Astros manager Bo Porter sent this statement via text message to some members of the media:
“I want to thank the Astros Organization for giving me my first opportunity to Manage Major League Baseball.
During my time in Houston I dedicated myself to do everything I could to help this Organization win, in the short-term and for the long-term.
I am proud of what we were able to accomplish in Houston with an Organization in transition. I’m gratified we were able to bring some excitement to this city as a result of our improvement from 2013 to 2014.
I am enthusiastic about what the future will bring for me and my family. I look forward to my next opportunity in Major League Baseball. The valuable experience I gained with the Astros will be extremely beneficial in all my future endeavors.
I want to especially thank my players, my staff and support staff for all their efforts in our attempt to develop a Championship culture doing my time as Manager of the Houston Astros.
I want to thank the baseball community for your kind words and the countless text messages, phone calls, voicemails and emails. Your support is what makes our game and industry so great!
Last but surely not least I want to thank the city of Houston and the fans for the incredible support they have shown towards me and my family during our time in Houston.
I wish the Astros well in the future and look forward to the next chapter of my baseball career.”
Astros manager Bo Porter and bench coach Dave Trembley were relieved of their duties Monday, the team announced. Tom Lawless was named interim manager through the remainder of the season.
Porter had been the Astros manager since the start of the 2013 season after being named to the position on Sept. 27, 2012 while serving as third base coach for the Washington Nationals. Adam Everett will join the coaching staff, replacing Trembley as bench coach. The remaining coaches will continue in their current roles.
The search for a new manager will begin immediately, the team said in a statement.
The Astros are 59-79 in Porter’s second full season as manager and have already surpassed their win total of their previous three seasons. They went 51-111 last year, finishing with the worst record in baseball for the third year in a row.
Lawless, who has close to 35 years of experience in baseball as a Major League player, Minor League manager and coach, had served as the manager for Triple-A Oklahoma City earlier this season while Tony DeFrancesco was on medical leave before returning to his role as a roving infield instructor.
Everett, who spent parts of 11 seasons in the Majors as a shortstop, including seven with the Astros (2001-07), rejoined the Astros organization as a Minor League infield instructor in 2013.
“Bo’s passion and energy are unparalleled, and his desire to win unquestioned,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said in a statement. “This decision was not made because of our current level of competitiveness in the Major Leagues. I recognize that our win-loss record is largely a product of an organizational strategy for which I am responsible. Rather, I made this decision because I believe we need a new direction in our clubhouse.
“What we will seek going forward is a consistent and united message throughout the entire organization. It is essential that as an organization we create an atmosphere at the Major League level where our young players can come up and continue to develop and succeed. Ultimately, I am responsible for creating that culture, and I will do everything in my power to do so—even when it means making difficult moves like the one we made today.
“Moving forward, I am optimistic about the direction of our team. Our young core continues to progress, and I believe wholeheartedly that our plan—while at times challenging—is working and will bring a consistent winner to Houston in the very near future.
“We wish Bo and his family well, and feel he will be successful in future endeavors.”
Astros owner Jim Crane said in a statement: “This was not an easy decision to make,” Crane said. “We wish Bo nothing but the best in the future. Jeff has my full support moving forward. Our goal to bring a championship to Houston remains.”
Former No. 1 overall draft pick Mark Appel and fellow right-handed pitcher Vincent Velasquez and third baseman Rio Ruiz headline the Astros’ contingent of prospects who will play in the Arizona Fall League this year.
Joining Appel, Velasquez and Ruiz on the Salt River Rafters team are left-hander Mitch Lambson, right-hander Tyson Perez, catcher Tyler Heineman, infielder Joe Sclafani and outfielder Andrew Aplin. Sclafani is a member of the taxi squad, which means he’s activated on only Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Appel, who missed all of Spring Training and the early part of 2014 while recovering from an appendectomy, struggled at Class A Lancaster before being moved up a month ago to Double-A Corpus Christi, where he’s pitched better.
Appel is ranked by MLB.com as the team’s No. 2 prospect. Velasquez (eighth), Ruiz (ninth) are also ranked in the Top 20.
The Rafters, who will play home games at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, included prospects from the Astros, D-backs, Marlins, Rockies and Twins. The six-team league, which is owned by Major League Baseball, plays Monday through Friday beginning Oct. 7.
Each Major League team is required to provide seven players to the AFL as long as they are Triple-A and Double-A players who were on Double-A rosters no later than Aug. 15. Each team can also send two Class A Advanced players, in addition to the current allowance of two “A-exempt” players (who are under contract as of Aug. 15).
Foreign players are allowed as long as the player is not on his native country’s primary protected player list. No players with more than one year active or two years total of credited Major League service as of Aug. 31 (including disabled list time) are eligible, except a team may select one player picked in the most recently concluded Major League Rule 5 Draft.
Representatives from the Astros and the Nationals will present a proposed joint Spring Training complex in West Palm Beach, Fla., to the Palm Beach County Tourism Development Council on Sept. 11 and Palm Beach County Commissioners on Sept. 23.
The Astros have been trying for more than a year to get a new complex built that it would share with another club, and the formal presentation is a big step. The Astros’ lease in Kissimmee, Fla., expires at the end of 2016, and the Astros would like to begin construction on a new spring site by January.
The Palm Beach Post reported the teams will ask for $3 million a year in hotel tax money to help for the proposed $140 million facility, which would be located at Haverhill Road and 45th Street in West Palm Beach.
In a joint statement, the Astros and Nationals said:
“The Astros and Nationals are finalizing a joint presentation in support of a proposed sports complex that will enable the Major League Clubs to co-locate our Spring Training facilities in West Palm Beach. Our projections show that the economic impact created by the activities at the new complex will be in excess of $100 million each year.
“We have a strong desire to make Palm Beach County our home for Spring Training and help re-establish the east coast of Florida as a hub for Major League Baseball’s Spring Training activities and create a complex for community and national sporting events throughout the year.”
Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan plans to fly to Iowa on Tuesday morning and sign a Player Development Contract to keep the team’s Class A affiliate at Quad Cities for two more years, he told MLB.com. A press conference will follow in Davenport, Iowa.
“Our guys are very happy with the relationship that we have throughout our system, and our goal is to continue to build the relationships at Quad Cities and hopefully [short-season] Tri-City and [Class A] Lancaster, and we think we have three of the best spots in all of baseball with good operations,” Ryan said. “We want to look to continue those relationships.”
Neither Ryan nor general manager Jeff Luhnow would comment on a report the club’s Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City would switch affiliates to the Dodgers. A group affiliated with the Dodgers is reportedly on the brink of purchasing team.
That would leave the Astros on the search for a new Triple-A affiliate for 2015. They would, of course, like to return to Triple-A Round Rock, which is owned by Ryan Sanders Baseball, but the Express recently renewed their PDC to remain the Triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers through 2018.
The Astros could be forced to move their Triple-A operation to Albuquerque, N.M. – replacing the Dodgers – though there could be other openings revealed in the next few weeks. They have expressed in interest in building a new facility in Montgomery County and relocating a team north of Houston, but that could be years away.
“We’ve been happy with our affiliate in Oklahoma City,” Luhnow said. “If it’s not to be, we’ll figure out what makes sense for us.”
Luhnow said the Astros are in discussions with Lancaster and Tri-City about renewing the PDC with those clubs, which expire after this year. The Astros own Double-A Corpus Christi, rookie-league Greeneville and the Gulf Coast League Astros, so no PDC is needed.
The Astros activated infielder/outfielder Jesus Guzman from the 15-day disabled list Tuesday and placed left-handed reliever Darin Downs on the DL with a right oblique strain. The Downs move is retroactive to Friday.
Guzman, who was out with back spasms, went 8-for-13 with three doubles and five RBIs in a rehab stint with Triple-A Oklahoma City. In 36 games with the Astros this year, he’s hitting .200 with two homers and eight RBIs.
Downs threw one-third of an inning Thursday in Boston, giving up a run. He’s 2-1 with a 4.31 ERA in 40 games with the Astros this year.
Meanwhile, outfielder Alex Presley, who’s been on the disabled list since straining his oblique on July 8, rejoined the team in New York, but hasn’t been activated. He was on a rehab assignment at rookie-league Tri-City and suffered a setback on Saturday.
Astros pitcher Jesse Crain, who’s been on the disabled list all season, also met the team in New York. A timetable on his return isn’t known.
Astros rookie outfielder George Springer suffered a setback in his return from a left quad strain and won’t be allowed to perform any baseball-related drills for two more weeks, the team said Tuesday.
Springer played three games on a Minor League rehab last week in Class A Quad Cities and tweaked the quad running the bases. He returned to Houston and has been working out with the team, but met with a doctor Monday night at Minute Maid Park after not progressing enough.
“We weren’t sure if it was going to be a thing that he could work through quickly, but after the doctor saw him last night, he made the determination he needs to take some time off and let it heal,” Luhnow said. “It’s unfortunate because we felt like he was a couple of days away from rejoining our team and clearly is a missed presence in lineup and in the outfield. We’re going to have to wait until he’s completely healthy. We don’t want to take anymore risks.”
The Astros are getting outfielder Dexter Fowler back in the lineup after he completed a rehab from an intercostal injury. He’ll be in the lineup Wednesday.
Springer made his much anticipated Major League debut in mid-April and took off in May, being named American League Rookie of the Month. He’s played in 78 games and is hitting .231 with a 20 homers, 51 RBIs and a .336 on-base percentage.
“It’s tough just because I’m a competitor and I want to go out there and help the team, but I’ve got to get healthy and see what happens,” he said. “I want to go out there and compete with these guys and be able to help and not be a cheerleader. I want to be able to play, but you’ve got to be smart.”
Springer remains confident he’ll get on the field again this year.
“That’s the ultimate goal is to get back out there,” he said. “I’ll get stronger and keep doing what I’ve got to do in order to play.”
Luhnow believes Springer will play most of September.
“This type of injury, he should be able to come back from,” he said. “Obviously, we’re going to be very cautious with bringing him back, but we still have plenty of time. I expect he’ll play the month of September here.”
George Springer says he’s “one-day closer” to returning to action. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Springer is “days” away from returning. All we know for sure is Springer continues to progress from a quad injury that’s kept him in the disabled list since July 20, but the timetable for his return remains unclear. <p>
Springer continues to take batting practice, but won’t be activated until he can run full speed. <p>
“You’ve got to be able to see what your body can handle and what it can’t, but at the same time you don’t want to overdo it and set yourself back,” he said. “You have to walk that thin line and be smart.” <p>
Luhnow said running remains the final hurdle for the rookie slugger. <p>
“It’s more running full speed and having to stop and change directions and those sort of things, which you have to do as an outfielder rand a base runner,” Luhnow said. “Those are the things you really don’t get fully tested until you’re in a game situation. We’re going to try and replicate as much of that as we can.” <p>
Luhnow said he wasn’t sure whether Springer would have to have another rehab assignment before returning to the Astros. <p>
“We haven’t made that decision,” he said. “The reason to do a rehab is in case there’s any sort of setback, you’re not burning another 15 days. That’s the worst thing to do. I know he’s anxious to get back and we’re anxious to have him back, and we have to weigh those.” <p>
Astros rookie outfielder Domingo Santana has had one plate appearance since being recalled a week ago to replace the injured Jesus Guzman, walking as a pinch-hitter on Wednesday night in Philadelphia. Santana went 0-for-13 with 11 strikeouts in his debut in July and was promptly sent back down.
Here’s what manager Bo Porter had to say about Santana’s playing time:
“Even when he came, it was more of we were going to a National League ballpark and Guzman was down and you just don’t want to play short going into a National League ballpark where there’s double switches,” he said. “You end up with a short bench early in the game and now offensively you mount a comeback and you shoot yourself in the foot because you don’t have that extra guy. When you have guys in which you want to continue to see and play well, there’s no place for him to play.”
Jake Marisnick, acquired in a trade with the Marlins earlier this month, is starting in center field while Dexter Fowler recovers from an injury, and outfielder Robbie Grossman has been an on-base machine the last few days, while Marc Krauss has hit safely in nine of 12 starts since being recalled July 23.
Here’s the latest on the injured Astros:
- 2B Jose Altuve was out of the lineup Saturday one day after leaving Friday’s game with neck discomfort. The good news for the Astros is Altuve said he felt much better and expected to be back in the lineup Sunday. “They just told me to sit the bench today, and I’m going to be ready to pinch-hit and pinch-run,” he said.
- OF Alex Presley took batting practice on the field Saturday for the first time since he injured his oblique swinging the bat a month ago and said things went well. He could begin a Minor League rehab stint any day. “I’m looking forward to getting out there,” he said. “It’s been a while.”
- OF George Springer took batting practice Saturday, but it remains a mystery when he’ll be activated. Springer tweaked his injured left quad during a Minor League rehab assignment earlier this week. “My speed is my game and it’s hard not to have that, so it’s one of those things you just to be smart and go whenever I can go,” he said. “The ultimate goal is to be 100 percent, so hopefully I can get back out there soon.”
- OF Dexter Fowler could return to the Astros’ lineup any day. Astros manager Bo Porter said Saturday that Fowler was scheduled to have four at-bats as designated hitter in his second game on rehab assignment at Triple-A Oklahoma City. He was 2-for-3 with an RBI in his first game on Friday against Iowa. “When you play and you’re playing consecutive days and we don’t have any ill effects from what put you on the disabled list, you’re ready to go,” Porter said. “He’s not down there to prove he can hit. He’s down there to prove he’s healthy.”