Keppinger gets shot in wake of Matsui departure
Jeff Keppinger is the Astros’ starting second baseman. In all honesty, Keppinger had been the starter after the first week of the season, but he had been pretty much splitting playing time with Kaz Matsui. Keppinger made his 21st start of the season at second base Wednesday, the day Matsui was given his walking papers after a terrible start at the plate.
Keppinger isn’t going to make anyone forget Craig Biggio. He has no power, but he’s a reliable and dependable player who doesn’t strike out much at all and gets the most out of his at-bats. He went 3-for-5 on Wednesday with two doubles and four RBIs and relishes hitting behind the speedy Michael Bourn and getting all those fastballs from pitchers who are afraid of Bourn’s speed.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Keppinger said of the chance for more starts at second. “That’s why I’m here. I’ve always looked at myself as a second baseman and I’ve always tried to be able to be a starter. I don’t know if they’ve named me a starter or what, but they keep running me out there and batting me in the two hole. That’s fine with me.”
Defensively, Keppinger isn’t flashy. He’s going to make the routine plays and every now and then get himself on a highlight reel. He’s a low-key, no-frills player whom his teammates love because he plays the game hard and without fanfare.
“The name of the game when you’re hitting is to hit the ball,” Keppinger said. “All I try to do put the barrel on it and put it in play and from there you can’t control much else. If you hit a ball hard and you hit it at them, you’re out. That’s going to happen a lot.
“But the more times you put the ball in play, the more chances you have of getting a hit. In the field, I’m just trying to catch the ball and I’ll figure out what to do with it after that.”
Keppinger isn’t the long-term answer at second, but he’s certainly earned a shot now that Matsui is out of the picture. Matsui, although the utmost professional, will be viewed as a huge bust in Houston after signing a three-year $16.5-deal to replace Biggio.
Matsui played well in 2008 but couldn’t stay on the field. He played a career-high 132 games in 2009, but didn’t play well. This year, he just looked like he was washed up.
So the Astros eat the rest of his contract and move on. They’ve called 25-year-old infielder Oswaldo Navarro, who can give them some more versatility off the bench, which is important considering Keppinger will be in the lineup for the immediate future.