June 2012

Lee expects to decide by Sunday to accept trade

Astros first baseman Carlos Lee expects to make a decision by Sunday whether he’ll accept a proposed trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

After going 0-for-4 and hitting into a double play in the Astros’ 3-2 loss to the Cubs on Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field, Lee admitted the weight of trying to decide whether to accept the trade to the Dodgers or stay in Houston has been difficult.

“That’s why I’ll probably decide by tomorrow. Either I’m going or not,” he said. “I’m going to sit down and talk to my wife tonight.”

Lee said prior to the game he was briefed by general manager Jeff Luhnow about the situation earlier in the day. Lee has a limited no-trade clause and said he would have to approve a trade to the Dodgers.

“I met with Jeff this morning and he told me what’s going on and let’s see what happens,” Lee said.

Lee did confirm the Dodgers have made an offer for the 36-year slugger who was hitting .285 with five homers and 29 RBIs this year. His power numbers have dropped off dramatically – he hasn’t any homers on the road – from earlier in his career, but he’s struck out only 17 times in 242 at-bats and could flourish in a better lineup.

“L.A. has made an offer,” Lee said. “I just told Jeff I want to see my options. I just want to wait and see what my options are.”

Luhnow said Saturday he has a policy not to discuss trades.

“The information you guys have learned from Carlos, that’s fine,” he said. “But I’m not going to add anything to that at this point.”

When Lee signed his six-year, $100-million deal with the Astros the day after Thanksgiving in 2006, the team one was year removed from the World Series and identified him as the big bat it needed to help get the team over the top. He delivered in his first three years with Houston, hitting .305 with an average of 29 homers and 107 RBIs.

Over the next few years, however, the Astros began cutting payroll and were hampered by an overall lack of talent in the Minor Leagues. Management realized it needed to rebuild, and Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt were traded for prospects in 2010. Young stars Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence followed in 2011.

Lee’s limited no-trade clause means he has to give the Astros a list of 14 teams to which his contract may not be assigned (he had the ability to change that list at the end of last year). The limited no-trade supersedes his 10-5 rights to veto any trade.

Lee, who has about $9 million remaining on his contract this season, has deep business ties in Texas and owns and operates a large ranch not far from Houston. When asked if he’d like to finish out the season in Houston or go to a contending club, Lee said that consideration would factor into his decision.

“That’s one of the things I have to think about,” he said. “There ain’t much I can tell you right now.”

One of the players that could be set to come to Houston in a potential deal is Dodgers pitching prospect Garrett Gould, who was scratched Friday from his scheduled start for Class A Rancho Cucamonga.

Astros lineup Wednesday vs. Padres

The Astros, who have won three of their last four games, battle the Padres in the third game of a four-game series Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park. Here is the Astros’ starting lineup:

ASTROS

RF Brian Bixler

SS Jed Lowrie

1B Carlos Lee

LF J.D. Martinez

3B Chris Johnson

C Chris Snyder

2B Matt Downs

CF Jordan Schafer

P Lucas Harrell

Astros to sign second-round pick Fontana

Shortstop Nolan Fontana, taken by the Astros in the second round out of the University of Florida in the First-Year Player Draft, will be introduced to the media Tuesday afternoon at Minute Maid Park after he signs his deal with Houston.

Fontana was in Houston for a physical Monday morning, which was the last step before he signed. Fontana, taken with the No. 61 overall pick, was the Astros’ highest remaining unsigned pick.

Fontana hit .284 with nine homers and 30 RBIs his junior season for the Gators, helping them reach the College World Series. He had an on-base percentage of .406 in 66 games. The assigned slot value of Fontana’s spot in the Draft is $844,100.

The Astros signed No. 1 overall pick Carlos Correa, a shortstop from Puerto Rico, within hours after he was drafted to a $4.8 million bonus, and on Monday signed fourth-round pick Rio Ruiz, a high school shortstop from La Puente, Calif., for $1.85 million. Pitcher Lance McCullers Jr., taken No. 41 overall out of Tampa, Fla., was signed earlier this month for $2.5 million.

Houston signed Correa for $1.3 million less than the prescribed bonus of $7.2 million for the top pick. The money the Astros saved enabled them to pay more to McCullers and Ruiz and steal them away from their college commitments.

When Fontana signs, the Astros will have signed 30 of their 41 picks, including 19 players selected in first 21 rounds. Houston still hasn’t signed seventh-round pick Preston Tucker, an outfielder from Florida, and 11th-round pick Hunter Virant, a left-handed pitcher from Camarillo, Calif., who’s committed to UCLA.

Astros battle Padres at Minute Maid

The Astros try to make it three wins in a row when they open up a four-game series tonight against the Padres at Minute Maid Park. Here are the lineups:

ASTROS

2B Brian Bixler

SS Jed Lowrie

1B Carlos Lee

RF Brian Bogusevic

3B Chris Johnson

C Jason Castro

LF J.D. Martinez

CF Jordan Schafer

P Wandy Rodriguez

PADRES

RF Chris Denorfia

CF Cameron Maybin

3B Chase Headley

LF Carlos Quentin

1B Jesus Guzman

2B Logan Forsythe

SS Everth Cabrera

C Nick Hundley

P Ross Ohlendorf

Here are some pre-series notes:

  • The Astros dropped five of their first eight contests at Minute Maid Park this season, but have since posted one of the NL’s best home records. The Astros are 18-12 at home since April 22, which is the second-best record in that span behind the Pirates (20-11).
  • Pitching has been the main reason for Houston’s success at home, as the Astros have posted one of the major league’s largest improvements in ERA from a season ago. The Astros have a 3.44 ERA at home this year, compared to 4.60 last year.

 

 

Astros lineup vs. Royals

Here are the lineups for Wednesday’s finale between the Astros and Royals:

ASTROS

2B Jose Altuve

RF Brian Bixler

CF Justin Maxwell

1B Carlos Lee

LF J.D. Martinez

SS Jed Lowrie

3B Chris Johnson

C Chris Snyder

P Jordan Lyles

ROYALS

LF Alex Gordon

2B Yuniesky Betancourt

1B Billy Butler

RF Jeff Francouer

3B Mike Moustakas

SS Alcides Escobar

C Brayan Pena

CF Jarrod Dyson

P Bruce Chen

Astros face Royals in Interleague Play

Coming off a nine-game road trip (3-6), the Astros are probably happy to return to Minute Maid Park, but they’re facing a Royals team that hasn’t played poorly when playing away from home. The Astros are 18-14 at home and 9-25 on the road, and the Royals are 11-20 at home and 18-15 on the road.

Here is the Astros’ starting lineup:

2B Jose Altuve

SS Brian Bixler

CF Justin Maxwell

1B Carlos Lee

LF J.D. Martinez

3B Chris Johnson

RF Matt Downs

C Chris Snyder

P J.A. Happ

  • Astros first baseman Carlos Lee, who returned from the disabled list on Sunday and will celebrate his 36th birthday on Wednesday, is exhibiting arguably the finest bat control of his career, with over five hits for every strikeout. He has 59 hits and 11 strikeouts, for a 5.36 ration that leads the Majors.
  • Astros second baseman Jose Altuve is on pace to become one of the few National League second basemen since 1985 to lead his team in singles, doubles and triples. The only others to do that are the Dodgers’ Steve Sax (1986), the Astros’ Craig Biggio (1994), the Giants’ Jeff Kent (2000) and the Pirates Freddy Sanchez (2007).
  • Astros pitcher J.A. Happ features an impressive strikeout rate for a pitcher with a losing record. He’s 4-7, but is averaging 9.41 strikeouts per game. Happ’s strikeout rate is the second highest ever by an Astros left-hander (minimum 5 starts).  Randy Johnson averaged 12.38 strikeouts per nine innings while going 10-1 after joining the Astros in midseason 1998.
  • After matching his own team record with five bases on balls on Sunday, Alex Gordon has reached base 40 times since May 27, a total only one other hitter exceeds. Joey Votto has reached base in 45 times in that span. And with 20 doubles and 39 walks in 2012, Gordon is on the verge of joining Joey Votto (28, 54) and David Wright (22, 43) as the only players to total at least 20 and 40, respectively, this season.
  • Despite a 5.93 ERA over seven starts, Jonathan Sanchez has done a terrific job controlling the lead-off batter of each inning. Lead-off hitters are batting .111 (3-for-27) against him. However, after the leadoff hitter of each inning, Sanchez has permitted a .315 (29/92) batting average.
  • Since MLB split into three divisions in each league in 1994, only one team has removed as many base-stealers per game as this year’s Royals. The Royals have thrown out 46.9 percent of base-stealers (30 of 64), which is second only to the 1994 Twins (46.9).

Astros put Norris on DL

As expected, the Astros placed right-hander Bud Norris on the 15-day disabled list Sunday afternoon with a sprained left knee. The move is retroactive to June 12.

Norris, who is 5-4 with a 4.81 ERA in 13 starts, sprained his knee pitching against the Giants on Tuesday in San Francisco. He was scheduled to start Sunday against the Rangers, but the Astros called up left-hander Dallas Keuchel from Triple-A Oklahoma City to make his Major League Debut.

“I’m frustrated,” Norris said. “Nobody wants to go on the DL, but I know I need to get this thing right, because once I get it right I can pitch the way I was capable of pitching the first 10, 15 starts.”

Norris, 27, injured his hip flexor May 31 against the Rockies and wasn’t the same. He was 5-1 with a 3.34 ERA in his first 10 starts of the season, but was 0-3 with a 13.09 ERA in his next three starts as he dealt with leg problems.

“I’ve been trying to go out there and pitch at 80 percent and unfortunately I haven’t been helping the team much,” Norris said. “It’s frustrating in that regard. I want to be out there every fifth day, but I understand that short-term is more important than the long term and I have a whole second half to put it together to come back from this thing. I’m hoping it doesn’t take a long time.”

Astros manager Brad Mills said he didn’t want Norris to try to pitch through any discomfort.

“It’s something that we want to make sure he’s 100 percent when he comes back and that he’s not tentative when he’s putting weight on it,” he said. “We’ll get him back going as soon as we can and hopefully we can get him 100 percent.”

This is the second career trip to the DL for Norris, who went on the shelf in 2010 with biceps tendinitis.“You’re going to through some things, some bumps and bruises, where you’re going to have to go out there and pitch,” Norris said. “I definitely gave it everything I had and it didn’t go my way. I have to give my knee some time, the whole leg some time. I have 15 days to do it. I’m feeling a little bit better, and day in and day out I have to get treatment to get me back out on the field.”

Astros set Tri-City, Greeneville rosters

The Astros have set the preliminary 2012  Minor League rosters for their Rookie Level Tri-City, Greeneville and Gulf Coast League clubs. The announcement was made by Astros director of player development Fred Nelson.

The rosters are subject to change and will not be officially finalized until each club begins league play. The Tri-City and Gulf Coast League clubs are both scheduled to begin their respective 2012 seasons on June 18. The Greeneville Astros will begin their 2012 season on June 19.

The Astros are currently the only Major League team that has winning records at all four of their full-season affiliates. Triple-A Oklahoma City, Double-A Corpus Christi, Class A Lancaster and Class A Lexington have combined for a 144-118 (.550) record on the season. The Astros combined affiliate winning percentage ranks third among Major League clubs.

TRI-CITY

PITCHERS

Ballew, Travis

Bircher, Joseph

Cotton, Jamaine

Holmes, Brian

Long, Kenneth

Meiners, Jeremiah

Minaya, Juan

Neely, John

Perez, Juri

Propst, James

Rodgers, Brady

Shirley, Thomas

Velasquez, Vincent

West, Aaron

CATCHERS

Cokinos, M.P.

Morales, Jobduan

INFIELDERS

Davidson, Chase

Dineen, Ryan

Elkins, Austin

Johnson, Neiko

Sclafani, Joe

OUTFIELDERS

Aplin, Andrew

Gulbransen, Dan

McKinney, Jarrod

GREENEVILLE

PITCHERS                             INFIELDERS

Bushue, Tanner                    Batista, Jean

Danco, Zachary                    Blasik, Brian

Dimock, Michael                  Ibanez, Angel

Garcia, Christian                   Magee, Joshua

Hardoin, Zachary                  Martinez, Michael

Hauschild, Mike                    Sosa, Ruben

Houser, Adrian

Jankowski, Jordan                OUTFIELDERS

Lambson, Mitchell               Joyce, Terrell

Lee, Chris                              Monzon, Jose

Minor, Daniel                        Ovando, Ariel

Ramirez, Francis                   Toney, D’Andre

Rodriguez, Richard              Wik, Marc

Tiburcio, Frederick

Zuloaga, Scott

CATCHERS

Genoves, Ernesto

Gingras, Ricky

Moronta, Cristian

GULF COAST LEAGUE

PITCHERS                             INFIELDERS

Abreu, Alan                           Correa, Carlos

Barrios, Agapito                    Fernandez, Jose

Batista, Ricardo                     Martone, Luca

Culbreth, Brandon               Mejia, Yonathan

De Leon, Ambiorix              Redinger, Kyle

Dennison, Steve                   Rivera, Darwin

Feliz, Michael                        Solano, Jose

Franco, Enderson

Frias, Edison                          OUTFIELDERS

Gonzalez, Erick                     De La Rosa, Luis

Guduan, Reymin                  Gonzalez, Wallace

Gustave, Jandel                    Hernandez, Teoscar

Mojica, Juan                          Marte, Ydarqui

Montero, Jose                       Phillips, Brett

Quintero, Rodney                Reynolds, Javaris

Walter, Andrew                    Vizcaino, Kelvin

CATCHERS

Diaz, Kenny

Gonzalez, Alfredo

Polanco, Franny

 

Lineups for Wednesday’s Astros-Giants game

Here are the starting lineups for Wednesday’s Astros-Giants game:

ASTROS

CF Jordan Schafer

2B Jose Altuve

SS Jed Lowrie

LF J.D. Martinez

1B Brett Wallace

3B Chris Johnson

RF Brian Bogusevic

C Chris Snyder

LHP J.A. Happ

GIANTS

RF Gregor Blanco

2B Ryan Theriot

LF Melky Cabrera

C Buster Posey

CF Angel Pagan

3B Pablo Sandoval

1B Brandon Belt

SS Joaquin Arias

RHP Matt Cain

Pettini to rep Astros at All-Star Game

Astros bench coach Joe Pettini has been chosen by National League All-Star manager Tony La Russa to serve as the bench coach for the NL at the 83rd All-Star Game, which is scheduled for July 10 in Kansas City.

La Russa, who retired after leading the Cardinals to the World Series title last year, invited his entire Cardinals coaching staff to join him in Kansas City — Dave Duncan (pitching), Derek Lilliquist (bullpen), Mark McGwire (hitting), Dave McKay (first base coach; currently with the Chicago Cubs) and Jose Oquendo (third base coach).

La Russa also named Brewers manager Ron Roenicke and Mets manager Terry Collins as his NL coaches. Collins was an NL coach while manager of the Astros in 1995 under NL manager Felipe Alou at the All-Star Game in Arlington.

Pettini won two World Series titles as La Russa’s right-hand man, including last year’s scintillating run that culminated with a victory over the Rangers. Pettini, 57, left the Cardinals after more than 25 years as a player and coach in the organization for a chance to reunite with general manager Jeff Luhnow, who spent the previous eight years with the Cardinals.

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