July 2011

Astros shake up lineup

Astros manager Brad Mills has rolled out a quite different lineup than we’ve grown used to in the first half:

CF Bourn

3B Downs

2B Keppinger

RF Pence

LF Lee

1B Wallace

SS Barmes

C Quintero

P Myers

Biggio happy for Jeter

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter joined the 3,000 hit club on Saturday, becoming the first member of the elite group since Craig Biggio collected his 3,000th career hit more than four years ago. Biggio was asked by MLB.com for his thoughts on Jeter’s accomplishment.

“I think for Derek, in general, he’s been such a great player and a great role model for the game of baseball, where you’re in that New York market and it’s one of the most difficult markets to work in,” Biggio said. “For him to be able to play there and be the ambassador of the game he has been and be such a great player, it’s really says a lot about him. I’m happy for him.”

Biggio knows Jeter will be savoring the moment he gets 3,000, but thinks he’ll appreciate it more as he gets older.

“He’s going to enjoy it after he’s passed it,” he said. “I think what happens, it gets to a point you want it to happen quickly because you’re tired of year teammates having to answer questions about it in every city you go to. ‘What do you think about it?’ In his mind, he can’t get there soon enough.

“The sooner he gets there and gets it, he’s going to enjoy that moment. After the fact and after it happens, he’s really going to savor the moment, really look at it and think how hard it was to do that and get there.”

A little down time

Note: I will be off until July 17, so stay cool until I get back.

Did the meeting work? You bet

The lengthy team meeting Astros manager Brad Mills called prior to Wednesday appears to have paid dividends. The Astros went out and pounded the Pirates, 8-2, after Mills and his players met for 70 minutes prior to the game to talk about ways to get team going in the right direction.

“I’m going to go out and say if we don’t have that meeting today, the energy doesn’t change because it hasn’t changed in a couple of weeks now,” Astros shortstop Clint Barmes said. “That what it seemed like. From before the game started in our dugout and the way the guys played, it just seemed like there was just a little extra hustle from everybody.”

Astros pitcher Bud Norris, who got the win Wednesday, thought it was beneficial.

“We needed to come together and bring the unit back together and realize where we’re at,” Norris said. “We’re only at the halfway point. To go out there and do the little things is really what’s it’s all about, and that’s exactly what we did today. We got guys over and got them into scoring position and guys drove in them in. We need to keep learning and growing in that part of the game and be smart with it, too.”

Barmes said the Astros’ first-half woes have been “embarrassing.”

“Something definitely needs to change,” he said. “I think we have the talent, and I believe we’ve had the talent here from day one. We can play with any team, and we’ve shown that at times. We just haven’t finished games off. There’s no reason we can’t do that, and tonight was a huge positive to show a lot of the guys in this clubhouse it can be done and this is how we have to start going about it.”

Carlos Lee was among the players who got up and spoke to the group.

“It was kind of like everybody expressed themselves and got a lot of things out and I think we feel like we have a new start, refreshed,” Lee said. “We went out there and we did the job. We got the guys over, we got big hits and we played good defense and had solid pitching. It was a good game overall.”

Mills holds closed-door meeting

Astros manager Brad Mills held an extended closed-door meeting prior to Wednesday’s series finale against the Pirates that lasted more than an hour. Mills and a handful of players stood up and addressed how to get the Astros going in the right direction during the nearly meeting.

“Any time you’re going through a time like we’re going through, there’s a lot of things you need to talk about, and that’s what we kind of have to go through,” Mills said. “It’s a great group of guys that want to compete and be good and have the ability to be good. They have a lot of talent out here with the way they play. To hear them talk about that was good.”

When asked why he decided to have a meeting Wednesday, Mills didn’t offer many details.

“There was some situations that kind of came up in [Tuesday] night’s game that preempted a little bit of that, but then it was not just [Tuesday] night’s game,” Mills said. “There was other things we have to talk about.”

There will be more at http://www.mlb.com soon.

With Hinze on way to Double-A, Corpus Christi loading up

With Kody Hinze on his way to Double-A later this week to play first base for the Hooks, those who are waiting for the next crop of young Astros prospects to reach the Major Leagues have to like what’s taking place at Corpus Christi.

Hinze, who is hitting .326 with 22 homers and 69 RBIs at Class A Lancaster, will join a promising infield at Corpus Christi: Jose Altuve at second base, Jimmy Paredes at third base and Jonathan Villar at shortstop. Altuve and Villar were promoted on June 1. Hinze is 23 years old.

“Kody’s obviously sung the bat very well in what we know is an offensive environment, but the thing that’s impressive about Kody is he leads the league in walks [70 walks, 73 strikeouts] and has a good on-base percentage,” Astros director of player development Fred Nelson said. “Some of the peripheral things in the offensive ranks are real high, and I think that equates to pitch select and command of strike zone and the ablity to take pitches an put the ball in play. He’s got the ability and tools to strive there [in Double-A].”

Altuve, who will represent the Astros at the 2011 XM All-Star Futures Game in Phoenix next month, is hitting .371 with four homers and 22 RBIs in 30 games at Corpus Christi. Paredes is hitting .273 with six homers and 26 RBIs.

Catcher Chris Wallace was promoted to Double-A last month and is off to a quick start, hitting .313 with 2 homers and 10 RBIs in 10 games. Wallace and outfielder J.D. Martinez each hit a grand slam in Sunday’s 16-3 over Northwest Arkansas.

“We’ve had some kids that have gone from real nice offensive years and not duplicated them in Double-A out of Lancaster, but we just think [Hinze is] is one of those guys, along with Altuve and Villar, that should hold their own and make progress,” Nelson said.

Martinez, who appears to have worked his way back from a nagging hamstring injury, is hitting .331 with seven homers and 52 RBIs in 65 games and could be getting a call to Triple-A Oklahoma City later this year if he stays healthy.

There are some positive happens on the mound, too.

Left-hander Dallas Keuchel threw his fifth consecutive quality start Sunday to improve to 7-6 with a 2.62 ERA in 15 starts. He’s thrown seven innings each of his last five starts, going 4-1 with a 1.03 ERA. He leads the Texas League in ERA.

Left-hander Xavier Cedeno (4-5), who struck out 14 batters last Monday, was scheduled to start tonight’s game against Frisco.

Bourn tired of “Let’s go Red Sox!” chants

Astros center fielder Michael Bourn – and probably the rest of his teammates – doesn’t like seeing Minute Maid Park full of so many Red Sox fans. There was a large and vocal Red Sox contingent during this weekend’s series against Boston.

“Their fan base is huge,” Bourn said. “When we are playing the Red Sox, you hear ‘Let’s go Red Sox!’ loud. I’m like, ‘We’re in our home stands.’ I want to hear, ‘Let’s go Astros!’ I don’t want to hear a visiting team overtaking our team. We have to get our fans to come out and the only way we can do that is by winning.”


Astros’ lineup Sunday vs. Red Sox

Here’s the Astros’ lineup for Sunday’s game against Boston:

CF Michael Bourn

SS Clint Barmes

RF Hunter Pence

LF Carlos Lee

2B Matt Downs

1B Brett Wallace

3B Chris Johnson

C Carlos Coporan

RHP Jordan Lyles

Who will be the Astros’ All-Star

Considering the Astros are 29-54 and have the worst record in the Major Leagues, it would be surprising if they had more than one representative for the All-Star Game, which will be July 12 in Phoenix. The teams will be announced at 11 a.m. CT on Sunday.

Right fielder Hunter Pence, who had three hits Saturday, appears to be the overwhelming choice to be the team’s lone representative. He leads the team in batting average (.323), home runs (10) and RBIs (57), where he ranks among the league’s leaders.

But don’t discount center fielder Michael Bourn, the Astros’ lone All-Star representative last year. Bourn went 4-for-5 on Saturday to increase his batting average to .297 and on-base percentage to .362. He also leads the Majors in stolen bases and appears on his way to winning a third consecutive Gold Glove.

Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez (6-4, 2.97 ERA) has had a nice first half, but I can’t imagine him making it at the expense of either Pence or Bourn, assuming the Astros only get one All-Star.

So who’s your Astros’ All-Star in 2011?

Astros’ lineup Saturday vs. Red Sox

Here’s the Astros’ lineup for Saturday’s game against the Red Sox:

CF Michael Bourn

2B Angel Sanchez

RF Hunter Pence

1B Carlos Lee

LF Jason Michaels

3B Chris Johnson

SS Clint Barmes

C J.R. Towles

LHP J.A. Happ