Towles trying to prove his worth
J.R. Towles was in the starting lineup at catcher Monday for the sixth time in 11 games. While Tommy Manzella and Chris Johnson aren’t getting much playing time, the Astros are committed to giving Towles a good look in the final few weeks of the season.
Towles was the Astros’ top prospect and starting catcher at the start of the 2008 season, but he hit .137 with four homers and 16 RBIs and spent most of the season in the minors. The Astros are searching for a catching option for next season, with current top prospect Jason Castro likely to be able to start at some point next year.
“He’s going to be given the opportunity to be our guy,” Astros interim manager Dave Clark said. “That’s what I believe in, that’s what I’m going to do. We have to see what this kid can do. After what he did in ’07, he got off to somewhat of a slow start last year and went through what all first-year players go through, but I think now he’s starting to settle back in again.”
Towles make a quick rise through the Astros’ system in 2007, advancing from Class A Salem to the Majors in a few months. He was gangbusters in the September of ’07 for the Astros, hitting .375 with one homer and 12 RBI sin 14 games. He had eight RBIs in one game.
During his ascent through the system in ’07, Towles spent 2 1/2 months at Double-A Corpus Christi while Clark was managing the Hooks.
“Two years ago, no one really got him out when I had him at Double-A, and even when he came up here in September he put on a pretty good show,” Clark said. “It’s more of a confidence thing, but he will get it back.”
Clark said Towles will get the lion’s share of time at catcher in the final seven games, especially considering he’s familiar with some of the young pitchers – Yorman Bazardo, Felipe Paulino and Wilton Lopez – the team is starting.
“The fact he’s here and not playing on an everyday basis, with any young guy you’re going to go out and put too much pressure on yourself, and that’s exactly what he’s doing,” Clark said. “The last couple of days or so, we’ve had conversations with him on relaxing and stop looking for a perfect pitch because you might be waiting all year to get it.
“You hit in front of the pitcher and you’re going to get a mixture of stuff and anything close you have to swing at it. They’re trying to get you out by making yourself get yourself out.”