Saturday, November 16, 2013

From the Newest Member of What the Heck, Bobby?

Hi everyone! My name is Dustin, and I am stoked to be a part of What the Heck, Bobby? I'm a long-time WTHB reader, and now, I'm writing this, my first column, as a part of the WTHB team.

First off, I would like to tell you a little about myself. I was born in Phoenix, but I have lived in Houston for virtually my entire life. Because of my upbringing in H-Town, I am an avid Houston sports fan. And yes, being a Houston sports fan is downright painful at times. As for my sporting background, I played football at Cy-Woods High School, and I consider the fact that I grinded my way through all 4 years a miracle. I was a defensive back, and I was putrid. And, I almost made it through 4 years. I ended up tearing my ACL before a game against Cy-Fair during my senior year. Yes. I tore my ACL, my meniscus, and strained my MCL. Before the game. That was definitely the nadir of my career.

What are my ambitions? I'm trying to figure that out. I wanted to be a lawyer at first, but my passion for sports has always trumped everything. Now, I have aspirations of working in pro sports in some capacity. I am particularly interested in baseball scouting, even though I have never played the game competitively at any level. I would love to see Houston kids play integral roles for the Astros, much like the Braves have done with their home region. 

I admit that in my childhood, I was more of a Rockets fan than an Astros fan. My first sports memory was of the Rockets beating the New York Knicks in Game 7 of the 1994 NBA Finals. I had that game recorded on a VHS tape; I think I've watched that game at least 50 times. As I've matured, though, I find myself being more and more appreciative of what the Astros mean to this city. In over 50 years, some true greats have worn that cap with the H in the star and that open-star cap. I certainly don't know everything about the Astros, but I'd sure love to learn more about them. 

When Randy Johnson took this city by storm in 1998, I was completely oblivious to that. I was 6 years old at the time, and baseball was a completely foreign concept to me. I am probably one of a few people in my age group to never see an Astros game in the Astrodome. My first game was in 2000, back when the ballpark was still called Enron Field. The Royals were in town that night, and I saw a 9-5 victory for the Stros. Like I've said, I was more of a Rockets fan when I was a child; I followed the Astros only casually. January 12, 2004 was when that changed forever. That was the day that Roger Clemens announced that he would sign with the Houston Astros. That transaction was the game-changer for me; the Rocket was essentially the reason why my Astros fandom achieved die-hard status. Unfortunately, all of this does not apply to the rest of my family; out of all the members of the Nguyen family, I'm the only one who is even remotely interested in baseball. They only watch when I'm with them, but surprisingly, they willingly watch with me.

I've never attended a Minor League game before. I've been wanting to go to Corpus Christi for a while, but for some reason, that plan hasn't come to fruition yet. I can confidently say that it's gonna happen in 2014. I have always had a passing interest in the minors; but I seriously got into it as the Astros began their descent to the foot of the MLB table. I absolutely love what Jeff Luhnow and Co. have done for this system. Personally, I don't think we'll have to wait long to see his vision for the club become reality. From reading Jayne's interviews with various players on the blog, it is apparent that the guys in the system have fully bought into the Astros' new philosophy, and I love the competitive nature that is being bred within the system. These guys in the minors legitimately want that opportunity to become a part of the Astros' Reconstruction and upcoming Renaissance.

You've probably heard this about 38,550 times, but the last 3 years have been extremely hard to stomach and just plain agonizing for Astros fans. But, I couldn't be more excited for the future. I'm ready. I'm ready for the Astros to take back the city from the hordes of Arlington, Yankee, and Red Sox fans. For those of us who have stuck through these Dark Ages, the payoff is going to be huge.

You can follow me on Twitter here: @itsDTrain. My tweets are about anything and everything. Have an Instagram? You can follow me there as well. My name there is the same as my Twitter name. I think 75% of my Instagram pictures are at Minute Maid Park. 

Astros Winter League Recaps

Friday's Games

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE

The regular season is over, but the Championship game between Mesa and Surprise will be on MLB Network at 2:10 CST today.

LIGA VENEZUELA BEISBOL PROFESIONAL

Zulia over Caracas 4-0

Aguilas de Zulia
3B Marwin Gonzalez - 1x2 CS (Also, picked off at first)

Leones del Caracas
LF J.D. Martinez - 0x4 SO

La Guaira over Lara 13-12 in 13 innings

Tiburones de La Guaira
LHP Sergio Escalona - 2.2IP 2H 1R 1BB 1SO HR

LIGA PARALELA (VENEZUELAN MINOR LEAGUE)

Still no game reports available after the 12th. Grrrr.

LIGA MEXICANA DEL PACIFICO

Culiacan over Guasave 5-3

Algodoneros de Guasave
RF Leo Heras - 0x5 RBI SO

LIGA DE BEISBOL DOMINICANO

Gigantes over Toros 4-3

Gigantes del Cibao
LHP Rudy Owens - 4.1IP 5H 2R 3BB 2SO

Aguilas over Escogido 7-5

Aguilas Cibaenas
SS Jonathan Villar - 2x2 2BB R 3SB 2E

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE

Saturday's Game

Melbourne over Adelaide 7-4

Adelaide Bite
2B Joe Sclafani - 1x4 2SO

LIGA DE BEISBOL PROFESIONAL ROBERTO CLEMENTE (PUERTO RICO)

Mayaguez over Santurce 5-2

Cangrejeros de Santurce
DH Jon Singleton - 0x5 3SO
RF Austin Wates - 1x4 BB SO R

Caguas over Carolina 7-1

Gigantes de Carolina
PH-1B Jobduan Morales - 0x1
RHP Raul Rivera - 2.2IP 1H 1R 0BB 0SO HR

Happy Birthday - 11/16

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP Joselo Pinales (19)
A non-drafted free agent from the Dominican Republic, Pinales spent his first professional season with the Dominican Summer League Astros. In 11 appearances (one start), he was 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA and a 0.861 WHIP. Not a bad debut! He is currently playing winter ball for the Tiburones in the Liga Paralela in Venezuela.

Former Astros celebrating birthdays today ~

LHP Rob Mallicoat (49)
A first round pick by Houston in 1984, Mallicoat pitched in 51 games for the Astros in 1987, 1991 and 1992 with a 5.70 ERA and a 1.752 WHIP.

RHP Dwight "Doc" Gooden (49)
Originally drafted by the Mets in the first round in 1982, Gooden signed with Houston as a free agent in January 2000 and pitched in only one game for the Astros that season before being purchased by Tampa Bay. Gooden is best remembered for his 11 seasons with the Mets, during which time he was Rookie of the Year (1984), N.L. Cy Young winner (1985) and a four-time All-Star among other noteworthy accomplishments.

SS Julio Lugo (38)
Drafted by the Astros in the 43rd round in 1994, Lugo played for Houston from 2000 until May 2003. In 366 games, he hit .268/.332/.391.

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Friday, November 15, 2013

A Final Look at the Arizona Fall League Astros

Although the Arizona Fall League isn't technically over as the Championship Game between Mesa and Surprise will be played on Saturday at 2:10 (and televised on the MLB Network), the season is over for the "Astros Eight" who played for the Peoria Javelinas. First a look at how the pitchers performed:



It's hard to take much away from these small sample sizes, but I would like to point out a few items of interest. RHP Matt Heidenreich saved his best performance for last. In his final start, he allowed only one hit in his four innings. He struck out an AFL season high of six batters and didn't walk anyone. His fall numbers definitely compared favorably to a season in which he struggled to put up an 8.23 ERA and a 1.811 WHIP in 25 appearances in Corpus Christi and which saw him spending time on the DL and on a rehab assignment.

RHP Jonas Dufek made the Fall Star team and continued to exhibit his 2013 regular season effectiveness. RHP Andrew Robinson was a victim of small sample size, one particularly rough outing and questionable defense (only five of his 13 runs allowed were earned). Unlike Heidenreich, LHP Alex Sogard saved his worst for last. Back out his final outing and he had a 1.46 ERA and a 1.216 WHIP.



Now, a few tidbits about the participating position players. From everything I've read about 1B Japhet Amador, he definitely has light tower power, but he is still a bit raw. Much has also been written about his weight. Interestingly enough, an insider article posted by Jose de Jesus Ortiz today at Baseball Amerca indicates that the Astros put him on a weight management program and he has definitely dropped a few.

CF Delino DeShields, another Fall Star team member, was at the center of conflicting reports about his effort level, but he definitely put up decent numbers. I heard from more than one person that he was being overly aggressive on the basepaths. SS Nolan Fontana just simply didn't have a very good fall campaign. He only managed two hits in his last 10 games and his OBP was far below his normal eye-popping numbers.

3B Jonathan Meyer, originally a member of the taxi squad, ended up as a starter toward the end of the season as one of the other players had to leave the team for personal reasons. From all accounts, Meyer shone defensively at third base and also put up very good offensive numbers. To top that off, according to this article from Jim Callis, Meyer was nominated for the AFL's Stenson Award for sportsmanship.

Astros Fall and Winter League Recaps

Thursday's Games

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE

Peoria over Surprise 3-0

CF Delino DeShields - 2x4 SO GIDP CS
3B Jonathan Meyer - 2x4 2B R
SS Nolan Fontana - 0x2 BB SO

RHP Matt Heidenreich (W, 2-1) - 4.0IP 1H 0R 0BB 6SO

This was the final game of the season for Peoria. Look for an overview on the "Astros Eight" who participated in the AFL later today (I hope).

LIGA VENEZUELA BEISBOL PROFESIONAL

Zulia over Caracas 2-1 in 10 innings

Aguilas de Zulia
3B Marwin Gonzalez - 2x3 BB

Leones del Caracas
RF-LF J.D. Martinez - 0x5 2SO
DH Eric Thames - 1x4 2SO

La Guaira over Magallanes 7-5

Tiburones de La Guaira
LHP Sergio Escalona - 0.0IP 0H 0R 1BB 0SO

LIGA PARALELA (VENEZUELAN MINOR LEAGUE)

Well, Tuesday's games are finally posted, but nothing past that. Baby steps.

La Guaira over Tiburones 6-3

Tiburones
SS Alex Gonzalez - 2x3 RBI BB R CS
1B-C Marlon Avea - 1x4 RBI SO

RHP Joselo Pinales - 2.0IP 3H 1R 0BB 1SO
LHP Junior Garcia - 1.0IP 0H 0R 0BB 2SO

Cardenales over Magallanes 2-0

Magallanes
C Luis Alvarez - 1x3 2B


Caribes
LHP Edwin Villarroel (W, 1-2) - 1.2IP 1H 0R 0BB 0SO

Aragua over Bravos 7-6

Bravos
3B Carlos Perdomo - 1x3 2B R

One other game of note from Monday was just reported as well. RHP Enderson Franco got his first win of the winter season for Navegantes, tossing five innings and allowing only one hit and no runs. He walked two batters and struck out three.

LIGA MEXICANA DEL PACIFICO

Nothing to report

LIGA DE BEISBOL DOMINICANO

Off Day

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE

Friday's Game:

Adelaide over Melbourne 4-2

Adelaide Bite
SS Joe Sclafani - 2x4 BB SO R SB

LIGA DE BEISBOL PROFESIONAL ROBERTO CLEMENTE (PUERTO RICO)

Santurce over Ponce 5-4

Cangrejeros de Santurce
DH Jon Singleton - 2x4 HR RBI SO 2R

Carolina over Caguas 6-4

Gigantes de Carolina
2B Kike Hernandez - 1x5 RBI SO GIDP
1B Jobduan Morales - Late defensive replacement; no at-bats
C Rene Garcia - 0x3 SO E

Criollos de Caguas
LHP Luis Cruz - 3.0IP 4H 2R 1BB 1SO

Happy Birthday - 11/15

Happy Birthday to ~

SS Jean Batista (22)
A non-drafted free agent from the Dominican Republic, Batista spent most of his 2013 season on the DL or rehabbing. In 32 games between Lancaster and the GCL, he hit .260/.278/.463. Batista was one of two featured players in the documentary Ballplayer: Pelotero about the impact of the MLB in the Dominican Republic as the young Dominican players try to make their way. The film is excellent, eye-opening and often disturbing.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

LHP Randy Niemann (58)
A second round pick by the Yankees in 1975, Niemann came to Houston from New York in a June 1977 trade. In 48 appearances for the Astros in 1979 and 1980, he was 3-3 with a 4.32 ERA and a 1.420 WHIP. In September 1981, he was sent to the Pirates as a PTBNL in the August 1981 Phil Garner trade. He coached in the Cardinals AA minor league affiliate in 2013.

LHP Pedro Borbon (45)
Borbon came to Houston from Toronto in May of 2002 and pitched in 56 games for for the Astros that season with a 5.50 ERA and a 1.593 WHIP. I still cannot hear the name Pedro Borbon without thinking of this even though it referred to Borbon's father.

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Astros Fall and Winter League Recaps

Wednesday's Games

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE

Peoria over Surprise 7-6 

1B Japhet Amador - 2x4 HR 2RBI SO R
3B Jonathan Meyer - 1x3 BB R

LHP Alex Sogard - 0.0IP 1H 4R/3ER 3BB HR

Today's Game - Surprise at Peoria at 1:35 CST (Final Game)

LIGA VENEZUELA BEISBOL PROFESIONAL

Margarita over Zulia 6-5

Aguilas de Zulia
3B Marwin Gonzalez - 2x3 RBI BB

Caracas over Lara 7-6 in 10 innings

Leones del Caracas
RF J.D. Martinez - 2x4 2RBI 2BB SO R
DH Eric Thames - 2x4 2B HR 2RBI R

LIGA PARALELA (VENEZUELAN MINOR LEAGUE)

No game results posted since Monday's games

LIGA MEXICANA DEL PACIFICO

Mazatlan over Guasave 7-1

Algodoneros de Guasave
RF Leo Heras - 0x4

LIGA DE BEISBOL DOMINICANO

Toros over Licey 4-2

Toros del Este
CF Teoscar Hernandez - 0x3 RBI 3SO SF
LHP Raul Valdes (W, 1-0) - 7.0IP 5H 1R 0BB 6SO

Tigres del Licey
RF Domingo Santana - 0x2 2SO

Estrellas over Aguilas 5-4 in 10 innings

Aguilas Cibaenas
SS Jonathan Villar - 1x4 2B R

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE

Off Day

LIGA DE BEISBOL PROFESIONAL ROBERTO CLEMENTE (PUERTO RICO)

Caguas over Ponce 6-5 in 13 innings

Criollos de Caguas
C Roberto Pena - 0x1 BB R

Mayaguez over Santurce 4-2 in 11 innings

Cangrejeros de Santurce
1B Jon Singleton - 2x4 2B BB SO R
LF Austin Wates - 0x4 BB SO GIDP

Happy Birthday - 11/14

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

RHP Curt Schilling (47)
Originally drafted in the second round of the 1986 draft by Boston, Schilling came to Houston in 1991 in a trade (along with Steve Finley and Pete Harnisch) with the Orioles for Glenn Davis. He only played one season in Houston, pitching in 56 games with a 3.81 ERA and a 1.559 WHIP.  He was traded to the Phillies for Jason Grimsley (sigh). He went on, of course, to be a six-time All-Star and to win three World Series. In 19 post-season starts, Schilling was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA and a 0.968 WHIP. (Heavy sigh.)

RHP Kent Bottenfield (45)
A fourth round pick by the Expos in 1986, Bottenfield came to Houston as a free agent in January of 2001. In 13 games pitched for the Astros in 2001, at the end of his career, he was 2-5 with a 6.40 ERA and a 1.481 WHIP. His best season was his 1999 All-Star season when he went 18-7 for the Cardinals.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Astros Fall and Winter League Recaps

Tuesday's Games

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE

Mesa over Peoria 8-1

Peoria Javelinas
SS Nolan Fontana - 0x3 BB SO R
3B Jonathan Meyer - 1x3 SO
CF Delino DeShields - 1x2 2B BB SO

RHP Andrew Robinson - 1.0IP 0H 0R 0BB 0SO

Once again, one of my roving reporters checked in with me after watching yesterday's game. Dan Nelson, one of our Corpus Christi super fans, sent me this eyewitness report:
The Houston Astros farmhands DeShields and Meyer accounted for half of the four hits that the Peoria Javelinas got in the game and those hits came back-to-back in the top of the 3rd inning. Meyer singled to start it off and DeShields doubled, but the Javelinas were unable to bring either of them in. Fontana looked off in his game. He only struck out once but it just happened to be in the 3rd inning. Meyer is no longer on the taxi squad as [he replaced another Javelina player who had to leave the team]. He made a superb snare on a bullet hit towards him and got the out at 1st.
The Javelinas didn't score a run till their half of the 8th inning. DeShields started the inning out with a walk and moved to 2nd on defensive indifference. He got overly aggressive when Orlando Calixte lined out to 1st and got caught in no man's land between 3rd and home and was thrown out at home plate.
Only one Houston Astros pitcher saw action. Andrew Robinson came on in the bottom of the 8th. He retired the three batters he faced...two via ground outs.
Thanks for the report, Dan!

Today's Game - Peoria at Surprise at 1:35 CST

LIGA VENEZUELA BEISBOL PROFESIONAL

Margarita over Zulia 11-0

Bravos de Margarita
LHP Eric Berger (W, 2-1) - 6.0IP 4H 0R 1BB 2SO

Aguilas del Zulia
2B Marwin Gonzalez - 1x1 2BB

Lara over Caracas 9-1

Leones del Caracas
RF J.D. Martinez - 0x4 3SO
LF Eric Thames - 0x4

Caribes over Aragua 11-0

Tigres de Aragua
PH Jose Martinez - 0x1

Magallanes over La Guaira 3-2 in 11 innings

Tiburones de La Guaira
LHP Sergio Escalona (L, 0-2) - 0.0IP 1H 1R/0ER 0BB 0SO

LIGA PARALELA (VENEZUELAN MINOR LEAGUE)

Late reports from Monday's games (no reports available from Tuesday's games yet):

Tiburones over Seattle 7-2

Tiburones
SS Alex Gonzalez - 1x3 2BB SO R
C Marlon Avea - 2x3 2HR 4RBI SO R HBP
RHP Gerardo Juarez (W, 1-2) - 5.0IP 6H 0R 0BB 8SO

Boston over Bravos 5-2

Bravos
PR Carlos Perdomo - 0x0

LIGA MEXICANA DEL PACIFICO

Guasave over Mazatlan 9-5

Algodoneros de Guasave
RF Leo Heras - 1x5 2B SO R

Culiacan over Navajoa 1-0

Tomateros del Culiacan
RHP Gonzalo Sanudo - 2.0IP 1H 0R 0BB 2SO

LIGA DE BEISBOL DOMINICANO

Escogido over Licey 5-1

Tigres del Licey
RF Domingo Santana - 2x4 SO

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE

Off Day

LIGA DE BEISBOL PROFESIONAL ROBERTO CLEMENTE (PUERTO RICO)

Caguas over Santurce 6-3

Cangrejeros de Santurce
1B Jon Singleton - 1x4 BB SO
RF Austin Wates - 0x1 3BB
RHP Juan Santos (L, 0-1) - 0.1IP 1H 1R 2BB 0SO

Carolina over Ponce 6-2

Gigantes de Carolina
2B Kike Hernandez - 0x4 BB 3SO 2E
C Rene Garcia - 1x4 R

Happy Birthday - 11/13

Happy Birthday to ~

1B/DH Erik Castro (26)
Drafted in the 10th round in 2009 out of San Diego State, Castro spent his 2013 season with the Corpus Christi AA team and continued exhibiting plus skills with the bat. In 117 games, he hit .280/.368/.480 with 28 doubles, 18 home runs and 65 RBI. In August, he hit .340/.427/.553 in 27 games.

RHP Chris Devenski (23)
Originally drafted in the 25th round by the White Sox in 2011 out of Cal State Fullerton, Devenski came to the Astros organization as the PTBNL in the 2012 Brett Myers trade. In his first full season as an Astros farmhand, he struggled somewhat at High A Lancaster and ended up in Quad Cities to finish out the season. In 29 games (18 starts) between the two venues, he was 8-5 with a 6.60 ERA and a 1.736 WHIP.

LHP J.D. Osborne (23)
Drafted by Houston in the 36th round in 2013 out of Wofford College in Spartenburg, South Carolina, Osborne moved quickly up the ladder in his first professional season. After eight games in Greeneville and 12 in Tri-City, Osborne ended the season in Quad Cities. He had a combined 1.88 ERA and 1.395 WHIP in 21 appearances out of the bullpen.


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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

An Interview with LHP Tommy Shirley

I have seen Tommy Shirley several times over the last year, first at Spring Training and then a number of times during my trips to Lancaster during the 2013 season. Unlike many more outgoing baseball players, Shirley was always very quiet when I was around him and I never really got a feel for his personality. I finally talked to him briefly in September at an after-game potluck organized by the JetHawks Booster Club. I came away with the impression of a young man who is somewhat quiet on the field because he is very much focused on the job at hand.

I spoke with Tommy by phone late last week and my first question, after ascertaining that Tommy is his handle of choice, was regarding the injury that sidelined him for much of the 2011 season. It turns out that he had knee surgery, but is now 100% healthy. The following are excerpts from our conversation, edited for brevity and clarity.

Tommy Shirley - May 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

WTH: Can you tell me a little about your pitch repertoire?

TS: I throw obviously a fast ball. My fastball has a natural cutting movement to it. Velocity in the first part of the season was probably 88 to 91 or 92, but maybe two months into the season, my velocity really jumped up and I was [sitting] 90 or 92 to 94 and hit 96 a few times. I also throw a changeup and a curveball. I use the curveball more as an out pitch than the changeup, but guys, for whatever reason, have a tough time with my fastball so I [use that as an out pitch a lot].

WTH: What did you think about the tandem pitching rotation?

TS: I thought all the teams had a pretty good record with it. It definitely helped us. Personally, I didn't mind it because I've always been a starter, but they had me relieve a little while and it [the tandem rotation] kind of showcased me both starting and relieving. Some pitchers had a problem with it, but for me it was alright. You only have five innings at the most that you have to focus on, just trying to go out there and [giving] your team a chance to win.

WTH: I noticed that you had a lower strikeout rate this year than in the past (and also lower walks). Was that by design, pitching more to contact?

TS: Yeah, it's good to have more strikeouts, but sometimes pitchers get caught up with [that]. Sometimes I did in the past where I'd have them 0-2 or 1-2 and I'd try to strike them out and it would go to 2-2 or 3-2. This year I focused more on trying to get them out in three pitches or less, or just get them out as soon as possible. [Instead of strikeouts], what I really look at is the opposing batting average which I think is one of the most important things. I think mine was pretty good. [Shirley held batters to a .237 average in 2013, and held lefties to a .213 average.]

WTH: What do you feel that you accomplished in the 2013 season and what are you still working on?

TS: I think I showed people that I'm a starter again and that I can get guys out fairly easily at a good pace. And really what I'm working on in the offseason is my offspeed pitches, just focus more on getting my curveball as an out pitch and just continue my work on the changeup. [In the offseason], I'm [also] trying to get into eating healthier foods and trying to put on some weight for the upcoming season.

WTH: Can you tell me about the playoff experience? It had to be a little disappointing.

TS: Going into the playoffs, even though we had a lot of players move around during the season, I thought that our team was still just as strong. Especially after we won the first game, I figured that we'd have a really good chance and after we won Game 4, I thought that we had a great chance. I can't even explain Game 5. I don't think many people will ever see that again. It was just unbelievable. My first year with Tri-City, we won it all and I thought I was going to do it again this year, but [that] ended up not happening. I think it was more just shock because we had the bases loaded twice, but sometimes it just doesn't happen.

WTH: What would you do if you couldn't play baseball?

TS: If I couldn't play baseball, I'd like to think that I could play basketball. But I would love to be either in the front office of a professional sports team or a shoe designer.

WTH: A shoe designer? You may have just answered my next question. Can you tell me something about yourself that most people don't know and might be surprised to hear?

TS: People might not be surprised about the shoe designer. They know that I really like Jordans and stuff. I'm really good at swimming. Most people don't know that. [Were you on a swim team in high school or college?] Just high school. I was a pretty good swimmer.

WTH: Since you were drafted in the ninth round in 2010, there have been a lot of changes in the Astros organization. Can you share your thoughts about that?

TS: Yeah, I'd say there's been some big changes. We almost have a whole new staff. And everything's kind of cleaned up [with] a lot more focus on the little things. [It's] been a little bit tighter ship and I think it's for the better. Better workouts. Better drills. Everything's just a little bit better than it was before and I think it's kind of shown with the records we've had.

I don't know that I got to know Tommy a whole lot better, but one thing really struck me about him. His confidence. When I asked my standard question about who in the system had a pitch he'd like to steal, he picked his own fastball. "I just like the stuff I've got right now." And in response to my query as to what Astros batter he'd least like to face, Tommy responded, "I like facing everybody. I like facing the better hitters so I can showcase that I can get them out. I want to face the best hitters."

After this exchange, I said, "You are very confident, aren't you?" Tommy's response? "You've got to be just a little bit." And why shouldn't he be? Despite pitching in the decidedly hitter-friendly Lancaster ballpark, Shirley ended the season with a 3.35 ERA and a very stingy 1.195 WHIP. I look forward to seeing what he can do next season.

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

Thank you for your time, Tommy, and the best of luck to you in the coming season.

Astros Fall and Winter League Recaps

Monday's Games

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE

Mesa over Peoria 4-0

Peoria Javelinas
1B Japhet Amador - 0x3 2SO
3B Jonathan Meyer - 0x3 SO

Today's Game - Peoria at Mesa at 1:35 CST

LIGA VENEZUELA BEISBOL PROFESIONAL

Off Day

LIGA PARALELA (VENEZUELAN MINOR LEAGUE)

Monday's results not posted yet

LIGA MEXICANA DEL PACIFICO

Guasave over Mazatlan 2-1

Algodoneros de Guasave
RF Leo Heras - 0x4 SO

LIGA DE BEISBOL DOMINICANO

Nothing to report

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE

Off Day

LIGA DE BEISBOL PROFESIONAL ROBERTO CLEMENTE (PUERTO RICO)

Mayaguez over Carolina 4-1

Gigantes de Carolina
2B Kike Hernandez - 3x4

Ponce over Santurce 7-3

Cangrejeros de Santurce
1B Jon Singleton - 1x3 2B BB 2SO E
RF Austin Wates - 2x4 SO R

Happy Birthday - 11/12

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

LHP Joe Hoerner (died October 4, 1996 at age 59)
Drafted from the White Sox in the 1961 minor league expansion draft, Hoerner pitched only 14 innings over eight games for the Colt 45's in 1963 and 1964 before being picked up by the Cardinals in the Rule 5 draft in 1965.  Hoerner was later involved in the Curt Flood trade which led eventually to overturning the reserve clause and expanding free agency. His best years were with St. Louis in the late 60's (4 seasons with a 2.10 ERA and a 1.019 WHIP in 206 appearances), but he also had strong seasons with Philadelphia leading to his only All-Star appearance in 1970.

RHP Mark Small (46)
A 17th round draft pick by Houston in 1989, he pitched in 10 games for Houston in 1996 with a 5.92 ERA and a 1.890 WHIP. That was his only major league experience.

C Randy Knorr (45)
Originally drafted by the Blue Jays in the 10th round in 1986, Knorr was purchased by Houston from the Blue Jays in May of 1996. In 54 games played for the Astros in 1996, 1997 and 1999, he hit .200/.241/.296. In 2012, he was bench coach for the Washington Nationals.

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Astros Fall and Winter League Cumulative Player Stats

The following stats are for all Astros players currently (or formerly) participating in this year's fall and winter leagues. Stats are through Sunday's games. Players designated with an asterisk* are currently free agents and will not necessarily re-sign with the Astros.


Astros Fall and Winter League Recaps

Sunday's Games

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE

Off Day

Today's Game - Mesa at Peoria at 1:35 CST

LIGA VENEZUELA BEISBOL PROFESIONAL

La Guaira over Margarita 4-3 in 11 innings

Tiburones de La Guaira
LHP Sergio Escalona - 0.2IP 0H 0R 0BB 0SO

Magallanes over Caracas 6-2

Leones del Caracas
RF J.D. Martinez - 1x4 SO E
LF Eric Thames -1x3 RBI BB (Picked off at first)

LIGA PARALELA (VENEZUELAN MINOR LEAGUE)

Late reports from Saturday's games:

Tuburones over Phillies 6-5

Tiburones
SS Alex Gonzalez - 0x3 BB SO
DH Marlon Avea - 2x3 2B BB 2R

LHP Junior Garcia - 1.0IP 1H 0R 0BB 1SO
RHP Joselo Pinales - 1.0IP 0H 0R 0BB 0SO
RHP Jamaine Cotton (S, 4) - 1.0IP 1H 1R 1BB 0SO HBP

Bravos over Zulia 4-0

Zulia
3B Arturo Michelena - 0x2 SO

LIGA MEXICANA DEL PACIFICO

Los Mochis over Guasave 12-11

Algodoneros de Guasave
RF-2B Leo Heras - 2x5 2B RBI SO 2R

LIGA DE BEISBOL DOMINICANO

Licey over Aguilas 3-1

Aguilas Cibaenas
SS Jonathan Villar - 1x2 SO R

Estrellas over Gigantes 5-1

Gigantes del Cibao
RHP Jose Cisneros - 0.0IP 2H 2R 0BB 0SO HR

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE

Off Day

LIGA DE BEISBOL PROFESIONAL ROBERTO CLEMENTE (PUERTO RICO)

Ponce over Carolina 3-0 in 7 innings (Game 1)

Gigantes de Carolina
2B Kike Hernandez - 1x2 BB SO

Carolina over Ponce 7-3 in 7 innings (Game 2)

Gigantes de Carolina
PH-2B Kike Hernandez - 0x1 RBI BB SO R
PH-1B Jobduan Morales - 0x1
C Rene Garcia - 0x3 BB R PB

Happy Birthday - 11/11

Happy Birthday to ~

LHP Tommy Shirley (25)
Originally from Pennsylvania, Shirley was drafted in the ninth round in 2010 out of Xavier University. Shirley spent his 2013 season with the High A Lancaster team. In 27 games (nine starts), he went 1-4 with a 3.35 ERA and a 1.195 WHIP.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

CF Scott Loucks (57)
A fifth round pick by Houston in 1977, Loucks played in 69 games scattered over 1980 to 1983 hitting .260/.308/.288. In July 1984, he was traded to the Montreal Expos for Brad Mills (yes, that Brad Mills).

C/1B J. R. House (34)
Originally drafted by the Pirates in the fifth round in 1999, House came to Houston as a free agent in 2006 and again in 2008. In four games in 2006 and three games in 2008 for the Astros, he never got a hit. However, in 12 seasons of minor league and independent ball, he hit .300/.361/.470. After believing his baseball career to be over due to injuries, he enrolled in West Virginia University and played football for a season in 2005 before coming back to baseball in 2006. In 2012, he became a hitting coach in the Arizona Diamondbacks farm system.

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Astros Minor League Roster Moves

The following players have been released by the Astros:

OF/1B Mesac Laguna

In addition, RHP Jorge de Leon has been re-signed by the Astros.

Astros Fall and Winter League Recaps

Saturday's Games

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE

Salt River over Peoria 7-2

Peoria Javelinas
CF Delino DeShields - 2x4 3B SO
1B Japhet Amador - 0x2 SO
3B Jonathan Meyer - 2x2 2B RBI

RHP Matt Heidenreich (L, 1-1) - 7H 3R/2ER 2BB 3SO
RHP Andrew Robinson - 1.0IP 3H 3R 1BB 1SO
LHP Alex Sogard - 1.0IP 0H 0R 0BB 1SO

Not only was the game televised on the MLB Network last night, one of my intrepid roving reporters was in attendance for the game as well. Some of his thoughts, with my editorial comments interjected, follow. It was an interesting broadcast because MLB has been experimenting with expanded play review. In order to fully test it in the field, the coaches were actually encouraged to ask for review with no limits as to the type of play for which it was being used.
I went to see the Astros prospects tonight and a major league test broke out. This evening they were trying out the new major league appeal/review process with two cameras capturing the action and the opposing managers apparently able to challenge all forms of calls. The first challenge, that of a hit batsman by Astros prospect Matt Heidenreich, was met by silence as most of us were caught unawares by the stoppage of play. An attendant ran out on the field with a set of microphone/earphones and the Home Plate Umpire communicated with whomever it is in the booth that actually performs the review. [WTHB: I believe that the TV broadcasters indicated that umpires were reviewing the plays in a TV truck.] In subsequent reviews of plays at the bases, the umpire whose call is being reviewed joins the Home Plate Ump and upon completion of the review, the home plate umpire reiterates the call. All calls were upheld during the seven innings I watched, but each successive 'challenge' drew more and loader boos from the 2100+ fans in attendance. 
As for the actual Astros players, this was an uneven night. 
Delino DeShields was batting leadoff and started the game with a three-pitch, called, strikeout. His next appearance led to four foul balls before making an out, and his third time up featured a beautiful shot to right-center one hopping the fence at the 390 foot mark - a double for most but an easy stand-up triple for DD. He followed this with a solidly struck single his next time at the plate, with all balls going to right or right-center this evening. [WTHB: The following is in response to reports that DeShields has been less than fully engaged during games.]  In the field DeShields showed an involvement that had been lacking earlier in league play, making a nice catch on a ball over his head moving to left-center, and laying out at top speed on a ball hit to the warning track in right-center then leaping to his feet, fielding the ball off the wall and getting it back to the infield before collapsing to the ground for a minute or two. There was no indication he was seriously hurt and he remained in the line-up.
Japhet Amador, batting cleanup, failed to plate a run when presented with runners on first and third, went hitless in three appearances and was pitch-hit for in the sixth. 
Jonathan Meyer hit sixth, struck the ball well all night and, surprisingly, played a very nice third base - showing good range left and right. [WTHB: Meyer often surprises people with his athleticism at third.] Meyer was lifted in the sixth for a pinch hitter as well. 
Heidenreich gave up a hit in each of the first three innings but worked his way out of trouble with strikeouts when he needed them ... but the fourth inning was a different story, enabled by his right fielder overrunning a single in an attempt to throw out a runner rounding third for home. The two-base error wound up costing Peoria three runs in the inning, but Heidenreich was not sharp throughout.
Andrew Robinson had an even worse outing, yielding a bases loaded triple in his inning of work. 
Alex Sogard set Salt River down 1-2-3 in his inning of work, but the first two outs came on scalded pitches and the third on a terrible checked-swing call by the Home Plate Umpire. 
Didn't stay to the end as the Valley of the Sun was decidedly chilly this evening.
My intrepid reporter prefers to remain anonymous, but it is my hope that you have enjoyed his voice and writing style as much as I have.

Today is an off day for the AFL.

LIGA VENEZUELA BEISBOL PROFESIONAL

Nothing to report

LIGA PARALELA (VENEZUELAN MINOR LEAGUE)

No game results posted for Saturday.

LIGA MEXICANA DEL PACIFICO

Mexicali over Culiacan 14-3

Tomateros del Culiacan
RHP Gonzalo Sanudo - 1.0IP 1H 1R 0BB 2SO HR

Los Mochis over Guasave 8-4

Algodoneros de Guasave
RF Leo Heras - 2x4 BB R

LIGA DE BEISBOL DOMINICANO

Gigantes over Licey 10-1

Gigantes del Cibao
LHP Rudy Owens (W, 2-1) - 6.0IP 3H 0R 0BB 5SO

Tigres del Licey
RF Domingo Santana - 0x2 2SO

Aguilas over Toros 3-1

Aguilas Cibaenas
SS Jonathan Villar - 0x2 SAC

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE

Nothing to report

LIGA DE BEISBOL PROFESIONAL ROBERTO CLEMENTE (PUERTO RICO)

Mayaguez over Santurce 5-3

Cangrejeros de Santurce
1B Jon Singleton - 2x3 2B 2BB SO
RF Austin Wates - 1x4 SAC GIDP (Wates also had THREE outfield assists in the game)
RHP Juan Santos - 0.2IP 0H 0R 0BB 1SO

Happy Birthday - 11/10

Happy Birthday to ~

RHP Ryan Connolly (23)
Signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Astros in June 2013, Connolly spent his first professional season with the Greeneville Astros. In 20 appearances out of the bullpen, he was 1-2 with a 5.22 ERA and a 1.670 WHIP.

OF Eric Thames (27)
Originally drafted by the Blue Jays in the seventh round in 2008, Thames was claimed by Houston off waivers from Baltimore in September 2013 and, although he was assigned to Oklahoma City, he only played in one game. In the final post-season game, he went two-for-four with a home run, walk and two runs scored. Thames has played in 181 games at the major league level in 2011 and 2012 (for Toronto and Seattle), hitting .250/.296/.341 with 36 doubles, eight triples and 21 home runs. Thames just showed up on the roster for Caracas in the Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional this past week.

C Matt Pagnozzi (31)
Originally drafted by the Cardinals in the eighth round in 2003, Pagnozzi was purchased from Atlanta in September 2013 and appeared in nine games for the Astros that month, hitting .143/.182/.143. He was outrighted to Oklahoma City after the season and is currently a free agent.

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