Astros top prospect Jonathan Singleton, who is nearing the end of his 50-game suspension for a second failed drug test, will begin his season sometime next week at Class A Quad Cities before moving to Triple-A Oklahoma City, general manager Jeff Luhnow said Sunday.
Singleton, ranked by MLB.com as the top prospect the Astros’ organization, was suspended Jan. 9 after violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program for a drug of abuse. Singleton later said in a statement he had tested positive for marijuana.
Singleton, a left-handed-hitting first baseman, hit .284 with 21 homers and 79 RBIs in 131 games last year at Double-A Corpus Christi and was expected to push for playing time on the Major League club this year. The Astros acquired him from the Phillies in the Hunter Pence trade in 2011.
Luhnow didn’t have an exact date for Singleton’s return, saying it would happen next week. He would likely be eligible to return May 28, which would be the 51st game on Corpus Christi’s schedule and he was on its roster when suspended.
“Right now, it looks like we’re going to send him to Quad Cities for a short period of time and from there to go his next assignment, which will probably be Oklahoma City,” he said. “Just give him a chance to play under the lights somewhere else, and Quad Cities is our newest affiliate and we love the ballpark and we love the management team and it’s a good opportunity.
“Whenever we have a chance to send a big leaguer, or close to a big league player there, is strengthens the bond between us and our affiliate.”
Astros bench coach Eduardo Perez and first base coach Dave Clark both had conversations with outfielder Jimmy Paredes on Saturday, a day after he crashed into teammate Jake Elmore and forced him to drop a ball that allowed the Pirates to score the winning run in the ninth inning
Paredes, who was in right field, didn’t see Elmore, the second baseman, waving his arms to signal he was prepared to catch the ball, at which point Paredes should have backed off. It was the second time in less than week Paredes ran into a second baseman. He crashed into Jose Altuve on Monday in Detroit and partially dislocated Altuve’s jaw.
“This is Major League Baseball and you can’t have those kinds of fundamental mishaps in big league games,” manager Bo Porter said. “It should not happen.”
Perez said he was honest with Paredes. He told him the play in Detroit wasn’t his fault because Altuve didn’t hear him calling for the ball, but on Friday he should have peeled off as Elmore was raising his hands.
“He was a little confused on how he’s going to look down and up at the same time,” Perez said. “It’s just him being a little bit raw out there, but he’s got to learn from it. I tried to tell him to switch positions [Paredes used to play second base] and think about when you’re a second baseman, what do you do? How do you call it? You call it by raising your hand and you’re expecting the right-fielder to see you. Now you’re a right-fielder and you have to see him. If he’s under the ball, he’s getting it.”
Veteran pitcher Edgar Gonzalez, who was on the mound at the time, spoke to Paredes in their native Spanish after the game and offered words of encouragement.
“He told me that happens in the game sometimes and he told me the most important thing is you and Elmore are fine,” Paredes said. “There were no injuries. Nobody got hurt. In the game, that situation happens. That’s what he was he was telling me. Just keep going.”
Reid Ryan, the son of Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan and president of CEO of Ryan-Sanders Baseball, will be named as the next president of the Astros, a source confirmed to MLB.com on Thursday.
Ryan, who runs the Triple-A Round Rock Express (Rangers) and Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks (Astros), both of which are owned by Nolan Ryan and Houston businessman Don Sanders, will be introduced at a news conference on Friday.
The position as president of the Astros became open when George Postolos announced Monday he was stepping down.
Reid Ryan didn’t return a phone call seeking comment late Wednesday, and the Astros are not commenting on the search for a new president.
Reid Ryan serves on the Board of Trustees for Minor League Baseball, the executive committee of the Pacific Coast League and is the Board of Trustees representative for the Baseball Internet Rights Company (BIRCO). He’s also involved in many other business ventures including real estate, banking and the restaurant industry.
His father, Nolan Ryan, played 27 years in the Major Leagues, including nine with the Astros, and became baseball’s all-time strikeout leader before being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999. He’s currently president and CEO of the Rangers.
Astros manger Bo Porter issued a public apology Friday afternoon for making an illegal pitching change in Thursday’s loss to the Angels, a move that led to the two-game suspension and fine of crew chief Fieldin Culbreth and fines for the rest of his crew.
Porter pulled pitcher Wesley Wright from the game in the seventh inning Thursday before he had a chance to face a batter, which is a misapplication official baseball rule 3.05(b). The rule states a pitcher must face at least one hitter before he can come out of the game, unless he’s injured.
The other members of Culbreth’s crew – Brian O’Nora, Bill Welke and Adrian Johnson – also received fines by Major League Baseball stemming from the same sequence of events.
Porter, the first-year manager, was adamant following the game he was allowed to make a pitching change because the Angels had brought in a pinch-hitter after Wright was announced as being in the game, but he was informed later that night Wright should have faced the batter.
“I would say the first thing is me, personally, I want to apologize to their whole crew for putting them in that position,” Porter said. “And it’s unfortunate for the game of baseball, but at the same time I had a chance to speak to [Culbreth] last night after the fact and he called over and I stand corrected of my thought process and interpretation of what it is I believed the rule to be. I want to give them my apology, and I wish the whole thing never happened.”
Porter said Culbreth called over to his office after the umpire had spoken to his superiors and told him the pitching change hadn’t been handled properly. Porter said he apologized to Culbreth at that time, and then took time prior to Friday’s game to apologize again through reporters.
“When I went out there last night, my interpretation of it and my thought process of what it is I believed the rule to be was the fact that the scheduled hitter had to be faced by that pitcher,” Porter said. “After the game, I found out that was not the case and there are some repercussions. As I sit here today, it’s more that I feel sorry for the crew chief and crew for having to wear what it is that happened last night.”
Angels manager Mike Scioscia had been playing the game under protest, which was dropped when his team scored three runs in the eighth and won, 6-5.
The controversy came in the seventh inning. With runners at first and third and two outs, Porter brought in Wright, a lefty, to face left-handed hitter J.B. Shuck. Porter then subbed in the right-handed Hector Ambriz before Wright threw a pitch after he saw right-hander Luis Jimenez on deck to pinch-hit.
Porter said Wright could have been pulled when a pinch-hitter entered the game had he pitched the previous inning and was beginning a fresh inning, but he reiterated it was an honest mistake.
“But a mistake we don’t want to have,” he said. “That’s why to me, I give my deepest apology to their entire crew. Mike Scioscia was right. I feel bad I put them in position where they felt that, ‘Maybe Bo is right,’ and then a decision was made that ended up not being the right decision.”
A Major League Baseball spokesman said Friday the controversial pitching change in the seventh inning of Thursday’s Astros-Angels game was not applied correctly and that the matter is being reviewed.
The Angels were playing the game under protest before rallying for three runs in eighth inning to win, 6-5. Angels manager Mike Scioscia argued with the umpires that Astros manager Bo Porter made an illegal pitching change in the seventh inning.
With runners at first and third and two outs, Porter brought in lefty Wesley Wright to face left-handed hitter J.B. Shuck. Porter then subbed in the right-handed Ambriz before Wright threw a pitch after he saw right-hander Luis Jimenez on deck to pinch-hit.
Rule 3.05 (b) says that a pitcher must face at least one hitter before he can come out of the game, unless he’s injured. Wright wasn’t injured, and Scioscia argued at length with the umpires before notifying them he was playing the game under protest.
“My contention was that the pitcher who came in had to face one batter,” Scioscia said Thursday. “That’s why I protested it, and we’re happy we won.”
Porter said following the game he sat in a meeting last year with Nationals manager Davey Johnson that laid out the rule (Porter was Washington’s third-base coach).
“If you have to pinch-hit for that batter, you now have the right to bring in another pitcher,” he said. “Technically ,Wesley came in to pitch the batter that was scheduled to hit [Shuck] but he pinch-hit for the batter that was scheduled to hit. Which, from my understanding of the rule, you can bring in another pitcher to face the pinch-hitter.”
Porter said he stopped to talk to the umpires to make sure Jimenez was officially in the game.
“Once I made sure that he pinch-hit for the batter that was scheduled to hit, then I started towards the mound,” he said. “The home plate umpire [Adrian Johnson], he kind of stopped me. He said, ‘Whoa, Bo,’ and then Scioscia started yelling he has to face a hitter.
“I just calmly explained to him my interpretation of the rule is ‘Yes he has to face hitter, as long as it’s the hitter that’s scheduled to hit.’ The hitter that was scheduled to hit had now been pinch-hit for, which now gives me the right to bring a pitcher to face the pinch-hitter.”
Here’s what Astros manager Bo Porter told the media about the seventh-inning pitching change controversy in Thursday’s loss to the Angels.
With runners at first and third and two outs and the Angels trailing, 5-3, in the seventh, Porter brought in lefty Wesley Wright to face left-handed hitter J.B. Shuck. Porter then subbed right-hander Hector Ambriz before Wright threw a pitch after he saw right-hander Luis Jimenez on deck to pinch-hit.
Rule 3.05 (b) says that a pitcher must face at least one hitter before he can come out of the game, unless he’s injured. Wright didn’t appear to be injured, and Angels manager Mike Scioscia argued at length with the umpires before notifying them he was playing the game under protest.
Q: Can you walk us through the pitching change in the seventh inning?
A: “My understanding of the rule, and I was fortunate enough last year to sit in with [Nationals manager] Davey [Johnson] when they changed the rule of a pitcher having to face a batter. But at the same time, if you have to pinch-hit for that batter, you now have the right to bring in another pitcher. Technically, Wesley came in to pitch the batter that was scheduled to hit [Shuck] but he pinch-hit for the batter that was scheduled to hit. Which, from my understanding of the rule, you can bring in another pitcher to face the pinch-hitter.”
Q: What’s going through your mind when the umps are talking?
A: “At that point, you just let the umpires sort it out. Like I said, my understanding of the rule…I felt like if I did the best thing for my team, I was going to let the umpires sort it out. At that point, the umpires decided that we were able to let Ambriz face the pinch-hitter. I don’t think the delay or anything affected Ambriz from a standpoint of his effectiveness.”
Q: Just to be clear, before you went out to get Wesley you stopped to talk to the umpires for a while. That was…?
A: “The first thing I wanted to make sure is the pinch-hitter was in the game. That’s why I stopped before I went to the mound, to make sure he pinch-hit for the guy who was scheduled to hit.”
Q: So Jimenez was in the game?
A: “Yes. Once I made sure that he pinch-hit for the batter that was scheduled to hit, then I started towards the mound. The home plate umpire, he kind of stopped me. He said, ‘Whoa, Bo,’ and then Scioscia started yelling he has to face a hitter. I just calmly explained to him my interpretation of the rule is ‘Yes he has to face hitter ,as long as it’s the hitter that’s scheduled to hit.’ The hitter that was scheduled to hit had now been pinch-hit for, which now gives me the right to bring a pitcher to face the pinch-hitter.”
Astros pitcher Philip Humber, who was told Wednesday by manager Bo Porter he was being moved from the rotation to the bullpen, was disappointed but understands the team’s decision. Humber is 0-7 with an 8.82 ERA in seven starts, including a 16.20 ERA in his last four starts after a solid start.
“It’s fine with me,” he said “To me, I’m looking at it as an opportunity to take a step back and there are some things I need to get better at. It will give me a chance to work on that and help the team however I can.”
Humber took advantage of Monday’s day off to meet with Rice University coach Wayne Graham, who won his only College World Series title when Humber pitched a complete game in the title game against Stanford 10 years ago.
“A lot of things he told me were the same things these guys told me, and I guess I was in a different frame of mind and more open to suggestions,” he said. “I’ve been kind of down on myself. I didn’t think my stuff was very good this year and kind of focused on that, rather than really just making pitches down the zone. My stuff’s going to get better, but right now it is what it is. Whatever your stuff is, if you’re throwing it up in the strike zone, it’s going to get hit hard. That’s what I want to get better at is locating all my pitches so I can get guys out. That’s the main thing.”
Humber made 10 relief appearances last year after the White Sox moved him out the starting rotation, so he’s no stranger to what needs to be done out of the bullpen.
“For me it’s a matter of getting right and getting more opportunities to get in there,” he said. “I need to get better. That’s the main things, that’s what I’m focused on, where ever I’m at — rotation or bullpen. I’ve got to pitch better and I’m not satisfied with what I’ve done so far, so I’ll keep working at it.”
Astros manager Bo Porter said Wednesday left-hander Dallas Keuchel will start Friday’s series opener against the Rangers, with fellow southpaw Erik Bedard moving back into the rotation to throw Saturday’s game. Meanwhile, struggling right-hander Philip Humber has been moved to the bullpen.
“We’re just trying to go with the guys that give us the best opportunity at this time,” Porter said.
Keuchel is 0-1 with a 4.96 ERA in six relief appearances, so Friday will mark his first start of 2013. He made 16 starts for the Astros last year and was 3-8 with a 5.27 ERA, including a complete-game win over Cleveland on June 23.
“One of the things you look at, the Rangers’ lineup it’s left-handed dominant and they have some left-handed guys in their lineup, and we felt like if we can get both of our lefties matched up against them it would put us in good position,” Porter said. “Dallas has done a tremendous job out of the bullpen and he’s given us length every time he’s come into the game, and we’re going to give him an opportunity to get into the rotation.”
Bedard made five starts before being moved to the bullpen and now finds himself back in the rotation. He’s 0-2 with a 9.98 ERA as a starter this year, but in two relief appearances has allowed three hits and one run in 6 1/3 innings.
“The competition we have for these spots is a fluid situation and it wasn’t a competition that was going to end in Spring Training,” Porter said. “I made that perfectly clear to the guys then. Obviously, moves like this kind of reiterate that to them and we’re going to try to go with the hot hand and go with the guys that give us the best opportunity to win ballgames.”
Humber got off to a nice start for Houston and had a 2.89 ERA in three starts, but he was 0-3 after the Astros didn’t score any runs in any of those starts. But he’s 0-4 with a 16.20 ERA in four starts since.
“I talked to Humber and told him the same thing we told Bedard when we sent him down there,” Porter said. “I said, ‘It’s going to be a situation you are built up and you’ve seen the long guys go down there and have success, like Keuchel, and end up back in the rotation.’ Bedard went down to the bullpen and did a tremendous job last time out and he’s going into the rotation. It’s a fluid situation we will continue to monitor and this competition will continue to go on.”
Bedard will pitch at Pittsburgh the following weekend, Porter said.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow spoke with hosts Brian Kenny and Harold Reynolds on Tuesday during MLB Network’s “MLB Now,” discussing the rebuilding Astros, roster moves and the team’s tandem pitching project in the farm system. Here’s the video:
Outfielders Rick Ankiel and Fernando Martinez were designated for assignment Monday, likely bringing an end to their tenure in Houston. The Astros also optioned infielder Brandon Laird to Triple-A Oklahoma City and recalled outfielder Trevor Crowe and infielder/outfielder Jimmy Paredes, as well was reinstating outfielder J.D. Martinez from the disabled list. </p>
Crowe, J.D. Martinez and Paredes will join the Astros before Tuesday’s 7:10 p.m. game against the Angels at Minute Maid Park. Ankiel has enough service time to refuse a Minor League assignment, at which point he would probably be released. The Astros have 10 days to decide what to do with Fernando Martinez, who will be released, traded or sent to the Minor Leagues if he passes through waivers.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow had high hopes for Ankiel, who he watched blossom into a potent outfielder while both were with the Cardinals. Ankiel hit just .194 in 25 games with five homers, 11 RBIs and a whopping 35 strikeouts in 62 at-bats.
“Rick Ankiel is a class guy, and I really like him both as a baseball player and as a person,” Luhnow said. “We brought him in here to help our younger kids, to mentor them and help out on the field. I really appreciate everything he did for us. The reality is the team is not where we wanted to be at this point and we feel like outfield is one of our weakest positions, and we wanted to give some guys who are having some success at Triple-A a chance to continue that up here.”
Luhnow met with manager Bo Porter on Monday at Minute Maid Park and went over the roster, and the general manager said the moves were made to fill some specific needs and not a shake-up of a club that’s lost 10 of 11 games and is 8-24.
“We sat down today and really talked about the mix of the team and what was available to us in Triple-A,” Luhnow said. “This is more of a testament about how Jimmy’s been doing in Triple-A, how Trevor’s been doing in Triple-A and wanting J.D. back. We weren’t making changes for the sake of making changes.”
Luhnow acknowledged the club also talked about the status of struggling starting pitcher Philip Humber, but Luhnow deferred to Porter.
Crowe is hitting .300 (33-for-110) in 29 games for Oklahoma City in 29 games this season, clubbing two homers and driving in 14 runs while stealing a team-high 11 bases. Crowe, a former first-round Draft pick by the Indians who’s appeared in 205 Major League games, was signed by the Astros this offseason as a Minor League free agent.
Paredes entered Monday hitting a team-high .376 (41-for-109) in 29 games for Oklahoma City, which ranked fifth in the Pacific Coast League, with a 1.040 OPS. Paredes has started at third base and in right field this season for the RedHawks and remains raw on defense.
J.D. Martinez, out since April 20 with a right knee sprain, hit .300 in five games on a rehab assignment with Double-A Corpus Christi. He played in 14 games, including 12 starts, for the Astros before heading to the disabled list.
Fernando Martinez, who had trouble staying healthy, was hitting .182 with a homer and three RBIs in 11 games, while Laird was batting .200 with two homers and five RBIs in 11 games