January 2012

Astros reach deal with veteran Hernandez

The Astros added more pitching depth Tuesday by reaching an agreement on a Minor League contract with right-hander Livan Hernandez, a veteran of 16 Major League seasons. The deal includes an invite to Spring Training.

Hernandez, who will be 37 next month, has played for seven different teams, going 8-13 with a 4.47 ERA in 29 starts (175 1/3) innings for the Nationals last year.

“Any time you get a chance to bring an experienced Major League veteran, you’ve got to consider it,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “He brings a lot to us in terms of a veteran presence in the clubhouse and his ability to pitch a lot of innings and give our team a chance to stay in games, and that’s really a big part of why we wanted to do it.

“Also, he allows us to have more options and flexibility in terms of who’s in the rotation to start the year and maybe not have to rush some younger kids that may or not be ready. It’s really about depth for us. You can’t have enough starting pitching.”

Hernandez is a durable innings-eater who has topped 200 innings in his career 10 times, most recently with the Washington Nationals in 2010. He has a career record of 174-176 with a 4.39 ERA while pitching for Florida (1996-99), San Francisco (1999-2002), Montreal/Washington (2003-2006, 2009-11), Arizona (2006-07), Minnesota (2008), Colorado (2008) and the New York Mets (2009).

He was named the World Series Most Valuable Player for the Marlins in 1997 and made the All-Star team in 2004 and 2005. A workhorse, he’s led the league in innings pitched three times: 2004-05. He’s thrown more than 50,000 pitches in his career.

Crane: Astros won’t change name

The Astros recently changed owners, will switch to the American League next year and could have new uniforms by 2013.

One thing that won’t change is the team’s name.

In an video emailed to season-ticket holders on Monday, Astros owner Jim Crane informed fans that Houston’s baseball team will continue to be known as the Astros. Crane hinted at a press conference last week to announce new fan-friendly initiatives that team management was considering changing the name of the franchise.

The thought of a possible name change caused a ruckus with fans on internet message boards and local sports talk radio stations. The majority fans made it clear they wanted the club to continue to be called the Astros, a name the team has had since it moved to the Astrodome in 1965.

“You asked for change and we addressed our fan-friendly initiatives last week and we hope you liked them,” Crane told fans in a videotaped interview. “We will continue to listen and look for additional ways to improve on and off the field. One thing we’re not going to change is the name. We received strong feedback and consensus among season-ticket holders and many fans, and we will not be changing name, Astros. Astros are here to stay. We appreciate your support and look forward to seeing you at the ballpark soon.”

This season marks the 50th anniversary of the franchise, which began play in 1962 as the Colt .45’s.

In the last several weeks, hundreds of season-ticket holders took part in sessions with Crane and members of Astros management at Minute Maid Park to discuss ways to improve their experience while attending Astros games. The Astros also received hundreds of responses to a season-ticket holder survey and on the club’s Facebook page.

Last week, the team announced ticket prices for more than 5,000 seats at Minute Maid Park have been lowered and said more affordable beer prices were going to be offered throughout the ballpark. And for the first time since Minute Maid Park opened, fans will be permitted to bring in their own food and beverages.”

“We feel this is the right thing to do,” Crane said during last week’s press conference. “It is a way for us to let our fans know how vital they are to our success, and to let them know we’ve been listening to them.”

Crane indicated that a uniform change was something management has been exploring for a while and if they do want to make a change prior to the ’13 season, they’ll have to notify Major League Baseball sometime around the start of the ’12 season.

If there are indeed new uniforms, the name across the front will stay. The Astros will remain.

Details of Snyder, Cust contracts

Here are some details of catcher Chris Snyder’s contract with the Astros:

– Salary in 2012 is $750,000, of which $350,000 is guaranteed

– There is a mutual option for 2013 for $4 million, of which all is guaranteed. There’s a $500,000 buyout if on active roster or disabled list on 2012 Opening Day and option declined by either party.

Other notable items:

$125,000 for 300 plate appearances

$125,000 for 325 plate appearances

$125,000 for 350 plate appearances

$125,000 for 375 plate appearances

$250,000 for 400 plate appearances

$250,000 for 425 plate appearances

$250,000 for 450 plate appearances

$250,000 for 475 plate appearances

Plus: $100,000 for MVP ($50,000-2nd; $25,000-3rd); $50,000 for WS/MVP; $50,000 for LCS/MVP; $25,000 for Silver Slugger; $25,000 for Gold Glove; $25,000 for All Star. Plus (for each on active roster): $50,000 for 30 days; $50,000 for 60 days; $50,000 for 90 day; $50,000 for 120 days; $50,000 for 150 days. Plus: $200,000 if traded (one time).

Here are some details of OF/1B Jack Cust’s contract with the Astros

– Salary in 2012 is $600,000

– Club option for $1 million in 2013, all of which is guaranteed if option is exercised. Base in 2013 increases $100,000 for MVP ($50,000-2nd; $25,000-3rd); $50,000 for WS/MVP; $50,000 for LCS/MVP; $25,000 for Silver Slugger; $25,000 for Gold Glove; $25,000 for All Star.

Should the Astros change their name?

Astros owner Jim Crane created some news Monday when he told reporters the team is considering changing its name upon moving to the American League in 2013. The Houston franchise began as the Colt .45’s in 1962 and changed its name to Astros when it moved into the Astrodome three years later.

The Astros are changing leagues and likely will have new uniforms in 2013, and now perhaps even a new name. Let us know what you think about the Astros possibly changing names by taking our poll:

Astros lower ticket prices

The Astros on Monday announced several new, fan-friendly initiatives, including a reduction in ticket prices, rebates for season ticket holders and a revised policy on bringing food and beverages into Minute Maid Park.

“We feel this is the right thing to do,” Astros owner Jim Crane said. “It is one way for us to let our fans know how vital they are to our success, and to let them know we’ve been listening to them.”

NEW FOOD & BEVERAGE POLICY

Fans are now allowed to bring food and water into Minute Maid Park for Astros games. Food must be transported in a small, clear (see-through) plastic bag, and water must be in a sealed, plastic bottle, being one liter or less in size. One bottle of water per person is allowed. The Astros new policy now mirrors that of most Major League ballparks.

Additionally, the Astros have expanded the $5 beer special to include every permanent concession stand and permanent bar at Minute Maid Park where domestic beer is sold.

SEASON TICKET REBATES

As a special thank you for their loyalty and commitment, the Astros will issue five percent rebates to full-season and 27-game season ticket accounts that are renewed by January 31, 2012. Those rebates will be distributed in the form of a gift card that can be used to purchase food, merchandise or individual game tickets at Minute Maid Park.

REDUCTION IN TICKET PRICING

The 2012 season will bring a reduction in the cost of over 5,000 seats at Minute Maid Park, in comparison to the start of the 2011 season.

The Astros low-priced, Outfield Deck seats have been reduced even lower, now costing $5 for adults and $1 for children ages 3-14 (adult tickets were $7 in 2011). With this reduction, a family of four can now attend an Astros game for $12, which is the best everyday value in the Houston sports market and less than a single movie theater ticket in some instances.

In August, with the consultation of Crane, the Astros made a significant reduction in the price of a large number of Field and Club Level seats at Minute Maid Park for 2012. Seats in the newly-created Field Box II sections are now priced at $29, down from $41 in 2011. And, with the creation of the new Power Club, located on the exclusive Club Level, fans have the opportunity to purchase a $35 ticket that includes a $15 credit for food, beverage and retail items. Those same seats were $46 in 2011, with no added credit.

 VALUE TICKET OPTIONS RETURN

The Astros will also continue to offer several of the popular ticket specials that have been available in recent years in an effort to make Astros games affordable to all fans.

Price Matters Days presented by H-E-B

This offer, which is available for every Monday through Thursday Astros game, includes one View Deck II ticket, one hot dog, a bag of H-E-B chips and one soda for just $10, which represents a savings of over 50%. Also, for $10 more, fans can purchase a lower level seat in the Bullpen Boxes.

All You Can Eat

For $30, this deal includes a Mezzanine game ticket and unlimited hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts, nachos, soda and water  and is available for every home game. Groups of 20 or more are eligible to purchase this package for just $25.

Coca-Cola Value Zone

This offer, which is available for every Friday, Saturday and Sunday game, includes a Mezzanine ticket and Astros cap, as well as a hot dog and Coke product beverage for $20.

POWERADE Double Play Tuesdays

This popular offer, which is available every Tuesday, features two Outfield Deck tickets for just $2. Additionally on Tuesdays, fans can now also purchase two Field Box II tickets for just $40, which is new in 2012.

 9-Inning Lunch Break

This package is offered for weekday, 1:05 p.m. games and includes a Field Box ticket and $20 in Minute Maid Park food and beverage vouchers, which is a $61 value, for just $45, a savings of $16 per ticket.

Dynamic Pricing

This offer is available for every Astros home game for select seats. Prices, which fluctuate based on demand, can represent up to 50% in savings per ticket.

Special Fundraising Pricing

The Astros offer special fundraising opportunities to charities and community organizations, which can earn up to $10 per ticket by selling discounted Astros tickets.

Group Ticket Specials

With the Astros Group Ticket Program, groups of 20 or more can purchase discounted tickets. Group discounts can be as high as 50% per ticket, depending on the size of the group.

Spring Training tickets on sale Saturday

Individual tickets for 2012 Astros Spring Training home games will be available for purchase by the public on Saturday , beginning at 9 a.m. CT.

The Astros open the 2012 Grapefruit League season at home on  March 3 vs. the Washington Nationals at 12:05 p.m. CT at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Fla. This year marks Houston’s 28th season in sunny Kissimmee. Workouts for pitchers and catchers in Kissimmee, which are open to the public at no charge, begin on February 20.

Tickets, which are priced the same as last spring, can be purchased in several ways: online at www.astros.com; at the Osceola County Stadium box office (home games only); by telephone at 1-800-745-3000 and in person at Florida Ticketmaster outlets (home and road games). The box office is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET and on all game days.

Osceola County Stadium ticket prices for individual games are: $24 for Dugout Box Seats, $22 for Outfield Box Seats, $20 for Upper Reserved Seats and $15 for Outfield Reserved Seats. Please note that tickets to any of the four premium games (Phillies, Cardinals, Yankees and March 27 game vs. the  Tigers) are $3 higher per ticket.

 PROMOTIONS

The 2012 spring schedule once again includes giveaways and promotions for fans of all ages. On March 6 vs. the Mets, the first 2,000 fans will receive an Astros Visor, and on March 13 vs. the Phillies, the first 2,000 fans will receive an Astros Drawstring Backpack. Both giveaway items are compliments of Holiday Inn Main Gate East.

Following the three Astros Sunday home games (March 11, 18, 25), the Kids Run the Bases promotion will give kids the opportunity to run the bases . The Astros are also offering Value Days for fans on several dates. A ‘2 for $28’  special offer will be available on four dates (March 6, 18, 23, 28) and includes two outfield reserve tickets, two hot dogs and two Coca-Cola fountain drinks for $28. Additionally, the popular ‘All You Can Eat’ promotion is back and will be offered on the following four dates: March 5, 9, 15, 30.

ATTRACTIVE SCHEDULE

The Astros Spring Training schedule includes 15 home dates, with eight of those games landing on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, making it convenient for Houstonians traveling to Florida in March.

Two popular opponents, the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets, will visit Kissimmee on March 5 and 6, respectively, and will be followed by the Toronto Blue Jays (Friday, March 9) and A.L. Central Champion Detroit Tigers (Sunday, March 11). The Astros will then host the five-time defending NL East Champion Philadelphia Phillies on March 13 and the Blue Jays again on March 15.  The Mets return on Sunday, March 18, followed by the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals (March 20) and the Nationals on Friday, March 23. Another division rival, the Pittsburgh Pirates, will be in Kissimmee on Sunday, March 25, followed by the Tigers (March 27), the Miami (formerly Florida) Marlins (March 28) and the Braves, who return for the second time on Friday, March 30. The Astros wrap up their Spring home schedule by hosting the AL East Champion New York Yankees, who will make their one visit of the Spring on Saturday, March 31.

TICKET INFORMATION, SPECIAL OFFERS, PRICES REMAIN SAME

Season tickets for Florida Spring Training games can be purchased now by calling 321-697-3201. Season ticket prices for all 15 games, which includes free parking, are as follows: $330 for Dugout Box Seats, $300 for Outfield Box Seats, $270 for Upper Reserved Seats and $225 for Outfield Reserved Seats.

Also available for purchase is the “Getaway Weekend Plan,” which includes tickets to all five Saturday and Sunday home games and is priced starting at $90 (includes free parking).

Cust “excited” to join Astros

Jack Cust, who signed a one-year, $600,000 contract with the Astros with an option for 2013, was bubbling with excitement about his new team during an interview Wednesday with MLB.com

“I’m excited for it,” he said. “I feel like it energizes me. We’ve been talking to Houston for a little bit now, and I knew there was a prospect of me going down there. I feel I’m in good shape and ready to go. It’s definitely exciting going to a new league and in the Central division, which has a lot of very good teams.”

Cust, who is on a non-guaranteed Major League deal, appeared in 67 games before being cut loose by the Mariners last July, batting .213 with three homers and 23 RBIs. He spent the previous four seasons with the Oakland A’s, hitting 97 homers and driving in 281 runs in that span.

“Last year was a big disappointment for me after having some pretty good years the previous four seasons,” Cust said. “I never really had a year like last year and it motivates you. I feel like I’m a hard worker. I’m going to keep working hard and I’m excited to go out and show people I can still do what I know I can do, which what I’ve always done: hit the ball out of the ballpark and get on base and score runs.”

Cust said he hasn’t spoken to anyone with the Astros regarding his role with the club in 2012, but he wants to try to win a starting job. He could possibly get some time at first base, too.

“Whatever it is, you’ve got to get yourself ready to play,” he said. “I like to hit the ball to all fields, hit home runs and drive in runs and score runs. That’s what the game is all about on offense. I play hard every day and I want to play every day. That’s the name of the game to me, going out there and playing the game hard and leaving it all on the field. I’m excited to show the fans what I can do.”

Astros to kick off CAREavan Feb. 1

The Astros 2012 CAREavan will begin Feb. 1 with three full days of visits throughout central and south Texas, a trip to Oklahoma City, Okla. and five days in the Houston area. In addition to numerous private community stops, each day will include free public autograph sessions at Academy Sports and Outdoors stores.

The team will make two-day trips to Austin (Feb. 1-2), Brownsville, Harlingen and McAllen (Feb. 1-2) and San Antonio (Feb. 2-3), travel to Corpus Christi and Victoria (Feb. 3), and head to Oklahoma City (Feb. 6).  The team’s annual winter trek will also visit five different communities in the Houston area (Feb. 6-10).  More than 30 Astros players, alumni, coaches and front office staff will take part in the 2012 CAREavan.  A summary of the team’s activities and the players participating are listed below and a list of stops open to the public is posted at www.astros.com/careavan.

The 2012 CAREavan is part of a two-week winter baseball festival that includes the annual Baseball Dinner and the Astros In Action Foundation’s FanFest.  On Feb. 10, the Astros In Action Foundation and Minute Maid will host the 27th Annual Baseball Dinner benefiting the Grand Slam For Youth Baseball scholarship program.  This year’s dinner will highlight 50 years of Houston baseball.  Past Astros MVPs will be honored and the evening will feature awards given to current Astros and other area baseball standouts.

FanFest will be Feb. 11 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. at Minute Maid Park.  The one-day fundraising event will feature autograph sessions, a garage sale of Astros merchandise, mystery grab bags and new experiences including the opportunity to run the bases.  Fans will be able to meet the new ownership group and hear from Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow at Talkin’ Baseball sessions.  Proceeds from FanFest benefit the Astros Urban Youth Academy.  Information about CAREavan, the Baseball Dinner and FanFest is available at www.astros.com/community.

 Here’s a list of CAREavan public appearances:

Feb. 1 – Austin

Jordan Lyles, J.B. Shuck, Kyle Weiland, Doug Brocail, Dave Raymond

Academy Sports + Outdoors, 5400 Brodie Lane, Austin.

  • 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
  • Open to fans

Feb. 1 – Brownsville

Jose Altuve, Jimmy Paredes, Fernando Rodriguez, Alex Trevino

Academy Sports + Outdoors, 4305 Old Hwy. 77, Brownsville.

  • 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
  • Open to fans

Feb. 2 – Harlingen and McAllen

Jose Altuve, Jimmy Paredes, Fernando Rodriguez, Alex Trevino

Academy Sports + Outdoors, 3901 Expressway 83, McAllen.

  • 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
  • Open to fans

 Feb. 2 – San Antonio

Jarred Cosart, J.A. Happ, Humberto Quintero, Angel Sanchez, Larry Dierker, Brett Dolan

Academy Sports + Outdoors, 7523 Northwest Loop 410, San Antonio.

  • 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
  • Open to fans

Feb. 3 – Corpus Christi and Victoria

Brian Bogusevic, Chris Johnson, J.B. Shuck, Shane Reynolds, Milo Hamilton

Academy Sports + Outdoors, 8903 Navarro, Victoria.

  • 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
  • Open to fans

Feb. 6 – Oklahoma City, Okla.

Oklahoma City RedHawks Season Ticket Holder Reception

  • 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
  • Open to RedHawks season ticket holders

Academy Sports + Outdoors, 7700 South Walker, Oklahoma City, Okla.

  • 7:15 p.m. – 8:15 p.m.
  • Open to fans

HOUSTON AREA STOPS

Feb. 6 – Houston

Jason Bourgeois, Bud Norris, Bobby Meacham, Brad Mills, Bob Watson, Jimmy Wynn, Jim Deshaies

 Chick-fil-A, 2715 Southwest Fwy., Houston.

  • 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
  • Lunch service for fans
  • Open to fans

Academy Sports + Outdoors, 2404 Southwest Fwy., Houston.

  • 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
  • Open to fans

Feb. 7 – Sugar Land

Chris Johnson, Bud Norris, Brett Wallace, Doug Brocail, Brett Dolan

Academy Sports + Outdoors, 23801 Brazos Town Crossing, Rosenberg.

  • 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
  • Open to all fans

Feb. 8 – Spring/The Woodlands

Brian Bogusevic, Jason Bourgeois, J.D. Martinez, Brad Mills, Jose Cruz, Jim Deshaies

Academy Sports + Outdoors, 1360 Lake Woodlands Dr., The Woodlands.

  • 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
  • Open to all fans

Feb. 9 – Cypress

Jed Lowrie, J.D. Martinez, Brad Mills, Alex Trevino, Jeff Luhnow, Bill Brown

 Academy Sports + Outdoors, 19720 Northwest Fwy., Cypress.

  • 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
  • Open to all fans

Feb.  10 – Katy

Jason Castro, Jed Lowrie, Brett Wallace, Bill Brown

Academy Sports + Outdoors, 23155 I-10 West, Katy.

  • 3:15 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
  • Open to fans

Tickets available for Houston Baseball Dinner

Tickets are still available for the 2012 Houston Baseball Dinner Benefiting Grand Slam For Youth Baseball’s Scholarship Program, which will include a special celebration of the Astros 50th anniversary.

This year will mark the 27th season of the popular dinner, which will take place on Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. at the Hilton Americas Hotel in downtown Houston.  The event is sponsored by the Astros In Action Foundation and Minute Maid, with proceeds benefiting the Grand Slam For Youth Baseball Scholarship Program.

In addition to honoring the top players from the 2011 ballclub, this year’s dinner will include a special 50th anniversary tribute featuring Astros Hall of Fame broadcaster Milo Hamilton and a long list of former Astros team MVPs, including Bob Watson, J.R. Richard, Jimmy Wynn, Larry Dierker, Jose Cruz, Enos Cabell, Bob Aspromonte and more.  Phil Garner, manager of the 2005 NL championship team, will also be in attendance. Members of the 2011 Astros scheduled to attend include J.D. Martinez (Rookie of the Year), Wandy Rodriguez (Pitcher of the Year) and Jason Bourgeois (Darryl Kile Award) and manager Brad Mills. Former Astros Hunter Pence (2011 MVP) and Lance Berkman (Houston Area Player of the Year) will also be recognized at the event, but won’t attend.

Additionally, longtime Astros television broadcaster Bill Brown will receive the Fred Hartman Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Baseball. 2011 marked Brown’s 25th season as the Astros play-by-play TV voice.

Houston Baseball Dinner co-founder Ivy McLemore, a long-time baseball writer who currently serves as a MLB official scorer, will receive the Allen Russell Distinguished Achievement Award. Brazoswood’s Bobby Williams will receive the Ray Knoblauch Award as the area’s outstanding high school coach in 2011.

2012 GREATER HOUSTON AREA PRESEASON HIGH SCHOOL TEAM, COLLEGE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

The event will also include the annual introduction of the 16-member All-Greater Houston Preseason High School Team as well as the Greater Houston Area’s Preseason College Player of the Year. Members of the Preseason High School team are as follows: SS Geonte Jackson, Fort Bend Elkins High School; 1B Austin Dean, Klein Collins High School; C Hunter Kopycinski, St. Thomas High School; RHP Kevin McCanna, The Woodlands High School; IF Leon Byrd, Cypress Ranch High School; OF Billy ‘Nick’ Williams, Galveston Ball High School; RHP Grayson Long, Barbers Hill High School; C-OF Boomer White, Memorial High School; RHP Holden Helmink, Willis High School;  RHP Chris Lanham, Lamar High School; OF Jesse Baker, Brenham High School; IF Dalton Perry, Brazoswood High School; C Cameron Burns, Bellaire High School; RHP Blake Fox, Episcopal High School; IF Billy Arendt, Second Baptist High School; LHP-1B Hayden Jones, Langham Creek High School.

The Preseason College Player of the Year, who will also be recognized at the dinner, will be selected later this month.

SPECIAL VIP RECEPTION, SILENT AUCTION

As part of the 50th anniversary celebration, a special VIP reception will be held prior to the dinner, at 6 p.m.,

and will feature several of the former MVPs and current Astros players. A limited amount of MVP tables for 10 that will include tickets to the dinner and the VIP reception will be available for purchase for $2,500.

Dinner attendees will also have the opportunity to bid on several attractive items at a silent auction, with those proceeds also going to the GSFYB Scholarship Program.

Tickets for the dinner are priced at $100 each or at $1,000 for a table of 10, and can be purchased online at

www.astros.com/baseballdinner or by calling Jo Russell at 713-789-0626. General information on the dinner is available at www.gsfyb.org, via email at info@gsfyb.org or by calling 713-259-8686.

Pettini replaces Pedrique as bench coach

The Astros have hired Joe Pettini as bench coach to replace Al Pedrique, who has resigned. Pettini spent the last 10 years working under Tony La Russa with the Cardinals.

Pedrique, who served as bench coach of the Astros the previous two seasons, said Wednesday he had resigned after refusing a reassignment to become bullpen coach, a position that became open when Jamie Quirk left to become bench coach of the Cubs.

“I’m leaving,” Pedrique said. “I resigned after being told I was going to be the bullpen coach.”

Pedrique was named bench coach prior to the 2010 season and after interviewing for the managerial position that eventually went to Brad Mills. He had been with the organization for seven years, joining the Astros in 2004 as a special assistant to the general manager. In 2009, he served as the Astros Minor League field coordinator and joined the Major League staff in September as third base coach.

Pedrique was named interim manager for the Arizona Diamondbacks for the second half of the 2004 season after opening the year as the team’s third base coach. He has more than 33 years of experience in baseball as a player, coach and manager.

Astros are still searching for a bullpen coach to replace Jamie Quirk, who left to become the bench coach of the Cubs. Hitting coach Mike Barnett, pitching coach Doug Brocail, third base coach Dave Clark and first base coach Bobby Meacham are set to return to the Astros in 2012.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 75 other followers