August 2010

Lindstrom falls on the sword

Shortly after Matt Lindstrom was traded to the Astros, someone who had covered him in Florida told me he was one of the most stand-up guys you could find. After dealing with the incredibly stand-up Brad Lidge for several years, I was somewhat curious at how Lindstrom would handle failure, and he’s definitely cut from the same cloth as Lidge.

Lindstrom was waiting for reporters when the clubhouse opened following Tuesday’s 4-2 loss in the Braves, a game in which he gave up two homers in the ninth inning to blow his sixth save of the season and second in five days.

“I’m just devastated,” said Lindstrom, who had allowed only two homers in 42 1/3 innings this year prior to Tuesday. “J.A. [Happ] pitched a great game, the guys battled back, so it’s really tough right now to swallow. I don’t even know what to say, except I take responsibility for this and I look forward to getting back here tomorrow and work on what’s going on with my mechanics so I can get my location back.”

Astros manager Brad Mills and Lindstrom’s teammates rallied around the normally reliable closer, who squandered a save on Friday in Milwaukee in his previous save chance. It was only the second time in his career he’s allowed two homers in a game.

“We all struggle sometimes and he’s our closer, and if we’re up tomorrow by one I hope he comes into the game,” said rookie third baseman Chris Johnson, who continued his torrid second half by going 3-for-4 to raise his average to .366. “He’s our closer. We want him out there.”

Mills didn’t hesitate when asked if he has considered moving Brandon Lyon into the closer’s role.

“Not at all,” he said. “He’s the guy.”

Lindstrom has been dealing with back spasms for the last few weeks, and he’s understandably reluctant to use it as an excuse. But the Astros need to figure out how much it’s affecting his performance and, if it is, try to map out a plan to get him better.

When the hard-throwing Lindstrom is on his game, he proved he’s a capable Major League closer. The task now is to get him back to that form after Tuesday’s ninth-inning nightmare.

“It’s nothing you want to experience, but that’s a crazy game,” he said. “That’s a good fastball-hitting team in Atlanta, and you know that I’m going to go out there and throw fastballs and it’s up to me to make the location, so I didn’t get the job done tonight.

“The biggest disappointment for me is making my team go out there. They were battling all game and it takes two minutes to ruin it. Those guys battled hard all night, and that’s the toughest thing.”

Astros still hope to sign Wates, others

With the deadline to sign players selected in the First-Year Player Draft arriving on Monday, the Astros are in negotiations with five players and hope to sign at least four of the players – and perhaps all five – before the deadline.

“We’re exclusive to pursuing the five players at this point in time,” assistant general manager/director of scouting Bobby Heck said. “Others that are unsigned, outside of that five, either we’ve determined to continue evaluations and are better off going to school or we’ve been unable to bridge a gap between what our evaluated value is compared to how they value themselves. Some just said they’d rather go to school, and that’s typical of your later round drafts when you take fliers on for numbers.”

The Astros are very close to reaching a deal with 25th-round pick Rodney Quintero, a right-hander from Chipola Junior College in Miami. Third-round pick Austin Wates, an outfielder from Virginia Tech with one year of eligibility remaining, is one of the players the Astros still hope to sign, and he was in Houston on Monday for a physical.

“We’re putting a lot of time and effort into that,” Heck said. “We wanted to make sure the physical aspect was done because on a deadline deal, if you don’t get it, you’re unable to get it done in time. Then it’s all buyer beware.”

One of the players that likely will go unsigned is high school standout Jacoby Jones, a shortstop taken in the 19th round.

“We have a high value on him, but it’s not close to where it’s going to take for him to forgo LSU,” said Heck, who has signed 33 players from this year’s Draft and six non-drafted free agents.
 

Astros-Braves lineups for Tuesday

Here are Tuesday night’s lineups for the Astros-Braves game at Minute Maid Park:

ASTROS

CF Michael Bourn

SS Angel Sanchez

2B Jeff Keppinger

RF Hunter Pence

LF Carlos Lee

3B Chris Johnson

1B Brett Wallace

C Jason Castro

P J.A. Happ

BRAVES

2B Omar Infante

RF Jason Heyward

3B Chipper Jones

LF Matt Diaz

C Brian McCann

1B Troy Glaus

SS Alex Gonzalez

CF Melky Cabrera

P Jair Jurrjens

Busy off day for the Astros

Astros pitcher Brian Moehler said Thursday he torn the tendon off the bone in his left groin area during Wednesday’s simulated game in St. Louis and is seeking more input from doctors about what course of action he should take.

Moehler flew to Houston from St. Louis on Wednesday night and was examined Thursday morning by team medical director Dr. David Lintner. Moehler will have to choose between having the groin repaired surgically or trying non-surgical procedures.

“Dr. Lintner said you see more of this in football players and hockey goalies than you do baseball players, and he said a lot of studies are showing now that they’ve had success without surgery,” Moehler said. “We’re going to talk to a couple of other doctors who specialize in that area, and Dr. Lintner wants to know as well and see what they have to say.”

Moehler said Lintner was surprised with how well Moehler was moving around Thursday. He even threw a baseball off flat ground without pain. He plans to work out Friday at Minute Maid Park and rejoin the team when it returns to Houston on Monday.

“I’m not in any pain,” he said. “I’m walking around fine, and that’s very surprising. I thought I’d be in discomfort.”

Moehler admitted there’s a chance he might not pitch again this year.

“My head’s spinning because I don’t know which way to go,” he said. “If I do rehab and it doesn’t’ work, then I’ve wasted six weeks or however long it would take me to get back on the mound. I just need to talk to as many people as people and see what the other doctors have to say.”

The 38-year-old Moehler, who has been on the disabled list since July 8 with a right groin strain, is 1-4 with a 4.92 ERA in 20 games, including eight starts.

Also, right-hander Felipe Paulino is scheduled for a second opinion on his ailing right shoulder and will visit Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., on Aug. 12.

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Major League Baseball made official what was reported Wednesday by announcing Astros’ Minor League players Marcos Cabral, a shortstop, Jonathon Fixler, a catcher, and Danny Meszaros, a pitcher, were suspended 50 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

All three tested positive for Methylhexaneamine and began serving their suspension immediately. On Wednesday, MLB announced pitcher Richard Rodriguez of the Astros’ Dominican Summer League team had been suspended for 50 games for using a performance-enhancing drug.

Astros general manager Ed Wade released a statement about the suspension that was understandably strong:

“The Houston Astros fully support the efforts of the Commissioner’s Office to rid our sport of any type of inappropriate drug use. Our players and staff have been briefed, counseled, educated and warned about what the ramifications and consequences are when they choose, either knowingly or not, to violate the MLB drug policy. And yet, despite the best efforts of MLB and the Astros, we still have individuals who abuse our game by ignoring reality. We are embarrassed by these types of suspensions. They are a smear on our game and our organization, and we will redouble our efforts to make sure the message gets through.”

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Astros general manager Ed Wade, in Corpus Christi to watch the Hooks play on Thursday night, said shortstop Tommy Manzella reported to Corpus Christi to being his rehab. He’s been out six weeks with a fractured left index finger.

The plan is for Manzella to get two at-bats in two games and then increase to three at-bats in two games before playing in a full game. He will then continue his rehab at Triple-A Round Rock. The longest the rehab could last is 20 days, but Manzella hopes it won’t be that long.

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The Astros made official the signing of first-round pick Delino DeShields Jr. during a news conference Thursday at Minute Maid Park. DeShields inked for a signing bonus of $2.15 million, which is around the suggested slot recommendation.

For a complete story on DeShields, as well as pictures and video of the news conference, click here.

Here are a couple of other stories Astros fans should read that posted today at Astros.com:

 

Astros go for 8 in a row, sweep of Cardinals

Coming off an incredible night when they pounded out 22 hits (17 singles) in an 18-4 rout of the Cardinals, the Astros will try to run their winning streak to eight games when they send left-hander J.A. Happ (2-0, 1.27 ERA) to the mound in Wednesday night’s series finale. It won’t be easy, though, with Chris Carpenter (11-3, 2.93 ERA) starting for St. Louis.

The Astros are 30-25 since June 1, which is the fourth-best record in the NL in that span, and they’re suddenly knocking on the door of third place. No, they’re not going to catch the Cardinals, but they’ve put 10 games behind them and the last-place Pirates.

Astros pitchers have posted a 1.67 ERA in their last nine games, which is the lowest ERA in the Majors in that span. Meanwhile, the Astros are hitting .284 and averaging 5.9 runs per game since the All-Star break and have the second-highest NL batting average in the second half. Prior to the All-Star break, they were hitting .238 and averaging 3.5 runs per game, which was 15th in the 16-team NL.

Tonight we get a second look at Happ in an Astros’ uniform. He threw six scoreless innings in his Astros debut on Friday. This will be his first apperance at Busch Stadium, and he’s 0-1 with a 5.11 ERA in two career games against St. Louis. He’s 5-2 with a 3.36 ERA in his career against NL Central teams.

Here are the lineups:

ASTROS

Michael Bourn, cf
Angel Sanchez, ss
Hunter Pence, rf
Carlos Lee, lf
Jeff Keppinger, 2b
Brett Wallace, 1b
Chris Johnson, 3b
Jason Castro, c
J. A. Happ, lhp 
 
CARDINALS
 
Felipe Lopez, 3b
Colby Rasmus, cf
Albert Pujols, 1b
Matt Holliday, lf
Allen Craig, rf
Yadier Molina, c
Brendan Ryan, ss 
Chris Carpenter, rhp
Aaron Miles, 2b 

 

Astros, DeShields reach agreement

The Astros and No. 1 pick Delino DeShields Jr. have reached an agreement on a contract, a person close to negotiations told MLB.com.

The Astros wouldn’t confirm the deal, citing team policy of not announcing any deals until a contract has been finalized.

DeShields Jr., the son former Major Leaguer Delino DeShields, was drafted with the No. 8 overall pick in June’s First-Year Player Draft. His father told MLB.com on Monday he planned to sign with the Astros and not attend LSU, where he was offered a baseball scholarship.

DeShields Jr. was drafted as a second baseman out of Woodward Academy in College Park, Ga., where he played the outfield. DeShields Jr., who committed to LSU to play baseball, was the leadoff hitter for his private school and hit .415 and led the team in homers (9), RBIs (40) and stolen bases (29).

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