July 2010

So long, Puma

Lance Berkman was one of the most caring, honest and reliable guys you could ever want to meet, in addition to being a heck of a baseball player. Sure, it looks like his skills are declining at age 34, but he can still swing the bat, draws walks and, as we saw a few days ago, knows how to turn on a good fastball now and then.

Simply put, Berkman, traded to the Yankees on Saturday, is the most enjoyable players I’ve covered in my seven years on the Astros beat and he’ll be missed. It’s definitely going to be strange to see him wearing pinstripes.

So long, Puma.

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Oswalt happy for Berkman

Roy Oswalt, who fell to 6-13 after losing his Phillies debut on Friday, was excited to hear long-time friend and Astros teammate Lance Berkman was being sent to the Yankees in a trade that is expected to be announced Saturday.

“I think it will be good for him,” he said. “Sometimes you get a change of scenery, it turns you all the way around. Sometimes you get in a rut of doing the same thing over and over. I think it will be great for him to get back in a pennant race and feel the excitement of it. In ’04 and ’05 when we made up all that ground and got to go to the World Series, that’s where the real baseball is.”

So what about the prospect of Oswalt’s Phillies and Berkman’s Yankees facing off in the playoffs?

“He was actually the first person I called when I got traded,” Oswalt said. “He was saying the worst part was going to be facing me. I’ve been watching him for 10 years, so I kind of know where to throw him.

 

Astros on verge of sending Berkman to Yanks

The Astros on the verge of sending five-time All-Star first baseman Lance Berkman to the New York Yankees, a source told MLB.com on Friday. Berkman told reporters Friday he had been approached the club about waiving his no-trade clause, and he approved a list of four teams he would consider going to. The Yankees are on the list.

Are the Astros done dealing?

Are the Astros done dealing? It’s likely, but you can rest assured general manager Ed Wade will be exploring many options up until Saturday’s 3 p.m. CT Trade Deadline. Lance Berkman said Thursday night the club had not approached him about a deal, and I’d be really surprised if he gets traded at some point soon.

It’s been reported Brett Myers is untouchable, but Jeff Keppinger‘s name has been thrown around in some rumors.

“We’ll stay actively engaged in conversations right up until 3 o’clock Saturday afternoon and beyond,” Wade said. “This is is a deadline where we can trade players without securing waivers. That doesn’t mean that every player gets claimed on waivers after the fact. We’ll try to get as many players as we can through the waiver system, and if opportunities present themselves btewen now and Saturday afternoon and thereafter, we’ll continue to work that and see where it leads.”

Oswalt reacts to trade

Roy Oswalt went to an empty clubhouse at Minute Maid Park on Thursday afternoon and cleaned out his locker. He was scheduled to fly to Philadelphia later in the day to start a new life with a new team. Oswalt will start for the two-time defending NL championship Phillies on Friday night against the Washington Nationals.

“It’s exciting for sure,” Oswalt told MLB.com. “I think it works out for both of us. Houston’s getting good prospects and another pitcher, and I’m getting to go to a great team. I’m happy for both sides. From the very beginning, I said I wouldn’t accept it unless it worked out for both of us, and I think it worked out.”

Oswalt said leaving Houston was hard.

“I think probably the toughest part was packing up my locker, for sure, knowing I started here and have to leave now,” Oswalt said. “Just like I said, it’s going to be good for the organization, and I think it will be good for me, too. The organization has been great to me, and I hope they get back in it and get back to the playoffs real soon.”

When the deal was done, Oswalt called longtime teammate Lance Berkman, who along with Wandy Rodriguez are the only remaining players from the 2005 World Series team, and said his goodbyes. He telephoned former teammate Brad Lidge on Thursday night to gauge the atmosphere in Philadelphia.

“You’ve pretty much got an All-Star at every position,” Oswalt said. “They have a real good team as far as a union. I talked to Brad Lidge last night about the clubhouse and he likes it a lot up there with guys like Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino and some other great guys. Overall, it came down to Houston getting something for me and I was getting to go to a contender.”

Oswalt, 32, was drafted in the 23rd round by the Astros in 1996 and reached the Majors five years later, going 14-3 in his rookie season. He posted back-to-back 20-wins seasons in 2004 and 2005 to lead the Astros to the NLCS in 2004 and World Series in 2005. Oswalt held the Cardinals to one run and five hits in seven innings to win Game 6 of the 2005 NLCS en route to being named the NLCS Most Valuable Player.

He was 6-12 with a 3.42 ERA this year and had some of the worst run support in the league, which played into his decision to request a trade. He is second on the Astros’ all-time wins list with 143, just one behind Joe Niekro.

“I wish the best for the organization,” Oswalt said. “The fans have been behind me for 10 years. There are no hard feelings on my side. Houston has done everything I’ve asked, and I’ve done everything they’ve asked of me. I’m hoping to have a chance to pitch in the playoffs and the World Series. I’m hoping to get back there and experience again what we did in ’05.”

 

Oswalt approves deal, headed to Phillies

Roy Oswalt, arguably the greatest pitcher to wear an Astros uniform, is headed to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Oswalt told the Astros on Thursday afternoon he would waive his no-trade clause in order to approve a trade to the two-time defending National League champions, a person close to the negotiations told MLB.com. The two sides were working the finalize and the deal, which is expected to be announced today.

The Astros and Phillies reached a deal Wednesday night to send Oswalt to the Phillies if the pitcher agreed to waive his no-trade clause. Left-handed pitcher J.A. Happ and Minor League outfielder Anthony Gose and Minor League shortstop Jonathan Villar are headed to the Astros, who are also expected to pay a portion of Oswalt’s contract.

When reached by MLB.com earlier Thursday afternoon, Oswalt said he hadn’t made a decision.

“No news yet,” he said.

Oswalt is owed about $5 million more this year and is due to make $16 million next season in the last year of his contract, but there’s a club option for 2012 that would pay him another $16 million. He said last week the option wouldn’t be an issue when it came to approving a trade.

Oswalt (6-12, 3.42 ERA) was scheduled to pitch Friday in an attempt to tie the club’s all-time wins record of 143. The late Joe Niekro holds the record with 144 career wins and will hold that honor for the near future.

Latest on Oswalt

The Astros have a deal in place to trade right-hander Roy Oswalt to the Philadelphia Phillies if the ace pitcher agrees to waive his no-trade clause, a person close to the negotiations told MLB.com on Thursday.

The Astros are waiting a response from Oswalt after approaching him about accepting a deal to the Phillies, but the teams have agreed upon the amount of money from Oswalt’s contract the Astros will absorb, as well as the players Houston will get in return.

Oswalt is scheduled to pitch for the Astros on Friday at Minute Maid Park, and the both sides are hoping to get the deal done at some point today.

Oswalt is owed about $5 million more this year and is due to make $16 million next season in the last year of his contract, but there’s a club option for 2012 that would pay him another $16 million. He said last week the option wouldn’t be an issue when it came to approving a trade.

The Astros have scouted Phillies left-hander J.A. Happ‘s most recent starts, and he likely would be included in the deal.

Happ, 27, is a left-hander who would immediately be inserted into the Astros’ rotation. He went 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA in 35 games last year, including 23 starts, and had three complete games and two shutouts. He was second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting, but has battled through a strained left forearm for much of the year.

Happ is making $470,000 this year, is younger than Oswalt and could be part of the Astros’ rotation for years to come. And if he pitches like he did in 2009, the Astros will have a good piece in their rotation.

The Astros could also be getting Minor League first baseman Jonathan Singleton, the team’s eighth-round pick last year. He’s 18 years old and is hitting .319 with 12 home runs, 57 RBIs and a .962 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 248 at-bats at Class A Lakewood. He’s a left-handed hitter with power.

The Phillies are reluctant to give up Singleton, which may be why the Astros are willing to put up some money to absorb Oswalt’s contract. 

 

Oswalt reportedly headed to Phillies

A report late Wednesday said the Astros had agreed to send Roy Oswalt to the Phillies, pending Oswalt’s approval, of course. Details here: http://bit.ly/d8S04t

Oswalt eager to know his future

Astros pitcher Roy Oswalt said Wednesday he and his family would need an ample amount of time to decide if they were going to accept any trade proposals given to him in advance of Saturday afternoon’s Trade Deadline.

Oswalt didn’t give any specifics, but said he doesn’t want to be approached with a trade proposal only an hour or so before the 3 p.m. CT deadline. Oswalt has been the center of trade speculation since he told the club in May he wanted to be traded to a contender.

“I’m hoping it’s not going to be dropped on me an hour before the deadline,” said Oswalt, who would have to waive his no-trade clause to approve any possible trades. “Give me a little bit of time to think about.”

Foxsports.com and KRIV-TV in Houston both reported Wednesday the Cardinals were out of the running for Oswalt, but MLB.com reported Tuesday the Phillies remain top contenders.  Oswalt is due to make $16 million next season in the last year of his contract, but there’s a club option for 2012 that would pay him another $16 million.

Oswalt, who’s scheduled to pitch Friday in an attempt to tie the club’s all-time win record, said he hasn’t been approached by the club about any possible trades. And if they do approach him, he wants enough time to make the appropriate decision for him.

“You do need a little bit of time,” he said. “I don’t want it to be two hours before the deadline and have to make a quick decision. I would rather have a little bit of time to think about it.”

Wade disappointed DeShields Jr. not signed

Astros general manager Ed Wade said Monday he was disappointed first-round pick Delino DeShields Jr., an athletic outfielder drafted out of high school in College Park, Ga., wasn’t yet signed. The Astros drafted DeShields No. 8 overall in the June 7 First-Year Player Draft, and have until Aug. 16 to reach a deal.

DeShields Jr., who has signed a baseball scholarship to play at LSU, was the first of three first-round picks by the Astros. The other two — high school power pitcher Mike Foltynewicz at No. 19 and University of Minnesota third baseman Mike Kvasnicka at No. 33 — signed shortly after being picked.

“There’s so few guys signed [in the first round], but at the same time, I would be less than candid if I didn’t say I was disappointed that he’s not signed,” Wade said. “We take a lot of pride in the work the guys have done from a player development standpoint, and we understand how these at-bats can enhance a guy’s chances and movement.

“The only thing we have to do is point at the guy who crouches behind the plate at the Major League level, Jason Castro. He was signed in July of 2008 and is now in the big leagues. If Jason had waited until the very last moment to sign and didn’t have the benefit of those at-bats in July and August of 2008, it would be rather unlikely he would be catching at the big league level at this point.”

Wade said talks are ongoing and remains hopeful to strike a deal.

“I think everybody involved, both Delino and his family and the Astros, would love to get him into our system playing as quickly as possible, so we’re looking at a full-season opportunity next year versus extended Spring Training,” Wade said. “This is part of the process. There are very few first-round picks signed at this point, and it’s sort of a way of our world. We just hope they don’t get to a point upon reflection [and then say], ‘We should have done this a lot sooner.’ I think it’s best he gets out and gets playing.”

 

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