June 2011

Pence likely out until Friday

Astros right fielder Hunter Pence, who hasn’t played since Friday because of a sprained left elbow, likely won’t return to the lineup until Friday’s series opener against the Rays at Minute Maid Park.

Pence showed up at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Tuesday unable to swing a bat because of discomfort in the elbow. He said team doctors told him last weekend he would likely miss the Rangers series, and that will likely be the case.

“It’s just not ready to swing,” he said. “It’s close, very close, but I’m not ready. There’s really no way other to say I can’t really swing. Until I can, I don’t know how you can really play. I’m going to wait until it’s ready so I can play. I’m going to play hard and play good.”

With the Astros having a day off Thursday, manager Brad Mills said it would probably be best for Pence to be held out of the lineup until Friday. Pence leads the club in batting average, home runs and RBIs.

“Unless all of a sudden he shows up and he’s able to swing and everything’s fine,” Mills said. “I don’t see that happening after talking with him today and how sore he was today.”

The good news for Pence is doctors have told him he can’t do anymore damage to the elbow that he currently has. An MRI performed on Sunday showed no tears or ligament damage.

Pence expected to play Tuesday

Astros right fielder Hunter Pence, who missed his third consecutive game Monday with a sprained left elbow, is expected to return to the lineup in Tuesday’s game against the Rangers.

Pence, who suffered the injury Friday in Los Angeles, felt so encouraged Monday that he was able to take some swings in the batting cage. He was able to straighten out his elbow Monday for the first time since suffering the injury trying to slide into first base.

“It feels good,” Pence said. “From where I was, the inflammation was in there and we detected what the problem was. It’s like a sprained ankle on the elbow. I know it’s feeling pretty good and I’m pretty optimistic about getting back soon.”

Pence, entered Monday tied for fourth in the NL with 51 RBIs, tied for second with 93 hits and ranked fourth with a .321 batting average. Astros manager Brad Mills said he expects Pence to be in the lineup Tuesday.

“He wants to play, he wants to get in there, and the doctors and trainers feel that one more day will be extremely beneficial for him,” he said. “That’s what we’re going to do, is to get him one more day. Hopefully he can get in there tomorrow.”

Astros lineup for Thursday’s game

Here is manager Brad Mills’ lineup for Thursday game against Pirates:

CF Michael Bourn

2B Jeff Keppinger

RF Hunter Pence

LF Carlos Lee

1B Brett Wallace

3B Matt Downs

SS Angel Sanchez

C Carlos Corporan

RHP Jordan Lyles

Lyon to the DL

The Astros placed right-hander Brandon Lyon on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday with right biceps tendinitis and recalled left-hander Fernando Abad from Triple-A Oklahoma City. He will join the team in time for Thursday’s game.

Lyon, the Astros’ closer at the beginning of the year, missed 32 games earlier this season with right biceps tendinitis/partial rotator cuff tear and had appeared in three games since being activated June 9. He had given up a home run in each of those three outings.

Lyon has appeared in 15 games his season and is 3-3 with a 11.48 ERA.

“Sitting down in the bullpen even without throwing [Tuesday] night, Brandon’s arm was bothering him a little bit,” Astros manager Brad Mills said. “Jamie [Quirk], our bullpen coach, talked to him last night and felt we needed to talk about it. We came in and talked about and brought the doctors in and we thought we need to get this care of.”

Mills said Lyon would likely undergo MRI at some point soon and said his current injury is related to the previous injury that put him on the DL.

“I can say pretty candidly it’s probably related,” Mills said.

Abad, who had a 2.84 ERA in 22 games last year with the Astros in his Major League debut, was 1-1 with a 3.55 ERA in 11 games at Oklahoma City. He started the season with the Astros, but was sent down after going 1-4 with a 7.43 ERA in 22 appearances.

“We talked to the Triple-A staff down there and we just about went through all the pitchers,” Mills said. “[Jeff] Fulchino, we sent him down [earlier this week] to work on some things. He threw two pitches last night and got hit with a one-hopper and had to come out of the game. I don’t think that’s fair to him [to bring him back]. As we went through the other pitchers, we felt Abad was the best choice. The response to our questions were he’s throwing pretty close to what he was last year.”

 

Astros announce Tri-City roster

The Astros have set their preliminary 2011 Minor League roster for their Class A Short-season affiliate the Tri-City ValleyCats. The announcement was made by Astros Director of Player Development Fred Nelson.

This roster is subject to change and will not be officially finalized until the New York-Penn League opens play. The ValleyCats will begin their defense of their 2010 New York-Penn League Championship on Friday.

PITCHERS

Belliard, Joan

Blankenship, Travis

Bueno, Kristian

Bullock, Garrett

Champion, Adam

Cole, Ryan

Diaz, Dayan

Dufek, Jonas

Hallock, Kyle

Perez, Juri

Quezada, Euris

Rosario, Ebert

Smink, Travis

Tropeano, Nick

CATCHERS

Hamblin, Miles

McCurdy, Ryan

Williams, Bubby

INFIELDERS

Duffy, Matt

Healey, Jacke

Hinson, John

Johnson, Neiko

Johnson, Zach

Rodriguez, Hector

OUTFIELDERS

Gominsky, Justin

Kiilsgaard, Kellen

Meredith, Brandon

Muren, Andrew

Norris reacts to dismissal of Arnsberg

Astros pitcher Bud Norris, who didn’t get a chance to comment about the dismissal of pitching coach Brad Arnsberg prior to Tuesday’s game because he was pitching, said following a 1-0 loss to the Pirates that he was sorry to see him go.

“It’s tough, you know,” Norris said. “Some of us were a little upset, but what needs to be done, needs to be done. That’s not stuff we can control, unfortunately. Arnsberg always had our back and I can’t give the guy enough praise for what he taught me in the year and a half he was here and everything I’ve learned from him over a year and a half is over the moon.

“I have to give him a lot of credit for helping me be who I am today and for helping be get better and progress. It was tough, but if we needed to make a move, we needed to make a move. Like I said, those decisions aren’t up to us.”

Arnsberg not surprised by decision

Astros pitching coach Brad Arnsberg has been relieved of his duties, general manager Ed Wade announced Monday. He will be replaced on an interim basis by former Astros pitcher Doug Brocail.

The decision to let Arnsberg go was made as a result of philosophical differences, according to a release by the club.

When reached by MLB.com on Tuesday, Arnsberg echoed those sentiments.

“It was philosophical differences between a manager and a general manager and a pitching coach,” Arnsberg told MLB.com via phone. “I don’t want to get into the details. It’s just been kind of rearing its ugly head the last 2-3 weeks, and I guess they felt like they had to make a move for the betterment of the club and the staff. I take it like a man.”

Arnsberg said he wasn’t surprised.

“The last couple of weeks have really been a bear for me going to the ballpark,” he said. “I’m always a fun-loving, free-spirited guy and get along with pretty much everybody, and it just hasn’t been a whole lot of fun over the last two, three or four weeks. That’s not why I intended on staying in this game, and so as far as it being a surprise? I’d have to weigh on the side of no, not really.”

Arnsberg said he plans to return to his home in Arlington, Texas, within the 24 hours and looks forward to spending more time with his family. His oldest son, Kyle, was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals last week, and his youngest son, Kaden, is on a summer baseball team.

“I know what I’m going to do when I get home, and that’s become a full-time husband again, which I’m really excited about,” Arnsberg said. “I’m going to be a full-time daddy to a  17-year-old son and get to watch him play a lot of summer league baseball. I’ll just go enjoy my family and become a dad and a husband.”

Arnsberg said he has had an outpouring of support from his players. He talked with Brett Myers on the phone for 15 minutes Tuesday and asked him to talk to some of the players he never got a chance to talk to personally. He said he got a nice text from reliever Brandon Lyon.

“I leave with my head held very, very high,” he said. “I know there’s a majority of the players, and I would say 100 percent of the pitchers, hopefully, that have had a good experience with me as I did them, and I would think they would always have my back no matter what the sitaution.

“The only thing I take credit for is trying to build a family. I know the guys on the pitching staff will have each other’s back.”

Arnsberg had served as the Astros pitching coach since being hired on Oct. 30, 2009 and has been lauded for his work with the pitchers and in the video room. The Astros are second-to-last in the in the NL with a 4.69 ERA.

Brocail, 44, pitched for 15 seasons in the Major Leagues, including four with the Astros. Since retiring after the 2009 season, Brocail has assisted with the evaluation of Major League and Minor League players in the Astros system and has handled some Major League scouting assignments.

Astros’ lineup for Monday

The Astros welcome Wandy Rodriguez back from the disabled list tonight to try to snap a four-game losing streak tonight at Minute Maid Park and avoid getting swept in four games by the Atlanta Braves.

Here is the Astros’ lineup:

CF Michael Bourn

SS Clint Barmes

RF Hunter Pence

LF Carlos Lee

2B Jeff Keppinger

1B Brett Wallace

3B Chris Johnson

C J.R. Towles

LHP Wandy Rodriguez

Lyles staying in the rotation

With left-hander Wandy Rodriguez set to come off the disabled list and start Monday’s game against the Braves, the Astros created a roster spot by optioning reliever Jeff Fulchino to Triple-A Oklahoma City. Aneury Rodriguez, who has made eight starts, was moved back to the bullpen so the 20-year-old Jordan Lyles could remain in the rotation.

Lyles, the Astros’ top prospect, will start Thursday against the Pirates at Minute Maid Park. He’s 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA in three Major League starts. It also means Fernando Rodriguez, who threw two scoreless innings Sunday, remains in the bullpen.

“I didn’t have my mind made up or told myself I should or shouldn’t be here,” Lyles said. “If they told me I was going somewhere else to pitch, I would get my stuff ready for my next start, wherever it was. You can’t control that stuff. I’m happy to be here, and hopefully I’ll have another good start.”

Aneury Rodriguez, a Rule 5 pick up from the Rays, went 0-4 with a 5.80 ERA as a starter after beginning the season in the bullpen. Fulchino is 1-3 with a 4.88 ERA in 13 relief outings, but he’s 0-1 with a 12.60 ERA in five innings in his last five games.

“Fulchy’s got the stuff and has had some good success here the last couple of years,” Astros manager Brad Mills said. “We want him to go down there and be able to work on command of his pitches and be able to throw the ball over the strike zone with consistency.”

Pence’s back keeps him out of lineup

Astros right fielder Hunter Pence, who’s riding a 22-game hitting streak, was out of the lineup for Sunday’s game against the Braves and wasn’t expected to play. Pence has been dealing with lower back spasms.

Jason Bourgeois was originally going to get the start in right field, but he was scratched about an hour before the game with an ankle sprain. Jason Michaels started in his place.

Astros manager Brad Mills said Pence and head athletic trainer Nate Lucero came into his office following Saturday’s game and expressed concern over Pence’s back condition.

“Hunter doesn’t want to ask for a day off,” Mills said. “God bless him. That’s the way you want everybody to be. But throughout the conversation, he said it hurt him when he ran and felt like it was going to lock up on him.

“If it locks up on him when he tries to do something, it could really hurt something. With a day game following a night game, the chances of that happening go up. At the end of everything, we felt today would be a good day to take off.”

The Astros are in a stretch of 16 consecutive games without a day off, and Pence has started every game in right field.

“It only makes sense for him to take today off,” Mills said.

Pence, who’s hitting .391 during the streak, told reporters Sunday morning his back feels fine.

“They told me last night they wanted, with a day game after a night game, they wanted to give me a day rest and come back ready to go,” he said. “I felt good after the game, and that’s that.”

Mills said his goal is to try to not use Pence as a pinch-hitter, and not just because he has a 22-game hitting streak on the line.

“He needs today off,” Mills said. “If some unforeseen thing happens with someone getting hurt and he has to play and we got 15 innings and we have no one else, that’s something we have to weigh at that time.”

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