July 2012

Astros SS Jed Lowrie out 4-6 weeks with nerve injury

Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie will probably be out four-to-six weeks with a nerve injury in his right leg, general manager Jeff Luhnow said Tuesday.

Lowrie, who leads the team with 14 home runs, injured the leg and sprained his right ankle during a play at second base Saturday in San Francisco and was placed on the 15-day disabled list Sunday. He was examined by team doctors on Tuesday in Houston.

Luhnow said Lowrie will be on crutches and will have to wear a protective boot for a week before being re-evaluated. Lowrie was hitting .253 with a club-best 14 homers and 36 RBIs through 80 games and losing him is a big blow to an Astros team that had batted just .201 in his previous 15 games before Tuesday.

“We’re going to have to think about how to cover his at-bats and innings out there,” Luhnow said.

Marwin Gonzalez, a Rule 5 pick last December, will get most of the playing time at shortstop for now, but Luhnow hasn’t ruled out going outside the organization for shortstop help.

“He’s done a good job and we’re certainly thankful we have him, but we need to consider other options, whether it’s bringing up somebody else from Triple-A or looking outside the organization,” Luhnow said. “At this point it could go faster, but four-to-six is what we’re expecting.”

Meanwhile, catcher Jason Castro, who was also played on the disabled list on Sunday (backdated to July 8), had his ailing right knee examined Tuesday in Houston. Astros manager Brad Mills said Castro has some meniscus damage, but Luhnow remains hopeful Castro can return with a week.

“We’re still hopeful it’s going to be a short-term situation and he can come back when he’s eligible and shortly after,” Luhnow said. “We’ll know more in the next couple of days.”

Castro, who missed all of last season after undergoing ACL surgery on his right knee, was hitting .254 with two homers and 20 RBIs in 20 games this year, but had begun to experience some soreness in the knee.

“He’s going to have more fluid drained [Wednesday] and hopefully we’ll know more in three or four days,” Luhnow said.

Lowrie has spent time on the disabled list in each of the last four seasons, including this year, when he injured his thumb in Spring Training. He hurt his shoulder last year in a collision with Red Sox teammate Carl Crawford and missed time in 2010 with mononucleosis.

Astros try to snap road skid against Padres

The Astros will carry their 13-game road losing streak into San Diego for a four-game series beginning tonight at PETCO Park. Houston will send J.A. Happ to the mound in an attempt to avoid tying the franchise-long losing streak of 14 games, set in 1968-69 and equaled in 1996-97.

The Astros are 1-13 since June 28, which is the worst record in baseball in that span. The Padres are 9-5 since that date, which is tied for the sixth-best record in baseball.

Here are the pitching match-ups:

MondayLHP J.A. Happ (6-9, 5.14) vs. RHP Kip Wells (1-2, 2.50)
Tuesday RHP Jordan Lyles (2-5, 5.08) vs. RHP Ross Ohlendorf (2-0, 7.41)
Wednesday LHP Wandy Rodriguez (7-7, 3.51) vs. LHP Clayton Richard (6-10, 3.83)
ThursdayRHP Lucas Harrell (7-6, 4.43) vs. RHP Edinson Volquez (5-7, 3.69)

Here are some pre-series tidbits:

  • The Astros have posted a 5.52 ERA on the road, which is the highest by any NL team since the 2009 Pirates. The Padres average 2.98 runs per game at home, which is the lowest in the NL this season.
  • The Astros have a .205 road winning percentage (9-35), lowest by any MLB team since the 1945 Philadelphia A’s had a .171 mark (13-63).
  • Over the last four weeks, the Astros’ offense has been a feast-or-famine proposition. Since June 19, the Astros have scored 27 runs in their five wins (5.4 runs per game) and 35 runs in their 17 losses (2.1 runs per game).
  • After a rough stretch in the first week of July, the Houston bullpen has righted the ship. Astros relievers posted a 8.38 ERA from July 2-4 and a 3.10 ERA since.
  • The Padres’ offense has improved with each month of the 2012 season. They averaged 3.13 runs per game in April, 3.29 in May, 3.85 in June and 4.45 so far in July.
  • IF Scott Moore has accounted for three of Houston’s five homers this month. He has three homers in 36 at-bats in July, while the rest of the team has two homers in 328 at-bats (J.D. Martinez and Chris Snyder have each hit one homer).
  • Astros CF Jordan Schafer is hitting .213 with the bases empty, .276 with runners on base and .300 with runners in scoring position.
  • Only two third basemen with at least 300 plate appearances have higher on-base percentages than Chase Headley’s .368. They are David Wright (.438) and Miguel Cabrera (.386).
  • San Diego’s offensive attack has looked far better in the games Carlos Quentin has played than in the games Quentin has sat out. The Padres are averaging 4.2 runs per game and have a .248 batting average with Quentin and 3.11 runs per game and a .225 average without. The Padres are 15-21 (.417) when Quentin has played, compared to 21-33 (.389) when he has not.
  • Dating to his days in Philadelphia, Astros pitcher J.A. Happ has always been extremely tough when the opposing team has had runners in scoring position. Among active pitchers, Happ has the sixth-lowest career batting average against with runners in scoring position (.218). The only pitchers with a minimum of 500 batters faced with RISP who are better are Johan Santana (.216), Matt Cain (.210), Ian Kennedy (.206), Yovani Gallardo (.204) and Clayton Kershaw (.198).
  • In his three starts this season, Padres starter Kip Wells has also shown an ability to pitch through tight spots. Opponents are hitting .389 against him with the bases empty and .176 with runners on base.

Astros announce Minor League Players of the Month

The Astros player development department has named the following Players of the Month for June: Oklahoma City: RHP Mickey Storey, IF Mike Hessman; Corpus Christi: RHP Jose Cisnero, IF Jonathan Villar, IF Andrew Simunic; Lancaster: RHP Jose Trinidad, C Ben Heath, IF Ben Orloff; Lexington: RHP Mike Foltynewicz, IF Delino DeShields Jr., IF Zach Johnson; Dominican Summer League: RHP Samil De Los Santos, IF Randy Cesar, IF Yoel Silfa. These awards are chosen every month by the field staff of each team.

Triple A Oklahoma City

RHP Mickey Storey, Pitcher of the Month: 3-0, 0.56 ERA (1ER/16IP), 15 SO, 2 BB, .173 (9×52) opponents avg. in 10 app. in June

IF Mike Hessman, Offensive Player of the Month: .279 (29×104), 19 R, 2 2B, 14 HR, 27 RBI, .702 SLG in 26 games in June

IF Mike Hessman, Defensive Player of the Month: 58 games at 1B, .996 FP (2E/514TC) this season

Notes: Mickey Storey allowed just 1 earned run in 16 innings over 10 appearances in June…has compiled a 6-2 record on the season with a 3.49 ERA (19ER/49IP) and 51 strikeouts in 27 appearances (2 starts)…ranks 2nd on the team in wins…Mike Hessman hit 14 home runs in June and currently leads the Pacific Coast League in the category with 26…hit 5 homers in 7 plate appearances over the course of 2 games from 6/3-4…posted a .702 slugging percentage during the month and drove in 27 runs…was named to the PCL All-Star Team…has committed just 2 errors in 514 total chances for a .996 fielding percentage in 58 games at first base this season.

Double A Corpus Christi

RHP Jose Cisnero, Pitcher of the Month: 3-1, 2.18 ERA (8ER/33IP), 31 SO, 8 BB, 1 CG, 1 SHO in 5 starts in June

IF Jonathan Villar, Offensive Player of the Month: .292 (26×89), 20 R, 2 2B, 5 HR, 20 RBI, 12 SB, .396 OBP in 24 games in June

IF Andrew Simunic, Defensive Player of the Month: 65 games, 55 at 3B, .969 FP (6E/191TC), 132 assists this season

Notes: Jose Cisnero threw his first-career complete game shutout on 6/16 at Frisco, allowing just 2 hits and fanning 6…was named the Texas League Pitcher of the Week on 6/4…has a 3.68 ERA (36ER/88IP) in 17 starts this year…his 96 strikeouts rank 2nd in the Texas League…Jonathan Villar hit .292 with 5 homers and 12 stolen bases in June…leads the Texas League with 35 steals…was selected to the Texas League All-Star Game…Andrew Simunic earned Corpus Christi’s defensive player award for the second consecutive month…has put up a .969 fielding percentage in 55 games at third base this season, committing just 6 errors in 157 total chances.

Class A Advanced Lancaster

RHP Jose Trinidad, Pitcher of the Month: 4-1, 0.43 ERA (1ER/21IP), 7 SO in 8 appearances (1 start) in June

C Ben Heath, Offensive Player of the Month: .407 (24×59), 12 R, 4 2B, 3 HR, 16 RBI, 1.063 OPS in 14 games in June

IF Ben Orloff, Defensive Player of the Month: 67 games, 56 at SS, .978 FP (7E/312TC), 195 assists this season

Notes: Jose Trinidad hurled 21 innings in June and allowed just 1 earned run…hurled 7.0 shutout innings in his start on 6/28 vs. Rancho Cucamonga…owns a 2.22 ERA (13ER/52.2IP) in 25 appearances (3 starts) this year…leads Lancaster with 7 total wins… Ben Heath hit at a .407 clip with 4 doubles, 3 homers and a 1.063 OPS during the month of June…had an 11-game hitting streak from 6/7-29 where he went 19×48…Ben Orloff has played 56 games at shortstop this year, making 7 errors in 260 total chances for  a .973 fielding percentage.

Class A Lexington

RHP Mike Foltynewicz, Pitcher of the Month: 3-1, 2.97 ERA (11ER/33.1IP), 20 SO, 10 BB, .242 opponents avg. (31×128) in 5 starts in June

IF Delino DeShields Jr., Offensive Player of the Month: .303 (30×99), 22 R, 4 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 25 SB, .407 OBP in 25 games in June

IF Zach Johnson, Defensive Player of the Month: 70 games at 1B, .993 FP (5E/680TC)

Notes: Mike Foltynewicz threw 6.0 or more innings in all 5 of his June starts, including an 8.0 inning, 1-hit performance against against the Rome Braves on 6/3…started the South Atlantic League All-Star Game, hurling 2.0 scoreless and hitless innings for the South Division…issued no walks and struck out 4 in the game…currently ranks T-1st in the SAL in innings pitched (96.2) and 2nd in wins (9) and ERA (2.51)…Delino DeShields Jr. hit at a .303 (30×99) clip and swiped 25 bases in 25 games in June…currently leads the SAL with 58 steals and ranks 4th in walks (51) and runs scored (64)…set a Lexington record for the most steals in a season with his 49th stolen base on 6/23…was named to the SAL All-Star Game…Zach Johnson has committed just 5 errors in 680 total chances (.993 fielding percentage) over 70 games as Lexington’s everyday first baseman…was selected to the SAL All-Star Team.

Dominican Summer League

RHP Samil De Los Santos, Pitcher of the Month: 2-0, 2.20 ERA (7ER/28.2IP), 28 SO, 8BB .160 (16×112) opponents avg. in 5 apps. (4 starts) in June

IF Randy Cesar, Offensive Player of the Month: .268 (19×71), 9 R, 3 2B, 1 HR, 11 RBI in 20 games in June

IF Yoel Silfa, Defensive Player of the Month: 25 games in the infield, .957 FP (4E/94TC) this season

Notes: Samil De Los Santos went undefeated (2-0) in 5 games (4 starts) with a 2.20 ERA (7ER/28.2IP) to go along with 28 strikeouts in June…in his last two starts, has allowed just 2 runs on 7 hits with 11 strikeouts in 13.2 innings…Randy Cesar hit 3 doubles and 1 home run, driving in 11 runs in 20 games in June…Yoel Silfa has started 25 games in the infield this season, including 15 games at second base, 7 games  at third base and 3 games at shortstop…has 49 assists and has turned 14 double plays while committing 4 errors in 94 total chances.

 

Schafer returns to the Astros lineup

The Astros try to snap their eight-game losing streak tonight at Minute Maid Park against the Brewers.

ASTROS

CF Jordan Schafer

2B Jose Altuve

RF Scott Moore

LF J.D. Martinez

SS Jed Lowrie

1B Chris Johnson

C Jason Castro

3B Matt Dominguez

LHP J.A. Happ

Lee has no regrets about time in Houston

Carlos Lee, who was traded to the Marlins from the Astros on Wednesday, told MLB.com, in his first public comments since the trade, that he has no regrets about his time in Houston and was looking forward to helping the Marlins get back in the National League East race.

The Astros on Wednesday completed a deal to send Lee to the Marlins in exchange for Minor League third baseman Matt Dominguez and left-hander Rob Rasmussen. Dominguez will report to the Astros on Thursday in Pittsburgh; Rasmussen will report to Double-A Corpus Christi.

Lee wasn’t able to make a flight to Milwaukee on Wednesday night to meet his new team and will instead fly in the morning.

“I’m OK with everything. I have no regrets,” he said. “Houston is a great city and there’s a lot of good people there. I had a great time there, and from now on I wish them the best. Hopefully they get started again and rebuild for the future and have an opportunity to win again.”

Lee, who played in 815 games with the Astros and hit .286 with 133 home runs and 533 RBIs in 5 1/2 seasons, said he wasn’t surprised he was traded.

“I knew I was going to get traded at some point,” he said. “Like I told [general manager] Jeff, [Luhnow] I would do whatever is best for the team and for me at the same time. I think everything kind of work out perfect.”

The Astros nearly sent Lee to the Dodgers last weekend and were awaiting his approval on the deal before the Dodgers backed out. Lee has a limited no-trade clause, which means there are 14 teams to which his contract can’t be assigned. The Marlins were not on his list, so he couldn’t block the trade.

Lee said he couldn’t get his family on board with going to L.A.

“The Dodgers was more like a family issue,” he said. “Not everybody agreed to go there. The Dodgers is a great organization and they’re in first place. It was going to be good for me to go there, but I couldn’t get everybody to agree to it.”

Barely a year removed from reaching the World Series in 2005, the Astros signed Lee the day after Thanksgiving in 2006 to a six-year, $100-million contract with hopes he could get them over the hump. A veteran club that included Craig Biggio, Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman had a winning record only once – 86-75 in 2008 – after signing Lee and began to sudden show its age.

The Astros signaled they were rebuilding beginning in 2010 when they traded Oswalt and Berkman, two of the most accomplished players in franchise history, and last year moved up-and-coming outfielder Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn for more prospects.

Lee thinks the Astros are headed in the right direction.

“I think so,” he said. “We’ve got a great group of guys. We’ve got some guys with a lot of talent. You look at the young guys and they can play. They can put together a really good team for a long time.”

Lee believes he has plenty left in his game and believes hitting in the Marlins lineup will benefit him. Lee hasn’t hit a home run on the road this year.

“I can still do a lot of things in the game,” he said. “I’ve still got a lot of trust in myself. I’m going to step in there in their lineup and will get a lot more opportunities to hit with that type lineup. It’s kind of exciting.”

Lee certainly wasn’t the most popular player in Houston, and he realized that, though he didn’t understand. He said despite the perception by some fans that he didn’t always play hard, he gave it his all while with the Astros.

“I always did my best and have a lot of respect for the game,” he said. “I respect the game. This game has been very good to me and when you respect the game you have to do it right. I did nothing but my best there. I had great years there and since the first day I got there I went down a little bit, but one of my worst years was last year and I still drove in 94 runs. I have no complaints.

“I never took anything for granted. For me, regardless where I am and where I’m going to be, I’m going to take the game very seriously and play hard. I’m going to play hard and hopefully we’ll go in there and do what’s expected to from me.”

Dominguez, the Marlins 12th overall pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, is regarded as a standout defensive player who has had his struggles at the plate. In 78 games with Triple-A New Orleans, the 23-year-old batted .234 with seven home runs and 46 RBIs in 78 games.

Rasmussen, a 23-year-old lefty, was 4-7 with a 3.90 ERA in 16 starts at Class A Jupiter. He was recently promoted to Double-A, but didn’t make an appearance. The Marlins selected Rasmussen in the second round out of UCLA in 2010.

Carlos Lee era is over in Houston

Only days after they were unable to complete a deal to send Carlos Lee to the Dodgers, the Astros on Wednesday pulled off a trade to send the 36-year-old veteran to the Marlins. The Astros will get Minor League third baseman Matt Dominguez and left-hander Rob Rasmussen in return.

Dominguez will report to the Astros on Thursday in Pittsburgh, while Rasmussen will report to Double-A Corpus Christi.

“Carlos has been an important part of our team and our community in Houston for almost six seasons and he will be missed,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “We made this move with an eye towards the future, and are very excited about adding Dominguez and Rasmussen to our talent base. Both players have a bright future.”

Lee was pulled from the Astros’ loss to the Pirates at PNC Park in the middle of the seventh inning Wednesday, and by the time reporters were allowed in the clubhouse following the game his locker had been cleaned out and he was gone.

The move paves the way for Brett Wallace to be called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City and finish the year at first base. Wallace has been putting up big numbers in the Minors and performed well in 11 games with the Astros earlier this month, hitting .333 with two homers and four RBIs.

The trade comes as no surprise for an Astros team that’s rebuilding and looking to add more young players. Lee was in the final year of a six-year, $100-million contract and represented one of the last holdovers from an era when the Astros were still competing for playoff spots on yearly basis.

Lee was having poorest offensive showing with the Astros, hitting .287 with only five home runs and 29 RBIs in 66 games. His power has dropped dramatically from the first four years of his contract when he averaged more than 30 homers and drove in more than 100 runs.

It’s not known if the Marlins are paying any of the roughly $9 million Lee is owed this year.

The Astros nearly sent Lee to the Dodgers last weekend and were awaiting his approval on the deal before the Dodgers backed out. Lee has a limited no-trade clause, which means there are 14 teams to which his contract can’t be assigned. The Marlins were not on his list, so he couldn’t block the trade.

Barely a year removed from reaching the World Series in 2005, the Astros signed Lee the day after Thanksgiving in 2006 with hopes he could get them over the hump. A veteran club that included Craig Biggio, Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman had a winning record only once – 86-75 in 2008 – after signing Lee and began to sudden show its age.

The Astros signaled they were rebuilding beginning in 2010 when they traded Oswalt and Berkman, two of the most accomplished players in franchise history, and last year moved up-and-coming outfielder Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn for more prospects.

Lee was moved from left field to first base after Berkman was traded.

Astros GM Jeff Luhnow took over last December and has said he wants to continue to infuse young talent into an increasingly improving Minor League system. Luhnow will probably also try to move veteran starter Wandy Rodriguez and veteran pitcher Brett Myers prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Dominguez was the Marlins 12th overall pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.

The third baseman out of Chatsworth High School near Los Angeles, Dominguez is regarded as a standout defensive player who has had his struggles at the plate. In 78 games with Triple-A New Orleans, the 23-year-old batted .234 with seven home runs and 46 RBIs in 78 games.

When the Marlins moved Hanley Ramirez to third base, it blocked Dominguez’s path to the big leagues.

Rasmussen, a 23-year-old lefty, was 4-7 with a 3.90 ERA in 16 starts at Class A Jupiter. He was recently promoted to Double-A. The Marlins selected Rasmussen in the second round out of UCLA in 2010.

Astros sign 3 international players

The Astros have agreed to terms on contracts with outfielder Luis Payano, shortstop Kristian Trompiz and catcher Victor Tavarez, general manager Jeff Luhnow announced today. Terms of the deals were not disclosed.

Major League Baseball’s international signing period began on Monday. Payano and Trompiz, both 16 years old, are the first two international players signed by Houston during the current signing period.

“The Astros have actively scouted this year’s international prospect class,” Luhnow said. “These players are a good start and a continuation of our attempts to aggregate the best young talent in baseball.”

Payano (6-1, 175), who is from the Dominican Republic, was signed by Astros Dominican scouting supervisor Rafael Belen and Felix Francisco, who is Houston’s special assistant to the general manager/Latin American operations. “Payano is a high-energy player and can be a five-tool player in center field,” Francisco said. “He has the ingredients to become a complete player.”

Tavarez (6-1, 193), who is 17 years old and also from the Dominican Republic, was signed by Francisco, Belen and Dominican scout Jose Ortiz.  “We have scouted Tavarez for some time and feel he has developed quickly in recent months,” Francisco said. “He’s a good receiver who can throw well and his bat continues to impress our scouts.

Trompiz (6-1, 170), who is from Venezuela, was signed by Francisco along with Venezuelan scouting supervisor Oscar Alvarado and Venezuelan Scout Daniel Acuna. “Trompiz is a plus defender who can play shortstop,” Francisco said. “He has good instincts to play the game and is advanced for his age. He also has the ability to make consistent contact and will improve as he gets stronger.”

All three players will report to the Astros Academy in the Dominican Republic

Lee-to-Dodgers deal is off

Tired of waiting for an answer from Astros first baseman Carlos Lee whether he would waive his limited no-trade clause, the Dodgers have pulled their trade offer, according a baseball source.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow didn’t return a message seeking comment.

Lee said following Sunday’s game against the Cubs that he still hadn’t made a decision on whether to accept the trade, though several of his teammates believed the slugger wanted to stay with the Astros. Lee was pulled into manager Brad Mills’ office upon his arrival at Wrigley Field for a closed-door meeting and left with the club for Pittsburgh on Sunday night.

Lee said Saturday he was informed by Luhnow he would be sent to Dodgers in a trade if he approved the deal. Lee, in the final year of six-year, $100-million contract, has a limited no-trade clause and would have to waive it to be sent to Los Angeles. He has given 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.

Brian McTaggart

Lee still hasn’t made a decision

Carlos Lee said Sunday morning he still hadn’t made a decision on whether to accept a trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers, though several of his teammates believe the slugger wants to stay with the Astros. Lee was pulled into manager Brad Mills’ office upon his arrival at Wrigley Field for a closed-door meeting.

When approached by the media at his locker prior to the game, Lee said he hasn’t made a decision.

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.

And that’s what prompted Mills to talk to him

“I just wanted to talk to him about a few things, being in the lineup today and so forth,” Mills said. “I kind of wanted to see where his head was and making sure he’s focused. This is a big decision he has to make, and I want to allow him the opportunity to make that. But he felt he wanted to play and wanted to be in the lineup and that wouldn’t affect us.”

Lee said Saturday he was informed by general manager Jeff Luhnow he would be sent to Dodgers in a trade if he approved the deal. Lee, in the final year of six-year, $100-million contract, has a limited no-trade clause and would have to waive it to be sent to Los Angeles.

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.

He entered play Sunday hitting .285 with five homers and 29 RBIs, but had yet to hit a home run on the road this year.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 75 other followers