July 2011

Bourn reflects on time in Houston

A few hours after being traded to the Braves, center fielder Michael Bourn spoke with MLB.com via telephone about the deal, his time in Houston and his future in Atlanta.

“I’m happy I’m joining them, but at the same time I didn’t want to leave my hometown,” said Bourn, a Houston native. “That’s part of playing baseball and part of what you do.”

As the Trade Deadline grew closer and the rumors picked up, Bourn had a sense he could be on the move.  The Astros sent Bourn to the Braves less than 48 hours after they sent two-time All-Star right field Hunter Pence to the Phillies.

In exchange for the speedy Bourn, the Astros received outfielder Jordan Schafer from the Braves and three Minor League pitchers – left-hander Brett Oberholtzer and right-handers Paul Clemens and Juan Abreu.

“They’re trying to rebuild and reload,” Bourn said. “I understand that. There are no hard feelings involved. I knew what was going on. I told everyone else, when I saw Hunter go there might be a possibility I’m going, too. That’s a part of what happens sometimes.”

Like Pence, Bourn is going from the team with the worst record to a playoff contender.

“I know they’re good,” he said. “I know that much, alright. But other than that, I don’t know a whole bunch about them. I know they’re a first-class organization from what I hear. I’m happy to be part of that and see how I fit in.”

Here are some other news items from Sunday:

  • General manager Ed Wade announced that OF Luis Durango has been recalled from Triple- A Oklahoma City to replace Bourn on the 25-man roster. Durango was claimed off waivers from San Diego on June 29 and was hitting .278 in 25 games at Oklahoma City with 13 stolen bases as the RedHawks centerfielder. The 25-year-old has Major League experience, spending parts of 2009 and 2010 with the Padres, hitting .305 in 37 games with seven steals.
  • RHP Brandon Lyon has been transferred to the 60-day DL.
  • OF Jordan Schafer and RHP Juan Abreu have been placed on the 40-man roster. Abreu has been optioned to Triple A Oklahoma City.


Bourn dealt to Braves

The Astros continued their dramatic rebuilding project Sunday by sending Gold Glove center fielder Michael Bourn to the Braves in exchange for Jordan Schafer and three Minor League pitchers — left-hander Brett Oberholtzer and right-handers Paul Clemens and Juan Abreu.

The move comes less than 48 hours after the Astros sent All-Star right fielder Hunter Pence to the Phillies in exchange for four players, including Philadelphia’s top two prospects. Bourn didn’t accompany the Astros to Miller Park on Sunday and instead was headed to Atlanta.

Bourn is in the midst of the finest season of his career, having hit .303 with a .363 on-base percentage and 39 stolen bases in 105 games entering Sunday. The 28-year-old center fielder recorded a career-high 61 stolen bases last year, two fewer than the entire Braves team.

The Astros are trying to trim payroll in advance of the team’s exchange of ownership, and they continue to bring in young players in an effort to restock their farm system.

Once considered the top prospect in the Braves’ system, Schafer has seen his career stall as he has dealt with a left wrist injury and a banned-substance suspension over the past three seasons. The Braves were forced to call Schafer up from Triple-A Gwinnett in late May, and he had spent most of the past two months as their starting center fielder.

Schafer was placed on the disabled list after injuring his left middle finger on a headfirst slide last week in Colorado. The Braves also had to place center fielder Nate McLouth on the disabled list this week.

Clemens has established himself as a strong prospect while going 6-5 with a 3.73 ERA in 20 starts for Double-A Mississippi this year. MLB.com ranks him as the organization’s eighth-best prospect.

Oberholtzer gained attention during Spring Training and has posted a 3.74 ERA in 21 starts for Mississippi.

Abreu is a strong-armed right-handed reliever who has recorded 68 strikeouts in 48 innings at Triple-A this year.



<a href=”mailto:brian.mctaggart@mlb.com”><b>Brian McTaggart</b></a> is a reporter for MLB.com.



Bourn prefers Houston

For the second day in a row, the Astros clubhouse was filled with anxiety as everyone wondered if more players were on their way out the door. The Astros traded Hunter Pence to the Phillies on Friday, and were reportedly in talks with the Braves for a possible deal for Michael Bourn.

The Astros’ efforts to trade outfielder Bourn were picking up steam on Friday evening, according to multiple reports. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported Saturday it’s growing more likely Bourn will be dealt before Sunday’s 3 p.m. CT non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Bourn said Saturday he’d prefer to stay in Houston, his hometown.

“Yeah, of course,” he said. “I don’t control that. There’s nothing I can do about that. There’s nothing I can say because everybody knew [Hunter] wanted to stay here and he had no control. Sometimes the business side takes over the love side. You’ve got to understand that.”

Bourn was trying to stay focused as much as possible.

“I know it was a little tough for Hunter,” Bourn said. “It’s a tough thing to deal with all the time. If one of your big pieces leave, then they’re trying to start the whole thing over. That happens from time to time and you have to deal with that. Whatever they decide to do, I’ll have to be prepared every day.”

Bourn, 28, is having his best season, entering Saturday hitting .304 with a Major League-leading 39 stolen bases. Since June 1, he’s tied for first in the National League in hits and ranks fourth in batting average (.338).

Cosart thrilled to join Astros

The dream of pitching in the Major Leagues just got much better for Jarred Cosart.

Cosart, one of four players acquired by the Astros in the deal that sent Hunter Pence to the Phillies on Friday night, grew up cheering for the Astros from his home in League City, Texas, which is about 27 miles south of Houston. He’ll report to Double-A Corpus Christi (at Midland, Texas) on Sunday and hopes to be pitching at Minute Maid Park soon.

“I can’t describe it in words,” Cosart told MLB.com via phone. “It’s stuff you read about all the time, players having a chance to play for their hometown team. I don’t know how many guys in the Major Leagues right now have that opportunity. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and I’m going take it and run with it.”

Cosart’s parents are vacationing in San Diego and began to hear rumors he was being traded to Houston.

“They heard my name pop up and finally saw it up there [on TV],” he said. “They were kind of shocked, but after the shock wears off you get excited. I heard from a lot of friends and family. I turned my phone off last night about 3 a.m.”

Cosart, 21,was drafted in the 38th round of the 2008 Draft but signed with the Phillies with an over-slot deal instead of heading to Missouri. He’s always had electric stuff, but he had trouble staying healthy over his first couple of years and threw just 95 2/3 innings from 2009 to ’10.

In 2009, he had back and shoulder problems. In 2010, his season ended in June because of a bad elbow. Even in limited time, though, he showed what he can do, striking out 102 and walking just 23 in that span.  Cosart has one of the better fastballs in the Minors, and it was on display at this year’s Futures Game, when he was touching 98 mph.

Cosart said he’s healthy. He was 9-8 with a 3.92 ERA in 20 games (19 starts) at Class A Clearwater.

“I’ve had some really minor little injuries and I never wanted to have that label,” he said. “I worked really hard this last offseason to get in shape for the season. It worked out well and I know I’m starting to let it go, get after it. I feel like I’m close to where I need to be.”

When he heard he was traded, he texted J.D. Martinez and told him he’d be joining him in Corpus Christi. He didn’t know at the time Martinez was headed to the Major Leagues in the wake of the Pence trade. Cosart and Martinez played against each other several times last year in Class A Lexington and talked a lot.

Not only is Cosart joining the Astros, but he’s moving up a level in an organization that’s showing increasing willingness to promote young prospects. Jordan Lyles in the Majors at 20 years old, and Jose Altuve and Martinez were promoted from Double-A.

Suddenly, Cosart is much closer to reaching the Major Leagues.

“It doesn’t matter what team, but now that I’m with my hometown team it’s unbelievable,” he said. “And the fact they’re rebuilding and they have a lot of young guys and there’s an opportunity. I want to pitch in the big leagues and I want to win. There Astros are going into that mode and they want to win with younger guys. It shows a lot about the organization’s belief in young guys and giving younger guys a chance, something the Phillies really didn’t need to do.”

Astros have a deal for Pence

The Astros have reached a deal to send All-Star outfielder Hunter Pence to the Phillies in exchange for four players, including Philadelphia’s top two Minor League prospects, a person close to the negotiations told MLB.com.

The deal, which is subject to the approval Major League Baseball, is expected to be finalized on Friday.

Pence was pulled from the field in the middle of the fifth inning of the Astros’ game against the Brewers on Friday night at Miller Park.

The Astros are receiving right-handed pitcher Jarred Cosart and left-handed outfielder Jonathan Singleton, along with two more players. At least one of the players will be a player to be named later. Cosart is ranked by MLB.com as the Phillies’ top prospect, and Singleton is No. 2.

Pence, 28, entered Friday’s game .309 with 11 homers and 62 RBIs for the Astros and made the National League All-Star team for the second time. He’s making $6.9 million this season and still has two years of arbitration remaining, so any team acquiring him would have him under control for at least two more seasons.

Cosart, 21, grew up in League City, just south of Houston, and was drafted in the 38th round in 2008. He’s got an 18-13 career record with a 3.67 ERA in his career, including 9-8 with a 3.92 ERA this year at Class A Clearwater.

Cosart has electric stuff, with one of the better fastballs in the Minors and a very good curve. He’s lean and projectable and he’s got good command of his stuff.

Singleton, 20, was taken in the eighth round in 2009 and is a career .287 hitter with 25 homers and 136 RBIs in 227 games, including .282 with nine homers and 47 RBIs in 92 games this year.

A high school draftee had an extremely productive first full season, being named the South Atlantic League’s Most Outstanding Major League prospect. He should hit for average and power and has a good approach at the plate.

Although he was a top first base prospect, the Phillies have moved Singleton to the outfield to avoid the Ryan Howard roadblock. He’s taken to it better than expected. He’s manning left field in Clearwater this season.

Pence  burst onto the scene in 2007, hitting .322 with 17 homers and 69 RBIs in his first year with the Astros, who drafted him in the second round in 2004 out of the University of Texas-Arlington. He hit 25 homers in each of the next three seasons, and in 2009 became the 12th Astros outfielder to make the All-Star team.

Pence still an Astro, for now

The Astros remain in intense trade talks regarding All-Star right fielder Hunter Pence on Friday afternoon, specifically with the Philadelphia Phillies.

MLB.com has confirmed Pence was briefly removed from the lineup prior to Thursday’s game in St. Louis because of potential trade, but wound up staying in the order and going 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles in the Astros’ win. Pence was in the lineup on Friday night for Houston’s series opener against the Brewers, batting fourth.

Although there are reports the Astros and Phillies have discussed a three-team deal, a person close to the situation told MLB.com Friday that a two-team swap remains Houston’s focus. The Astros are coveting several prospects for Pence, who’s the top name on the trade market in the wake of the Carlos Beltran trade.

The Atlanta Braves are also reportedly in the mix for Pence’s services, along with the Reds and a handful of other teams.

Astros general manager Ed Wade had no comment.

The Astros are also getting heavy interest about Gold Glove center fielder Michael Bourn, left-hander Wandy Rodriguez and, to a lesser extent, right-hander Brett Myers. The non-waiver Trade Deadline is 3 p.m. CT on Sunday.

Pence, 28, is hitting .309 with 11 homers and 62 RBIs for the Astros and made the National League All-Star team for the second time. He’s making $6.9 million this season and still has two years of arbitration remaining, so any team acquiring him would have him under control for at least two more seasons.

Pence: ‘I love Houston’

With the Astros possibly getting closer to a deal to trade Hunter Pence, the right-fielder admitted following Thursday night’s win over the Cardinals that he couldn’t help but think it might have been his last game in an Astros uniform.

“What can I say? I’m not in control,” he said. “I love these guys, I love Houston. That’s all I know.”

The Phillies are pushing hard for Pence and could be willing to offer pitcher Vance Worley, outfielder Domonic Brown and a Minor League pitcher.

Pence went 2-for-4 with two doubles on Thursday to raise his average to .309, saying he benefited from a day off.

“Sometimes when you get to watch a game you know it kind of slows things down for you,” he said. “Things were piling up and was making mistakes of the past and trying to do too much just to make up for it. It made me realize…slow the game down.”

Pence could be on the move

The Astros appear to be moving closer to trading All-Star right-fielder Hunter Pence, MLB.com has learned.

As of Thursday afternoon, at least six teams are involved in negotiations to acquire Pence, according to a person close to the situation. No deal is imminent, and Astros general manager Ed Wade declined to comment when reached by MLB.com.

The interest in Pence has picked up considerably since Carlos Beltran was acquired by the Giants from the Mets.

KRIV-TV in Houston reported on its website Thursday the Reds, Phillies and Braves, along with three teams in the American League, are in the negotiations.

Pence out of lineup, not traded

The news that Astros All-Star outfielder Hunter Pence was out of manager Brad Mills’ starting lineup Wednesday against the Cardinals caused quite a stir. Pence has been the subject of numerous trade rumors, but his absence from the lineup had nothing to do with that.

Mills had been looking for a good spot to give Pence a day off during this week’s four-game series against the Cardinals, and he found it Wednesday afternoon. Pence was out of the lineup for the first since June 22, a span of 27 games.

Mills acknowledged Pence’s recent struggles – he’s hitting .158 on the Astros’ current 10-game road trip – and the fact didn’t get to rest during the All-Star break because he was the team’s lone representative to make the National League All-Star team.

“If there’s anybody that’s tough to give a day off on this club, it’s Hunter because he’s such a good player and everything else,” Mills said. “He’s kind of struggled a little bit after the All-Star break and the weather on this trip has been extremely warm and he completely wears himself out every night because he plays so hard. No night is a good night to give him a day off, but he needs one.”

Pence admitted a day out of the lineup can be beneficial on occasion.

“There’s a lot of games we play, and I think sometimes it can help,” he said. “Obviously, as a team and myself, we haven’t been doing the best job. It’s part of baseball. You go through some ups and downs and sometimes you get a day off. How many players haven’t had a day off? Not very many, right?

“I don’t love having days off, but that’s what he told me. He’s the manager. Sometimes it’s good for you. I wear the way the season’s going pretty hard. I’m going to be ready in case he needs me and use [the time off] to turn this thing around and propel myself forward.”

As far as the trade rumors go, Pence is aware.

“I haven’t been able to totally keep it out of my mind,” he said. “I don’t think it has anything to do with [my] performance. It’s something you can’t avoid. It’s the first time I’ve gone through something like this. It’s something I can’t control and I try to block it out as much as possible.”


Controversial call forces Wade to call league

Astros general manager Ed Wade spoke with a Major League Baseball official by telephone during Tuesday’s night game at Busch Stadium to voice his displeasure about a controversial home run by Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols not being overturned by instant replay.

Not long after the umpires didn’t reverse the call despite replay evidence showing Pujols’ ball hit the top of the padded wall and bounced back into play, Wade called Joe Garagiola Jr., baseball’s senior vice president of standards and on-field operations, from his home in Houston.

“I already knew it’s not an issue you can protest,” he said. “It’s not a rules interpretation; it’s an umpire’s judgment, so from that standpoint as far as having any recourse, there really isn’t any. I indicated to Joe we thought the call was wrong and would appreciate the Commissioner’s office looking at it because obviously it had a significant impact on the game last night and replay is there to remedy close calls, and we thought that one clearly showed it wasn’t a home run. We couldn’t understand why the decision was made.”

Jim Reynolds, the umpiring crew chief, told a reporter that a replay from a side angle showed the ball hitting the top of the padded wall and skipping over it and then striking a cement wall before caroming back onto the field. The two-run homer by Pujols was the difference in the Astros’ 3-1 loss to the Cardinals.

“We didn’t see it that way,” Wade said. “It’s subject to interpretation. We’ve got this policy in place to review close calls like that. In a perfect world it solves these issues immediately. That one, we just respectfully disagree with the solution.”

Astros manager Brad Mills was upset after the game and said changes need to be made to baseball’s use of instant replay, which began in 2008.