn't get the win, the least I can do is give him the WTHB prize to honor him for his seven shutout innings.

Happy Birthday - 6/7

RHP Vincent Velasquez (21)
Velasquez was drafted by Houston in the second round in 2010 out of high school in California. Velasquez made nine starts in Tri-City in 2012 after coming back from Tommy John surgery, going 4-1 with a 3.35 ERA and a 1.182 WHIP. This season Velasquez has made 14 appearances at Quad Cities with a 4-2 record, a 4.50 ERA and a 1.321 WHIP.

C Jobduan Morales (22)
Obtained in a trade with the Marlins for Justin Ruggiano in May 2012, Morales has hit .207.309./293 in his first 26 games for Tri-City this season and has a 30% caught stealing percentage during that time frame.

C Oliver Toribio (17)
Toribio was signed out of the Dominican Republic in late 2012. He has been assigned to the DSL Astros but has not played yet. Here is some additional information on Toribio from when he signed.

One former Astro with a birthday today ~

1B Roberto Petagine (42)
Originally signed as a NDFA out of Venezuela by the Astros in 1990, Petagine only played in eight games for Houston in 1994 (eight plate appearances and no hits), but he went on to play in a sporadic 242 games in the major leagues with a six season gap between 1998 and 2005, and had a career major league batting average of .227. In addition to his major league stints, Petagine played 20 seasons of minor league and foreign league ball, hitting .309/.418/.522. He appears to have finally hung up the spikes after one final season in the Japanese Pacific League in 2010.

Tweet of the Day

Brady Rodgers
Congrats to welcome to the family!!! You definitely deserve it!!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

An Interview with Astros OF Domingo Santana

Domingo Santana is very vocal on the field, laughing and kidding with his teammates, but he was a man of few words in my interview with him. The first thing one notices about Santana, particularly when one is 5'8" like I am, is how big he is. He is listed as 6'5" 230#, but he seemed even taller than that to me as I felt dwarfed by him.

One of the first things I asked him about was what I saw as a transformation in him between last season and this. He is still only 20 years old and is still growing into his body, but the work he put in during the off-season left Santana leaner and stronger.

Domingo Santana - August 2012

Domingo Santana - May 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Here's what Santana had to say about that and a few other things when I talked to him over the Memorial Day weekend ~

On the physical transformation: "I've just been working out even more and just trying to make my body a little thinner and make me run faster."

What has he accomplished and what is he working on this season?: "I've been trying to get my strikeouts a little bit lower, but I haven't accomplished anything yet. I've still been striking out too much, but I've just been working hard everyday in the cage."

On his improvement defensively: "This year ... I'm way better this year [defensively]. I worked hard over the off-season on that and everything's just been really good now."

Which Astros pitcher would he least like to face?: "[Mike] Foltynewicz."

What would he do if he couldn't play baseball?: "I don't know. I really do not know. I've never even thought about it."

I asked the Dominican-born Santana how he learned such excellent English: "I grew up in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. I just talk like Jamaicans. My accent has gotten a lot better."

Who on the team makes him laugh?: Kiké [Hernandez]. Kiké's my joker.

Which of the Corpus pitchers does he like playing behind?: "I like to play behind all the pitchers because all of them are really good. [Who makes your life easier when they're pitching?] David Martinez. He makes everything quicker. He works quickly."

On the trade from the Phillies: "At first, I was just like 'Wow.' I was kind of mad because I didn't want to leave the Phillies system, but when I got here, I saw it as an opportunity. My father and my mother told me that it was a new beginning."

On the increased outfield competition in the Astros system: "It makes me work harder and at the end of the day, everybody is given a chance and everybody has just got to prove themselves. You've got to prove that you're better than the other guys. You've just got to work harder."

I asked Corpus Christi Manager Keith Bodie about Santana and he had this to say, "The sky's the limit. You look at a guy who can run, throw, hit, hit for power. He's an excellent player, has a chance to be an impact type of player at the major league level. Reminds me of Davd Winfield a little bit. We're just watching him play and watching him grow and he's going to mature."

He's already done a lot of maturing over the last year physically, his defensive skills have improved drastically  and there has been very little drop off in his slugging percentage from his 2012 season at hitter-friendly Lancaster (.536) to this point in his 2013 season in Corpus (.511). And did I mention that he won't be 21 until August? Yes, Mr. Bodie, I would say that the sky is the limit for Santana and the future is looking very bright.

Domingo Santana - May 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Astros Minor League Recaps

Wednesday's Games (Not a good day in the minors, but at least the Astros won!!!)

Oklahoma City - Off Day

Midland over Corpus Christi 3-1
Nick Tropeano got the start and allowed two runs on four hits and a walk while striking out five in his five innings of work and Bobby Doran allowed only two hits (one of them a solo home run) in his four innings. Despite the tandem allowing only six hits, they came out on the wrong side of the decision as the Hooks only put up one run via a Jon Singleton (1x4 2SO) RBI double, scoring Jio Mier (3x3 SB). George Springer was two-for-four with a double.

Stockton over Lancaster 13-7
Stockton and Lancaster tied a California League record dating back to 1962 as they combined for a total of 11 home runs in the game ... and the game wasn't even played in the hitter-friendly confines of The Hangar! Brady Rodgers got the start and saw his 15-inning scoreless streak snapped quickly. Before all was said and done, Rodgers allowed eight runs on seven hits, including four home runs, in only two and two-thirds innings. Tommy Shirley gave up the next three runs (two home runs) in his one and a third. And Chris Devenski (2H 1BB 6SO) kept things calm for two innings before giving up two runs in the seventh on a home run. Cameron Lamb was the only JetHawk pitcher who didn't allow a home run, or even a hit for that matter, in a perfect eighth for his Lancaster debut. After Matt Duffy doubled in Nolan Fontana in the first, all of the remaining JetHawks runs scored via the long ball with solo home runs from Telvin Nash, Duffy and Fontana, and a three-run home run from Delino DeShields. Andrew Aplin was two-for-five and M.P. Cokinos was two-for-three with a walk and scored a run.

Cedar Rapids over Quad Cities 14-5
On the other side of the coin, Cedar Rapids scored 14 runs without the benefit of the home run ball, knocking out 21 hits against the Quad Cities pitching staff. Starter Jordan Jankowski allowed five runs on nine hits in three innings, but it was Mitch Lambson who had a really bad day at the office. Lambson was charged with six runs on six hits while retiring zero batters in the fourth. Richard Rodriguez didn't help matters much, allowing two of Lambson's runs to score and allowing two more of his own on five hits. Juan Minaya pitched three innings in his Quad Cities debut, allowing one run on only one hit, a Byron Buxton lead-off triple. He also walked three and struck out three. Quad Cities actually led this game at one point with Rio Ruiz (2x4 2B RBI R) and Roberto Pena (2x4 2B RBI) in the middle of the action. Terrell Joyce also doubled and drove in a run. Carlos Correa contributed an RBI single.

DSL Red Sox over DSL Astros 3-2
The Astros used five pitchers in this game. Javier Lozana (3IP 4H 1BB 2SO) and Victor Mesa (3IP 3H 1R 3SO) gifted the bullpen with a 2-1 lead, but the 'pen couldn't hold it. The Astros scored their only runs in the third on a Luis Payano sac fly scoring Brian Pena and an RBI single from Jean Estrella (2x4). Arturo Michelina went two-for-four and Jarico Reynosos was one-for-three with a double and scored a run.

Player of the Day: Jio Mier gets the nod today. After a three-for-three outing on Wednesday, he is hitting .333/.476/.364 over his last 10 games.

Pitcher of the Day: I'm going to give Cameron Lamb a little WTHB love for stopping the bleeding in Lancaster, for not allowing a home run and for pitching a perfect frame in his Lancaster debut.

Happy Birthday - 6/6

SS Nolan Fontana (22)
Drafted by the Astros in the second round in 2012 out of the University of Florida, Fontana is in his first full season in the organization. In 39 games for Lancaster so far this season, he is hitting .315/.449/.493. He was just recently activated from the DL after spending the second half of May out of action.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

C Larry Howard (68)
Signed as a free agent by the Colt .45's in 1963, Howard finally made it to Houston in 1970. From 1970 to 1973, he was primarily a back up catcher to Johnny Edwards. He played in 129 games for Houston, hitting .238/.305/.342 and had a 37% caught stealing percentage.

1B/LF Dave Bergman (60)
A second round draft pick by the Yankees in 1974, Bergman came to Houston in a June 1977 trade with the Yankees and played in 213 games for the Astros before departing via trade to the Giants in April 1981. Frequently used as a pinch hitter, Bergman had a .246/.354/.319 batting line with the team.

OF Ken Ramos (46)
Ramos was a waiver claim from the White Sox in 1984. His entire major league career consisted of 15 plate appearances over 14 games in 1997. He never got that elusive big league hit, but he did get one RBI so he's got that going for him. Ironically, in 10 minor league seasons, he was an excellent hitter with a .300/.388/.395 line.

Tweet of the Day

Adrian Houser
Had a great time coming home to see the family and friends. Now it's back to baseball. Ready to get the season started.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

An Interview with Astros RHP Nick Tropeano

It's no secret that I try very diligently, as I conduct my player interviews, to give my readers a look at not only the player, but the person behind the player. With that said, I wish everyone had the opportunity to meet and talk with Nick Tropeano. I had interviewed Nick last April when he was still in Lexington and then talked with him again later in the season in Lancaster. I interviewed him once more over the Memorial Day weekend and, after the interview, we just sat and talked for probably a half an hour off the record about the big league club, the upcoming draft, his family back in New York, just a little bit of everything ... just sitting in the stands behind the home dugout before the gates opened enjoying the bay breeze and the conversation. Nick is as easygoing and personable off the mound as he is focused and fiercely competitive on it.

I spoke with Pitching Coach Gary Ruby and Manager Keith Bodie about Tropeano. According to Bodie, the key to Nick's success is trusting his fastball and commanding his fastball, "Sometimes he doesn't know how good his fastball is." He has a terrific arsenal of pitches and mixes them well, but Ruby agrees that Nick's progression ultimately centers around that fastball, "He's a beauty. He's doing fine. What I like about him now, he's throwing more fastballs than he ever did. When I first met Nicky in rookie ball, there was a lot of changeup, a lot of breaking balls, and now he's got a good live fastball in the 90's and he's got a good breaking ball. He's got a split. He's got an exceptional changeup and I think anybody who has ever met him knows how he can compete. He's tough on himself which is not a bad thing. He loves to compete. He's the guy you want on the mound. He's got to trust his fastball like he is right now. He's got so many different ways to get you out. He can roll over inning after inning and get you out a different way. It's a valuable asset. He's doing real well."

Nick Tropeano - May 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

What has he accomplished and what is he working on?: "I think I'm just maturing as a pitcher the last year. Obviously, tougher league and all that. I feel like I'm maturing with my fastball and my fastball command, and that's really what I've been stressing in the off-season and that's really what I've been trying to work on in the season so far."

On the tandem starters: "It took a little bit to get used to but I think it's more mental than anything. You come out of the 'pen and you just approach it as a regular start. There are certain routines, stretching-wise and throwing wise ... I just kind of try to stick to that throughout and just pitch [my] game."

Any superstitions or rituals?: "Superstitions I wouldn't say. But routine-wise I try to do the same stretches, same order every time. I've always got to have a big smart water, some kind of huge water bottle that I've got to drink beforehand. Listening to my headphones with my hat on backwards is something I always do. I think that's pretty much it. ["No lucky socks?," I asked] No lucky socks. No lucky jock strap. Nothing like that."

Any coach or manager that's made a particular impact with him?: "I wouldn't say one particular coach but [take] Ruby for example. He's helped us throughout. I was fortunate enough to have Ruby at Tri-City my short season year so we knew each other coming in to this season and he kind of knew how I pitched, what my arsenal was and he just says, 'Pitch your game.' A lot of guys, not really in this organization, they try to steer you in a certain direction but [the Astros' staff have] just said, 'Pitch your game. Do your thing. We'll help you out when need be.' And I like that just because they've got your back whenever you need it and let you do your thing."

Anyone in particular he likes to have behind him in the field?: "The whole team, defensively. The entire season we've been great. Our middle infield. Johnny [Meyer], Johnny's been playing great. Jio [Mier], Kiké [Hernandez], [Erik] Castro. Love the outfielders. Everyone's got a great arm in the outfield. I don't even know how many assists they have this year. Just going out on the mound and knowing that all the guys have got your back, willing to lay their body out on the line for you is a great feeling. I'm proud and happy to have them behind me."

How does he like Corpus so far?: "Corpus is good. A little different from New York. Real humid. A little overcast too much. I've got that Italian skin. I want the sun to come out so I'll get a little tan. Corpus has been good. Fun place to play. Great fan base and all that. A great group of guys that go out on the field every day and have some fun."

What does he think of the changes in the Astros farm system?: "I think that it's night and day, especially since my short season year, just the complete turn-around. Look at all our teams throughout our organization winning .. our winning percentage has skyrocketed. All the changes [are] for the better and [everyone is] just trying to do their part to get us back to where we were as a Houston Astros organization, and it's coming along."

In-n-Out or Whataburger?: "You know I always have this argument with Jio and guys from California. I always thought that In-n-Out was over-hyped. They're saying 'the best place ever,' a little over-hyped. You know what? I'm not even going to go Whataburger or In-n-Out. I'm going to go Five Guys. Five Guys is better to me. But Whataburger has so many more options [than In-n-Out]. In-n-Out, you've got like 3 options. What if I want something else? Whataburger's good. I'll probably have a little tonight in the stands."


There are several Astros minor league fans that call Tropeano NiTro, a clever combination of his first and last names, but for some reason the nickname has always grated on me. He may very well be NiTro on the mound, but there is much more to Nick than that. When I think of Nick, I always go back to the first time I met him last year. I asked my requisite question, "Can you tell me something about yourself that most people don't know and might be surprised to hear?" Nick said, "I'm a lover, not a fighter?," ending the statement with a hint of a question mark and a big smile. That's the Nick I know and like and have nicknamed Sweet Nicky. Undoubtedly, he is a very talented pitcher with a bright future, a fierce competitor that others can call NiTro if they insist, but he's Sweet Nicky to me and once you get to know him, I think he'll be Sweet Nicky to you as well.

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

Astros Minor League Recaps

Tuesday's Games

Albuquerque over Oklahoma City 10-2
Can we just say that it wasn't a good day for RedHawks pitching and leave it at that? Philip Humber, C.J. Fick and Rhiner Cruz combined to allow ten runs (six earned) in seven innings. Three 'Hawks errors and three hit batters didn't exactly help. Kevin Chapman was the lone pitcher who remained unscathed as he struck out all three batters faced in the eighth inning. The OKC bats remained mostly silent with the only runs coming on a Brandon Laird RBI double in the fifth and a Cody Clark RBI single in the sixth. Jake Elmore was two-for-five and Brett Wallace was three-for-four with a walk.

Corpus Christi over Midland 9-5
Jake Buchanan pitched five innings to get his seventh win of the season. The bad news is that Jake's ERA SKYROCKETED all the way to 0.85 as he allowed two runs (one earned) in his outing. Carlos Quevedo followed with two runs in two and a third innings, both runs allowed to score under Sergio Escalona's watch. Kenny Long gave up a solo home run in the ninth as his only hit. The Hooks led from the second inning on and never fell behind. There were several strong offensive outings, including Ben Orloff (4x5 2B 2R), Jose Martinez (3x5 3RBI 2R SB), Domingo Santana (2x5 2RBI R), Erik Castro (1x4 2B BB RBI 2R), Jonathan Meyer (2x3 BB RBI R), and Drew Muren (2x2 SB). In Jason Maxwell's first rehab appearance at Corpus Christi, he was hitless in three at-bats, reached base on a fielding error, stole a base and scored a run.

Stockton over Lancaster 4-2
Lancaster dropped the second in a row to Stockton as the JetHawks' offensive output consisted of six singles and two walks. Aaron West got the start and the loss as he allowed three runs (via a three-run home run) on five hits in five innings, and T.J. Geith allowed the final run in his one and a third innings. Michael Dimock finished it off with one and two-thirds scoreless. The JetHawks' only two runs came in the fourth on a Brandon Meredith RBI single and a Telvin Nash sac fly as a two-on, no-out opportunity in the eighth was wasted. Andrew Aplin was two-for-four and scored a run and Chris Epps was two-for-three.

Quad Cities - Off Day

DSL Astros over DSL Red Sox 2-0
Talk about a pitchers duel. Each team allowed only four hits in the game with Edwin Villarroel (5IP 3H 3SO), Josela Pinales (3IP 1H 1BB 3SO) and Harold Arauz (1IP 0H) combining to shut out the Red Sox. The Astros got one run in the first as Jean Estrella was hit by a pitch, stole second, advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on a ground out. The final run in the seventh was scored a bit more conventionally as Hector Roa tripled and then scored on a Jesus Bermejo single.

Player of the Day: I think it appropriate that Ben Orloff went four-for-five on the day that my interview with The Man. The Myth. The Legend. The Wizard. posted. I know it's not the Brooks Wallace award, but it is one more honor to burnish the legend of The Wizard.

Pitcher of the Day: Write this day down. Jake Buchanan pitched last night and he is not going to be my Pitcher of the Day for the day he pitched for the first time since April. I have got to give all the WTHB love to LHP Edwin Villarroel with the DSL Astros. Villarroel was one of the few bright spots for a DSL team that was (how shall we say this delicately?) a little difficult to write about positively last season. Villarroel could make it a lot more fun to write about this team in 2013 if he keeps shoving like this.

Happy Birthday - 6/5

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

3B Bill Spiers (47)
A first round pick by Milwaukee in 1987, Spiers signed as a free agent with Houston in January of 1996 and played with the Astros for the next few years until his last game on April 8, 2001. In 632 games for Houston, he hit .288/.375/.408. I had forgotten about this unfortunate incident in which Spiers was attacked by a fan.

RHP Russ Ortiz (39)
Originally drafted by the Giants in the fourth round in 1995, Ortiz came to Houston as a free agent in 2009. In 23 appearances (13 starts), he was 3-6 with a 5.57 ERA and a 1.669 WHIP. His best season was with Atlanta in 2003 when he was 21-7 in 34 starts and earned an All-Star appearance.

RHP Jason Green (38)
A 30th round pick by the Astros in 1993, his entire major league career consisted of 17.2 innings pitched over 14 games in 2000 with forgettable results (although he did get credited with one win). In six minor league seasons, he had a 3.68 ERA and a 1.395 WHIP.

LHP Paul Siebert (60)
Drafted by the Astros in the third round in 1971, he pitched in 31 games for Houston in 1974 to 1976, going 1-5 with a 3.25 ERA and a 1.514 WHIP.

Tweet of the Day

Jay Sing
Finally! Im in corpus. I can feel the breeze....

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Roster Moves

Corpus Christi
OF Justin Maxwell assigned to Corpus Christi for rehab assignment
SS Jio Mier activated from the bereavement list
1B Zach Johnson placed on the temporary inactive list

RHP Cameron Lamb assigned from Quad Cities to Lancaster
SS Jean Batista assigned from Lancaster to Extended Spring Training

Quad Cities
RHP Juan Minaya assigned from Extended Spring Training to Quad Cities

An Interview with Ben Orloff

Ah, Ben Orloff. I was first intrigued by the man last season when this series of tweets came out. The Wizard. The Man. The Myth. The Legend. It turns out that Ben isn't the easiest guy to get to know. And I felt like a Stalkerazzi just trying to get a picture of him. It always seemed like he was extremely conscious of me and my camera, and it made me feel like I did when I tried to sneak a photo of the indigenous people of Ecuador, like I was rudely invading their sacred space. Yes, I was a little bit in awe of The Wizard.

When I told my friend Lee Street that I was going to try to interview Orloff when I was in Corpus Christi, Lee responded in hushed, reverential tones, "You mean the winner of the 2009 Brooks Wallace Award for the best college shortstop in the nation?" When I answered in the affirmative, I sensed a new-found respect from Lee for my courage in approaching The Man. The Myth. The Legend. The Wizard.

Ben is having a solid season at the plate, but it is his defense that earned him the nickname of The Wizard, bestowed upon him by Adam Bailey and Kiké Hernandez during the 2010 Tri-City season. Of Orloff, Corpus Christi Manager Keith Bodie told me, "Ben is a manager's dream. He's like having a coach on the field. He's a very heads up player and gets the most out of his ability. He just seems to be in the right place all the time and he does the right thing all the time, makes solid contact. He knows how to hit. He knows the situations."

Ben Orloff - May 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

I caught up with The Wizard over the Memorial Day weekend in Corpus. This is what he had to say (edited for brevity and clarity) ~

On playing for the Israeli team in the World Baseball Classic: "It was cool. We were out there in Jupiter at the Cardinals and Marlins spring training [facility]. Lots of good guys. Lot of guys we play against. Brad Ausmus was the manager, Gabe Kapler, Shawn Green, Mark Loretta, Andrew Lorraine, just awesome guys. It was also cool [that] we got to meet the Israeli national team. We got to hang out with those guys and hear what Israel's like and [we] met a lot of cool people too."

What has he accomplished and what is he working on?: "It's still early in the season. For me, what's been different this year is playing a lot of positions a lot early in the year. I've always played mostly short, a little bit of second, a little bit of third. This year I've played a little bit of short, a little bit of second, a little bit of third, a little bit of first, some DH, so it's been cool that way getting to play all four spots and kind of show that I can play all four spots, learn those positions and go out there and compete."

On the great Corpus defense: "Being an infielder, we try to take pride in our defense because that's a big part of the game. That's hopefully something that can show up 140 games [because] you're not always going to get three hits a night. So we just try to take pride in our defense. It's been a lot of fun on this team because we've got some guys, especially in the infield that can really catch it. Kiké [Hernandez], Johnny [Meyer], Jio [Mier], all those guys have been unbelievable so it's just fun to be part of that infield and take pride in doing that."

Any player on the team that he likes to sit back and watch?: "I think George Springer is pretty impressive and he's called Superman for a reason. He can just do things that you don't see many people do. He's a lot of fun to watch. And Johnny Meyer at third, it's a Web Gem a night. He's a lot of fun to watch too. I've known him since he was five years old so it's cool to play with him and see him play. [He] and my little brother are the same age and have played together since they were five."

What Astros pitcher would he least like to face?: "Paul Clemens is good. He's really good. He's a low to mid-90's guy, a big curveball, good changeup that he throws a lot. You don't see a lot of right-on-right changeups and he's got a good one so he's always a tough matchup in Spring Training."

How does he like Corpus Christi?: "This place is awesome. I love this place. The fans are awesome. First class stadium. I played at Round Rock in college and this is just like that place, first class, beautiful.The people who work here ... it's first class. I love it."

Something most people don't know about him: "I love college baseball and follow it all the time still right now, checking all the boxscores every day. That's what I want to be involved with when I'm done playing ... coaching somewhere in college."

Keith Bodie had some final words for me regarding Orloff, "If you look up the word baseball player in the dictionary, you would find Ben Orloff's name. He's an outstanding ballplayer." Jio Mier agrees with that assessment. As I was finishing up my interview with Jio, Orloff appeared outside the studio where we were speaking. I asked Mier about Orloff since I had already sensed that Ben would be reluctant to talk about himself. Jio told me, "He is Mr. Baseball. If there's one guy I look up to in this organization, it's [Orloff] by a landslide."

I'm not sure that I really got to know Ben any better, but his reputation was certainly solidified by what I saw from him on the field and by what others had to say about him. He may not be quite as remote and esoteric as the natives of Ecuador, but he is still a bit of an enigma to me. The Man. The Myth. The Legend. The Wizard.

Astros Minor League Recaps

Monday's Games

Oklahoma City over Albuquerque 8-4
Jarred Cosart (5H 5BB 6SO) got the start and only lasted four and a third innings. He was charged with four runs, two of which came across under reliever Eric Berger's watch. Josh Zeid, Alex Sogard and Jose Valdez  combined for three and a third scoreless innings. The RedHawks put up two in the first and two in the fourth before taking the lead once and for all on a two-RBI single from Fernando Martinez in the sixth. Jake Elmore (2x4 BB 2R) and Robbie Grossman padded the lead with sac fly RBIs in the seventh and ninth. Andy Simunic was three-for-four with a walk and scored a run; Jonathan Villar was two-for-four with an RBI and a run scored; and Carlos Perez was three-for-five with a double and a run.

Corpus Christi - Off Day

Stockton over Lancaster 4-2
All good things must come to an end and such was the case with Preston Tucker's 17-game hitting streak. The good news is that Nolan Fontana is back off the DL and hit a double in his first game back. Starter Luis Cruz (4H 1BB 7SO) had a rocky start, hitting the first batter he faced and then having a questionable balk called on him, setting up the one run he allowed in the first. Cruz then settled in nicely until the fifth when three additional runs came across and he was pulled with two outs. Jonas Dufek got the final out in the fifth and then gave way to three hitless scoreless innings from Kyle Hallock. The 'Hawks didn't hit the run column until the eighth inning when Matt Duffy (3x3 2B) scored on a Delino DeShields (2x4) double, and DeShields subsequently scored on an Andrew Aplin ground out.

Quad Cities over Beloit 2-1
Colton Cain pitched five strong innings, allowing one run on four hits and a walk while striking out four. His tandem partner, Mike Hauschild (3H 0BB 3SO) pitched four shutout innings for the win. Quad Cities didn't score until the sixth when a Rio Ruiz sac fly scored Jon Singleton (1x3 2B BB), a theme repeated in the eighth when Ruiz singled in Jon Singleton for the second run of the game.

DSL Astros over DSL Mariners 3-2
Juan Hernandez got the start and went five innings allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits and a walk while striking out four. Junior Garcia and Angel Heredia (W, 1-0) provided scoreless relief. The Astros scored late with two in the seventh and one in the ninth. Luis Payano was two-for-three with two walks, an RBI, a stolen base and a run scored; and Brauly Mejia went two-for-four.

Player of the Day: I need to send Rio Ruiz a little WTHB love. He certainly had a tough start to his season, but he has been slowly but surely coming around at the plate. In his last five games, he is hitting .350 with five RBI.

Pitcher of the Day: Mike Hauschild has quietly gone about having a nice season as he cruised to his fourth win on Monday. Three of his four wins have come in his last five appearances, during which time he has a 1.58 ERA and a 0.838 WHIP.

Happy Birthday - 6/4

C Ernesto Genoves (22)
A non-drafted free agent out of Venezuela, who first played in the Astros Venezuelan Academy in 2008, Genoves had a bit of an off year in 2012 after putting up solid numbers in 2011. In 48 games with the Greeneville Astros last season, he hit .235/.310/.407 with 13 doubles and five home runs. Over the winter, Genoves played in the Liga Paralela in Venezuela, hitting .270/.368/.430 in 40 games.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

LHP Arnold Earley (died September 29, 1999 at 66)
Earley came to Houston in a trade with the Cubs in 1967 and only pitched 1.1 innings for the Astros with less than desirable results. His best season was in 1964 for Boston when he had a 2.68 ERA and a 1.371 WHIP over 25 appearances.

C Scott Servais (46)
Servais was drafted by Houston in the third round in 1988 and played for Houston from 1991 to 1995 and again in 2001. In 295 games for Houston, he hit .225/.284/.357.

OF/1B Darin Erstad (39)
Originally drafted by the Angels in the first round in 1985, Erstad came to Houston as a free agent at the end of his career. In 247 games for the Astros in 2008 and 2009, he hit .252/.297/.353. In his time with the Angels, he was a two time All-Star, three time Gold Glove winner and one time winner of the Silver Slugger. He got his World Series ring with the Angels in 2002. Erstad is currently head coach of his alma mater, the University of Nebraska.

C Rick Wilkins (46)
Ironically, Wilkins came to Houston from the Cubs in a trade for Scott Servais with whom he shares a birthday to the year. He spent parts of the 1995 and 1996 seasons with Houston before being traded to the Giants for C Kirt Manwaring. Wilkins hit .218/.339/.333 in 99 games.

C Tony Pena (56)
Pena only played in nine games for Houston in 1997 at the end of his career. In 18 major league seasons, playing for Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Boston, Cleveland, the White Sox and Houston, he made five All-Star appearances and won four Gold Gloves. Pena recently managed the 2013 World Baseball Classic Dominican Republic team to a perfect record as they won the tournament.

Tweet of the Day

Drew Muren
Just some deep sea fishing on this glorious off day
Embedded image permalink

Monday, June 3, 2013

An Interview with Astros SS Jiovanni Mier

I had interviewed Jio Mier previously, but it was an email interview and I was looking forward to meeting him in person. He was rehabbing an injury when I went to Lancaster last season and our paths had never crossed. After a successful season in Lancaster in 2012 and a terrific Arizona Fall League season, Jio struggled in his first month at AA Corpus. He has, however, shown definite signs of turning things around at the plate, hitting .265 with a .432 OBP in his last 10 games. He has also turned around his strikeout numbers as he has struck out only four times while walking 10 times during that same time period.

With Jio, it always comes back to the bat because there is no question about his defense. He is extremely exciting to watch in the field. Corpus Christi Manager Keith Bodie says of Mier, "Outstanding defensive player. I love the way he plays shortstop."

Jio Mier - May 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

I talked to Jio last weekend and this is what he had to say (edited for brevity and clarity) ~

What has he accomplished and what is he working on?: "I think it's kind of been the same thing over my career. The good thing has always been my defense. I think I've been playing great defense here and kind of shown that I can play defense over the years but I think the big [question] has always been my bat. I'm just trying to be more consistent and at this time I should be more consistent. I'm kind of giving away at-bats. It's been an up-and-down thing. I'm just trying to be who I am, be as natural and athletic as I am, but that's really where I'm at right now. I just [need to] find myself again and kind of get back to the player I am and who I know how to be. When you get away from who you are, [it's] kind of hard to rebound. Your body's telling you one thing, but your mind's doing it different. So that's been a work in progress for me."

On the Arizona Fall League: "It was fun to be out there. I took the success I had last year into the fall league and that gave me a lot of confidence. The competition that was out there and the success I had kind of gave me big hope for this year and I still have that confidence. I'm trying to find it and kind of put two and two together right now. It's coming. I know it is. [On playing third base in the AFL] It was fun. Actually, I hate third base. There are a lot of infielders that say it's easier to play third, but I hate it. Coming from shortstop, it is just so different for me and with having good instincts and trying to play it over there which is all instincts. I'll leave it to Jonathan Meyer to keep that going. It was definitely an adjustment. Second base is easy but third base, that's tough."

On Corpus: "I love it here. This place is amazing. This crowd is something I've never played in front of before. Around this  league, there are great crowds. It's really fun to play here. I love this team. It's just a great group of guys."

On the great pitching on the team: "Almost every other team, I have one or two guys that I know and the first thing they [say to] me is, 'We don't want to play you guys. Your pitching is unbelievable.' You look at our starters, our tandems, and they are unbelievable. It's impressive to play defense behind them."

Is there a manager or coach who has really impacted your career?: "I don't know if you guys know this, but I've actually only played for one manager up until this year. I've always been with Rodney, every single year of my career since 2009 to 2012. I've played with him every single year, even the fall league. So I've never had a different manager [until this year] and in the beginning I had [Hitting Coach] Stubby [Clapp]. So the two of them together, they've been huge in my career. You know at times when I was really doubting myself, they always made it a point to [remind me] that I have the ability to take off, and they've always been so supportive and positive in my career. Those two guys, it's been pretty special to play [for] them. I'm kind of happy I'm not playing for Rodney this year [back in Lancaster], but he's awesome. I'm very fortunate to have been with him the last four years.


Bodie went on to say this about Jio, "We're looking for Jio to make consistent contact and be able to use all fields to hit in and handle the bat a little bit better than he is at the present time, but we know that he's capable of doing that. You know you've got to make adjustments and that's going to be the key to Jio. If he makes the adjustments, he's going to be a very good player."

Personally, I have faith that Jio will make those adjustments much as he did last season in Lancaster, adjustments which he carried into the very tough Arizona Fall League. And once he does, watch out, because his defense is truly a thing of beauty.

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

Astros Minor League Recaps

Sunday's Games

Albuquerque over Oklahoma City 4-2
Starter Ross Seaton got touched for four runs on seven hits and three walks in five and two-thirds innings before giving way to a scoreless inning from Kevin Chapman and a perfect one and a third from Jason Stoffel. All of the 'Hawks scoring came in the first on a Brandon Laird two-run home run. Brett Wallace and Fernando Martinez both doubled and Jonathan Villar was two-for-four with a stolen base.

Corpus Christi over Arkansas 5-3 in 8 innings (Game 1)
Mike Foltynewicz got the start in Game 1 and pitched four and a third innings allowing one run on three hits and three walks with five strikeouts. Sergio Escalona allowed the two tying runs to score in the sixth. Pat Urckfitz pitched a very strong final two innings and was rewarded with the win. The Hooks scoring got started with a Domingo Santana (2x4 3R) solo home run and a Michael Burgess RBI single in the second and continued with a Jonathan Meyer RBI single in the third. The tie was broken in the eighth on a Santana triple scoring Jose Martinez (3x4 2B) and a George Springer sac fly scoring Santana.

Corpus Christi over Arkansas 13-9 in 7 innings (Game 2)
Despite Corpus getting a 10-0 lead in the first inning, Arkansas actually made it little too close for comfort as David Martinez had an uncharacteristic and probably overdue tough start in which he allowed seven runs (five earned) in only two and a third innings. Jorge de Leon pitched two-thirds innings, allowing one of Martinez' inherited runs to score before shutting the door. Matt Heidenreich pitched four innings allowing two  runs and earning his third win of the season. The wild first inning featured five RBI from George Springer on a two-RBI double and a three-run home run. Domingo Santana also homered in the first driving in Springer. Max Stassi had an RBI single and Jose Martinez (4x5 3R) drove in two on a RBI single. It didn't look as though the Hooks would need any more runs, but the two scored in the fourth on a two-RBI double from Erik Castro (2x5) and Ben Orloff's steal of home in the fifth gave the Hooks a good cushion.

Lancaster over Visalia 16-1
The JetHawks offense currently represents as big a menace as the area wildfires do. Well, maybe not, but you get the idea. Terrific outings from David Rollins (5IP 3H 0R 3BB 5SO) and Tyson Perez (4IP 2H 1R 1BB 2SO 1HR) ensured that Lancaster's crazy five-run first inning would be all the offense they would need. And it was a crazy inning as the 'Hawks scored five runs on only one hit, a grand slam from Chris Epps. The first three batters walked and were followed by a bases-loaded Preston Tucker hit-by-pitch before Epps unloaded and cleared the bases. Lancaster added on two more in the third on an M.P. Cokinos (3x4 2-2B BB 5RBI 2R) home run, two in the fifth on a Cokinos RBI double and Matt Duffy RBI single, and another two in the sixth on Brandon Meredith's (2x4 BB 3R) sixth home run of the season. The 'Hawks continued to punish Visalia with five more runs in the eighth on a Tucker bases-loaded walk and back-to-back two-run doubles from Epps and Cokinos. Joe Sclafani reached base in all five plate appearances, going two-for-two with a double, stolen base and three more walks; he has walked nine times in his last four games. Preston Tucker extended his hitting streak to 17 games with a double in the third and scored three times. Delino DeShields swiped two bags for the day, bringing his total to 14.

Quad Cities over Beloit 3-2
Lance McCullers wasted no time in getting his second win of the season as he pitched five shutout innings, allowing two hits and one walk while striking out six. Daniel Minor followed up with three and a third innings in which he allowed a two-run home run in the ninth and was relieved by Cameron Lamb who converted his third save of the season. The River Bandits didn't put on much of an offensive show, but they gave McCullers and company enough to work with. Teoscar Hernandez was two-for-four with a double and an RBI. Carlos Correa and Ariel Ovando each drove in a run as well. Jordan Scott was also two-for-four at the plate.

Player of the Day: It's not everyday that guys with five RBI games don't earn Player of the Day honors, but that is the case today as, despite great outings from George Springer and M.P. Cokinos, I have to go with Chris Epps' six-RBI game. Epps is simply locked in as of late, hitting .442/.478/.930 with eight doubles, two triples, three home runs and 19 RBI over his last 10 games.

Pitcher of the Day: Lance McCullers gets today's honors. It took a long time to get that first win, but he wasted no time getting the second on a very strong outing. Honorable mention goes to David Rollins for his five shutout innings.

Tweet of the Day

brandon meredith
The magic number is now 8... 14 games left in the first half.. Going to be an exciting finish..

Happy Birthday - 6/3

RHP Lucas Harrell (28)
Originally drafted by the White Sox in the 4th round in 2004, Harrell was claimed off waivers from that organization in July of 2011. In nine starts with Oklahoma City in 2011, he was 5-2 with a 1.72 ERA and a 1.261 WHIP leading to a September call up to the big team. After a terrific spring training in 2012, Harrell earned an opening day roster spot and never looked back. In 12 starts thus far in 2013, he is 4-6 with a 5.7 ERA and a 1.719 WHIP.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

1B Jim "Diamond Jim" Gentile (79)
Gentile was received in a trade from the Kansas City Athletics and played in 130 games for Houston in 1965 and 1966, hitting .243/.353/.412. His best years, by far, were spent in Baltimore where he was an three time All-Star. In 1961, he came in third in AL MVP voting behind Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle as he hit .302/.423/.646 with 46 home runs and tied with Roger Maris for the AL lead in RBIs at 141.

1B Jose Tolentino (52)
Drafted by Oakland in the 7th round in 1983, Tolentino signed with Houston as a free agent in 1988. He only played in 44 games in the majors for Houston in 1990, hitting .259/.305/.389. He coached for the Mexican team in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

OF Carl Everett (42)
A first round pick by the Yankees in 1990, Everett came to Houston via the Mets in a December 1997 trade for RHP John Hudek. He played two seasons for Houston in 1998 and 1999 with a batting line of .310/.378/.526. He was a two time All-Star in 2000 and 2003.

Roster Moves

Oklahoma City
RHP C. J. Fick activated from the DL
C Jason Jaramillo released

Corpus Christi
2B Jose Martinez assigned from OKC to Corpus

Quad Cities
LHP Brian Holmes placed on the 7-day DL retroactive to 5/30

DSL Astros
Tomas Lopez placed on the 7-day DL
LHP Erick Hurtado released

Sunday, June 2, 2013

An Interview with ME!!!

Jayne has long been the person we turn to when we want Minor League information. Unless we dig hard to find out how our affiliates are doing, the casual fan doesn’t know what’s going on with our farm systems. Names like Singleton, Springer, Oberholtzer, Foltynewicz & Wojciechowski are just names (and mostly unpronounceable) without Jayne.

So what drives her to get up at the crack of dawn to write recaps, stay up late to catch games & travel to Godforsaken places like Lancaster and wherever the River Bandits play? Who is this talented woman?

I thought I would turn the tables on the lady who interviews the young Astros prospects and ask her a few questions of my own!

--DeAnna Williamson

Q: How did your love of baseball begin?

Like most people, I suspect, it was a family thing. I grew up in Athens, Texas (before the Rangers, thank God) so we became Astros fans, listened to them on the radio and made a few pilgrimages down to the Astrodome when time and money allowed. As a little girl, I must admit that the scoreboard made more of an impression on me than the game on the field, but it was a start.

Q: Why did you start blogging and why the minor leagues?

It's hard to believe that it hasn't even been two years since I started up. I had always been a casual minor league fan, checked the boxscores of the MiLB games most days, read the occasional article and that sort of thing, but as the play got worse and worse on the field in Houston, I started digging deeper out of desperation. I wanted to know that help was on the way. Thankfully, I didn't look that hard any sooner because the depth even two years ago was extremely discouraging, even appalling. Certainly, there were some talented players that were rising to the top, but overall the depth was bad. Once I started really digging, though, I thought, "Why not share this with others?" And that was how WTHB got started. It would never have gotten off the ground without twitter, though. Mad props to those who established themselves in the pre-twitter era.

Q: How did “What the Heck, Bobby?” come about? Was Bobby Heck flattered?

I wanted a catchy name and the Bobby Heck (the former Astros scouting director) play on words seemed to fit the bill. Frankly, since my blog is more about the development of the minor league players than scouting, I should have named it The Full Nelson or something like that (after then Director of Player Development Fred Nelson), but all-in-all it was more just finding a catchy name than anything. When I interviewed Bobby Heck, I was nervous as hell. I told him that I half expected him to issue a cease and desist order, but he chuckled and assured me that, "Nah, we're cool." Everyone expected me to change the name after Heck left the organization, but I like the name. And since so many people find my blog by googling the name, I figured it would probably be easier to change my name to Bobby than it would be to rename the blog.

Q: Who have been some of your most memorable interviews?

There are so many. My first interview ever was an email interview with Kyle Hallock. I was extremely nervous about approaching him, but he was terrific about it (and I think I had the answers back from him in about five minutes). If that had been a bad experience, who knows whether or not I would have persisted.

I think I was most surprised by Mike Foltynewicz and Lance McCullers because I think I expected them to be egos on legs with all of their talent, but both were extremely sweet and charming. Nick Tropeano was great because he is so easygoing and easy to talk to; one thing that strikes me about Nick is how comfortable he is in his own skin. Another memorable one was Joe Musgrove. His personality is as big as he is and he is very charismatic. Brett Oberholtzer and I talked for 15 minutes after the interview was over about how Astros fans felt about the big league team and the farm system; he wanted to know how we felt.

And of the recent interviews I've done, Andrew Aplin stands out because of how quickly we hit it off. And David Rollins was just a sweetheart. And Joe Bircher intrigued me; I'd like to talk more with him sometime.

The email interviews that stand out to me are Josh Zeid, Ross Seaton and Alex Sogard. Zeid is a natural born cheerleader and his enthusiasm is infectious. I did not have to change one comma in Seaton's interview. It was beautifully written, and that really stands out for someone who was drafted out of high school. Sogard's was just extremely interesting to me. I really enjoyed hearing about his experience in the World Baseball Classic. Of the non-players, Lancaster Manager Rodney Linares is hands down the most interesting guy to talk to.

Q: You seem to have a good eye for minor league prospects. What do you look for in the younger players?

That's a good question. I definitely look at stats, but I also look at trends and consider other factors ... the intangibles as it were. I don't get as caught up as some in the whole "he's old for the level" or "he's repeating a level" thing. Sometimes that is driven by other factors ... injuries, being blocked at the next level, off the field issues, etc. I really believe that you have to look at the whole player, his whole history, where he's been, where he's headed and his character and make-up. I cannot stress enough how much weight I will put on work ethic and desire. Oberholtzer is a good example of this. I really believe that he will have success because, after talking to him, I know that failure is just not even an option for him. He was only on the periphery of my radar until I talked to him and saw first hand how hard he works to become better. It is impressive.

Q: Who are some of your current favorites that you think we’ll see moving up in the leagues?

I'm always most intrigued by the guys at the lower levels of the organization because I'm always looking for the next wave. I try to identify guys who are flying under the radar a bit. There are so many guys to like in the system, but I'll just single out two of the lesser known names that I have my eye on. Teoscar Hernandez is an outfielder up in Quad Cities who I've been watching since he was in the DSL two seasons ago. His stats back then screamed five-tool player. He had modest success in his first season in the states last year and earned a spot with the full season QC team this year. He is a very exciting player to watch ... speed, a tremendous arm, a good approach at the plate, a good all around athlete. On the pitching side, I've seen LHP Luis Cruz pitch twice now ... once in Lexington last year and once in Lancaster this year. On both occasions, he simply dominated. During the most recent occasion, he pitched the second half of a no-hitter. He's a small lefty without dominating stuff, but he is the ultimate competitor. He's the Jose Altuve of pitchers. He doesn't know what he can't do.

Q: What has been your favorite memory as an Astros fan so far?

There are many, but I've got to go with the Mike Scott no-hitter to clinch the division in 1986. It still gives me chills.

Q: What has been your biggest influence in life? (Baseball or non-baseball related)

I've been thinking about this for a while. Of course, my mom and dad were a huge influence. They always encouraged us to think for ourselves and stand up for ourselves. We were never ever told that our thoughts or opinions were wrong when we were growing up no matter how bone-headed they were at the time (thinking back in retrospect). My mom was an incredibly strong woman and because of her, it never occurred to me that there was anything I couldn't accomplish if I wanted it badly enough. But, frankly, I was also influenced by a number of fictional characters, whether from books or movies. I was always drawn toward strong female characters and one of my very favorites is the lead character in Auntie Mame. A quote from the play, "Life is a banquet and most poor bastards are starving to death" has become a daily reminder to me to live my life to the fullest.

Q: How much do you hate Bud Selig?

I hate Bud Selig with the white hot heat of a thousand suns.

Q: In your opinion, how has social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc) changed the fan experience?

I'm not a Facebook person, but twitter has enhanced the experience for me to no end. It's much easier watching a bad team when you're watching it with a few dozen of your closest friends, most of whom are really, really funny.

Q: Who is your favorite person on Twitter?

I love funny people. James Yasko of Astros County routinely makes me howl. And I adore Andy (@HouCounterplot) for being one of the funniest, most outrageous and outspoken Astros fans ever. And there are many, many others. But there is this one chick named DeAnna [@itsallaboutde] who is not only very, very funny, she manages to keep me informed about all of the important things in life, like what silly thing Jose Canseco has said recently, when there is a car chase on Houston freeways and just how weird a place a public library can be. {interviewer note: Good answer, Jayne. Good answer!}

Q: Speaking of a librarian, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you to list your top 5 favorite books!

Oh yeah. Ask me who my favorite player is too, why don't you? :)

The first four are easy for me. My favorite novel of all time is Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens. I've read every work by Dickens, but that's my very favorite, probably because of the strong female protagonist. Next in line is The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut which is an incredibly wonderful, funny and irreverent work. Only Vonnegut could make the meaningless of life so entertaining. Next would be The Stand by Stephen King. Good vs. Evil supersized. The Great American Novel by Phillip Roth combines two of my favorite things, a love of baseball and a love of words into a satiric masterpiece. The fifth on the list is problematic. I perused my shelves through Twain, Hemingway, Steinbeck, John Irving, Tom Robbins, Christopher Moore, Carl Hiaasen, the Brontes, Jane Austen, all the Russians ... how to pick just one! Today I will pick A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, but that can change at a moment's notice depending upon my whim.


I was expecting a simple bulleted list but Jayne gave me reasons behind each book.

This unwavering attention to detail is why she is the one to read for all Astros farm system information and also why she’s super cool!

[Posted by DeAnna Williamson]

Astros Minor League Recaps

Saturday’s Games

DSL Mariners 6, DSL Astros 0
The DSL Astros were shutout in their first game of the season. Elieser Hernandez got the start on the mound and threw the first five innings. Hernandez kept his frames scoreless, allowed four hits, walked one and struck out five. Rayderson Chevalier (0-1) followed on the hill for two and a third and picked up the loss after being charged with three runs (2ER), two hits, passing out two walks and striking out one. The Astros had no walks or extra base hits in the game and six hits all day. Randy Cesar had two of those hits, finishing at two-for-four with a strikeout.

Quad Cities River Bandits 3, Beloit Snappers 10
Quad Cities’ winning streak ended at six games on Saturday on the road in Beloit. Jamaine Cotton (0-2) pitched the first two and two thirds, allowing four runs on seven hits (HR) with two walks and two Ks. Vincent Velasquez came in to pitch in the sixth inning and was charged with another five runs on seven hits (HR) while recording a walk and a strikeout. Velasquez lasted an inning and a third. Rio Ruiz (2X4 R 2B HR 3RBI) and Jordan Scott (2X4) both had multi-hit games and Ruiz knocked in all of the River Bandits’ runs on Saturday. Ruiz hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning to get his team on the board and hit an RBI double in the sixth that scored Jonathan Singleton (0X3 R BB). 

Visalia Rawhide 3, Lancaster JetHawks 12
For the second day in a row the winning team scored 12 runs at The Hangar, but Saturday it was the JetHawks on the winning side of a dozen. Chris Devenski threw the first three and two thirds allowing three runs on nine hits and four walks. The second half of the piggyback, Brady Rodgers (5-1) came on in the sixth, finished the game and earned the win. Rodgers hurled four shutout innings and gave up two hits in that time while striking out a trio. At the plate, there were five Lancaster players with multi-hit nights, three homers and everyone but Andrew Aplin (0X5) had at least one hit. Brandon Meredith topped them all, batting three-for-five with a double, two runs scored and a pair of RBI. Here’s the rest of the box highlighting the JetHawks’ offense:

Corpus Christi Hooks, Arkansas Travelers

Oklahoma City RedHawks 13, Albuquerque Isotopes 10
Oklahoma City scored six runs in the ninth to come back on the road Saturday and mark their fourth consecutive win. Thirteen pitchers were used in total by both teams in this game and seven wore RedHawks jerseys. Brett Oberholtzer had the start and pitched the longest of any at three and two thirds innings. Oberholtzer was charged with seven runs (6ER) on nine hits (HR), issued a walk and K-ed three. Alex Sogard (1-0), the fifth pitcher in line, earned his first win after throwing the eighth inning. Sogard allowed a run, a hit and walked one. Jose Valdez came on for the last out of the game, and whiffed ex-Astro, J.R. Towles to pick up save number 12 on the season. The offense was busy on Saturday for the RedHawks with 18 hits, seven of those for extra bases. Brandon Laird and Fernando Martinez hit back-to-back homers in the third inning. Che-Hsuan Lin hit a homer of his own to start off the rally in the ninth and Carlos Perez, Brett Wallace and Jake Elmore all had three-hit performances. Here's the box for that one too, because it's a lot to take in at once:

Player of the Day: There were a lot of great offensive performances on Saturday, but Preston Tucker earns the honors today. He went two-for-four with three RBI and a homer yesterday to mark the 16th consecutive game he has hit in. Consistency is always worth the honors.

Pitcher of the Game: Brady Rodgers dominated Saturday and thus takes the WTHB cake today. Rodgers retired the last seven batters he faced in order and gave up just a pair of hits (singles) in the seventh- meaning he also threw three 1-2-3 frames. Nice job.

Bonus Tweet of the Day

Aaron West
Another great win. In other news it's snowing ash....