August 2010

Lindstrom knows DL right move

Matt Lindstrom, who has been battling back problems for several weeks, was placed on the 15-day disabled list following Wednesday’s loss to the Mets. The Astros recalled left-hander Fernando Abad from Triple-A Round Rock.

Lindstrom was removed from his role as closer Tuesday following a tough stretch of games in which he was 0-3 with two blown saves and had allowed nine earned runs in 2 1/3 innings in four appearances. His back had been affecting his mechanics, and the Astros finally decided to put him on the disabled list.

“His back just hasn’t been getting any better,” manager Brad Mills said. “We talked to him before the game and it wasn’t letting him finish any of his pitches and letting him be the pitcher he is. We need to get him right.”

Lindstrom, who has saved 22 games in 28 opportunities, was clearly frustrated, but didn’t disagree with the decision.

“It’s not getting any better and I don’t want to cost my team anymore games,” he said. “So the good news is my arm feels great and that’s why it’s so frustrating for me now because I can’t get on the same page as my back. We’re just going to try to treat it for 15 days and get it some rest and hopefully come out firing when this DL stint is done and I can be me again and help the team win.”

Lindstrom said rest will be the key.

“I’m going to continue to work hard as far as getting this taken care of so I can help us win games in September,” he said. “When I’m right and feel the way I usually do, there’s no hesitation on the mound, no question marks. I can throw pitches with conviction and locate better without thinking the back is going to spasm or fall on my face with the next pitch. I had this all the way back in May in Colorado and I’ve been fighting it for two months, and hopefully this stint will help it get better.”

Abad, 24, was with Houston earlier this year and appeared in one game, throwing one inning in his Major League debut. He was 4-3 with a 2.50 ERA in 14 games at Round Rock.

Astros lineup for Tuesday; Keppinger unavailable

The Astros will try to get back on track Tuesday night against the Mets and Johan Santana, (10-6, 2.89 ERA) who hasn’t allowed an earned run in his previous two starts. He’ll start against Nelson Figueroa (3-1, 3.38 ERA), who is making his first start for the Astros and second this year.

Jeff Keppinger, who left Monday’s game with a sprained left big toe, could have a small fracture in the toe, general manager Ed Wade said. Keppinger had an X-ray and was going to undergo an MRI to further gauge the extent of the injury.

“He got an X-ray done and now they’re going to do an MRI to see what’s going on in there,” Wade said. “There’s a possiblity he’s got a small fracture. Wehther it’s an old fracture or new fracture, they’ll be able to ascertain that once he gets the MRI done.”

Here are the lineups, with Chris Johnson back up to fifth in Keppinger’s absence:

ASTROS

CF Michael Bourn

SS Angel Sanchez

RF Hunter Pence — Hitting .500 (10-for-20) in  his last five games

LF Carlos Lee

3B Chris Johnson — Leads NL in batting average since All-Star break (.427)

1B Brett Wallace

2B Geoff Blum

C Jason Castro

P Nelson Figueroa

METS

SS Jose Reyes

LF Fernando Martinez

3B David Wright

CF Carlos Beltran

1B Ike Davis

RF Jeff Francoeur

C Josh Thole

2B Ruben Tejada

P Johan Santana

Astros will explore Loux

The Astros will explore the possibility of signing Barret Loux, who was declared a free agent today by Commissioner Bud Selig. Loux was taken No. 6 overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks in this June’s First-Year Player Draft, but failed a failed a physical.

“We got notification from the Commissioner’s Office that the contract was voided and he’s a free agent, and we’ll do our due diligence and look into what was involved and the circumstances to led to free agency and go from there,” Astros general manager Ed Wade said. “We just now go the information and we’re trying to sort through the next step.”

Loux will be free to sign with any team on Sept. 1, and Arizona will receive a supplemental pick in the 2011 Draft. According to reports, the Diamondbacks backed out of a multi-million dollar agreement with Loux when a physical revealed are problems.

Loux was 11-2 with a 2.83 ERA in 17 games this year with the Aggies.

Wates agrees to terms with Astros

The Astros have agreed to terms third-round pick Austin Wates, a junior from Virginia Tech, assistant general manager/scouting director Bobby Heck confirmed. The negotiations went down to the wire, but the Astros were able to pry him away from what would have been his senior year in college.

Wates received $550,000, according to a report in Baseball America.

Panel denies Chacon grievance

The three-person arbitration panel, which last September heard a grievance filed by pitcher Shawn Chacon against the Astros, has denied the player’s grievance.
 
Shyam Das, the chairman of the panel which also included representatives from Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association, stated that the Astros were within their rights to terminate Chacon’s contract without his entitlement to further compensation after the player attacked and assaulted general manager Ed Wade on June 25, 2008.

“We’re pleased with the ruling,” Wade said. “It was an unfortunate incident, and we’re glad to put it behind us.”

Chacon was given his unconditional release following the attack, and the team invoked Paragraph 7 (b) (1) of the Uniform Players Contract, which denied the player any further compensation on his 2008 contract.

 

Astros still waiting on Wates

With the deadline for signing players from the 2010 First-Year Player Draft only a few hours away, the Astros have a deal on the table for third-round pick Austin Wates, but the club is expecting the negotiations to go down to the wire. The deadline is 11:01 p.m. CT.

As of now, Wates appears to be the only remaining player the Astros are likely to sign, though they remain open for business if any of the high school players they were hoping to sign have a change of heart. That includes sixth-round pick Adam Plutko, who appears headed to UCLA at this point.

 

Astros hoping to sign 4 more picks

Bobby Heck, the Astros assistant general manager/director of scouting, said the club is still trying to sign four additional draft picks ahead of today’s 11:01 p.m. CT deadline to sign draft picks. One of the players the club is still hoping to sign is third-round pick Austin Wates, an outfielder from Virginia Tech who has one year of eligibility left.

“We’re still working on them and seeing how they play out,” Heck said. “There are deals out there the guys could say ‘yes’ to.”

The Astros have already reached deals with their three first-round/compensation picks – second baseman Delino DeShields Jr., pitcher Mike Foltynewicz and third baseman Mike Kvasnicka and second-round pick Vincent Velasquez.

DeShields, who signed last week to a $2.15 million bonus, has played three games to rookie-league Greeneville and is hitting .143. He’s playing center field, but will make the move to second base in the instructional league this fall.

Kvasnicka is hitting .237 with four homers and 30 RBIs at Tri-City, and Foltynewicz is 0-3 with a 5.52 ERA in nine starts at Greeneville. Velasquez is 2-2 wiht a 3.16 ERA in seven games, including five starts.

Future looking brighter with Norris

Bud Norris struck out 14 batters in seven innings Saturday and seems to be getting better as the season is progressing. This is terrific news for the Astros, who are counting on Norris and Jordan Lyles to be two of their young arms to anchor the rotation in the next few years.

The 14 strikeouts by Norris (5-7) are a career high, a record for Minute Maid Park and the most by an Astros pitcher since Wade Miller struck out 14 on May 30, 2003 at Wrigley Field. The last Astros pitcher with more than 14 strikeouts in a game was Randy Johnson, who whiffed 16 on Aug. 28, 1998 in the Astrodome.

Norris also tied Detroit’s Max Scherzer and Washington’s Stephen Strasburg for the second-most strikeouts in the Majors this year, trailing Toronto’s Brandon Morrow (17 on Aug. 8).

“I had no idea it was a [ballpark] record,” Norris said. “I’m trying to go out there and make pitches and the way [pitching coach Brad] Arnsberg and [catcher Humberto] Quintero had a report, I just had to go out there and execute my pitches and the game plan and [the strikeouts] game. Like I always say, I’m not going out there trying to strike guys out; I’m just trying to get outs.”

If Lyles lives up to the hype and Norris continues to blossom, the Astros’ rotation next year could set up quite nicely with Brett Myers and a rejuvenated Wandy Rodriguez at the top. And so far there’s no reason to believe J.A. Happ won’t be a terrific piece of the puzzle.

Felipe Paulino could be in the mix, too, but he has to prove he’s healthy, which has been a problem. As long as Norris remains healthy, he should continue to pile up the strikeouts and eventually more wins.

 

Myers is perhaps the Astros MVP for 2010

At the end of the season, the local chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America will vote on their annual team awards, including Astros Most Valuable Player. Considering the struggles of Michael Bourn, Carlos Lee and, to a lesser extent, Hunter Pence this season, you could make a case for starting pitcher Brett Myers.

Myers will play in only about 33 or 34 games, so voting him the MVP of a 162-game schedule might be kind of silly, but the guy has been extremely good this year. He’s pitched at least six innings in all 24 of his starts, and if he does it again in his next two starts he’ll tie the franchise record for most consecutive starts of six innings or more.

“It doesn’t mean anything,” said Myers, who is 3-1 with a 2.22 ERA in his last eight starts. “It’s good the coaching staff is able to go out there and let me compete for six innings or more. It’s all kudos to those guys for giving me the opportunity to go out there and do it. There’s been times I didn’t deserve to go six innings and they stuck with me.”

He’s 8-7 with a 3.21 ERA, but with some more run support (see Friday night) or had a couple of saves been converted, he could be pushing 13 or 14 wins. The Astros thought so much of him that two weeks ago they gave him a two-year contract extension with an option for a third year.

It’s hard to imagine what the Astros would have went through had Myers not been a rock in the rotation all year. Roy Oswalt was traded, Wandy Rodriguez struggled through the first half, Felipe Paulino got injured and Bud Norris has been inconsistent. Myers, though, has risen above it all.

Pence has picked up the pace after a slow start and would get my vote for the Astros MVP, but Myers is in the discussion.

 

Johnson moves up again

Rookie third baseman Chris Johnson, who leads the NL in hitting since the All-Star break and is batting .366 this season, was moved up one spot in manager Brad Mills’ batting order for Wednesday’s game against the Braves. Johnson, who was moved up to sixth on Monday, was batting fifth Tuesday for the first time this season.

Here are the lineups:

ASTROS

CF Michael Bourn

2B Jeff Keppinger

RF Hunter Pence

LF Carlos Lee

3B Chris Johnson

1B Brett Wallace

SS Angel Sanchez

C Jason Castro

P Wandy Rodriguez

BRAVES

2B Omar Infante

RF Melky Cabrera

SS Alex Gonzalez

LF Matt Diaz

1B Troy Glaus

C Cody Ross

3B Brooks Conrad

CF Rick Ankiel

P Tommy Hanson

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