September 2012

DeFrancesco has no regrets

Tony DeFrancesco, who was passed over for the full-time managerial job, said Friday he’s glad to get the opportunity to manage the team for the final 41 games of season and hopes to be able to remain on the staff of incoming manager Bo Porter.

“I’m very proud of being an Astro manager and taking over the team,” he said. “I thought we turned it around a little bit. Our goal right now is to get to .500 for the month of September (Astros were 11-13 in September entering Friday).”

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow informed DeFrancesco of the club’s decision following Wednesday night’s game.

DeFrancesco was one of four finalists for the job, which eventually went to Porter. He’s the third base coach for the Nationals and will join the Astros when Washington’s playoff run is over. DeFrancesco, who began this year managing at Triple-A Oklahoma City, will remain in the organization.

“They made the right choice,” DeFrancesco said. “Bo was the guy they wanted and there was no regrets on my part. No regrets on Jeff when he told me the other day that they were going to go with Bo. I’m real happy just to get an opportunity and now hopefully I’m going to remain in the organization at some point – we’re not sure what it is yet.”

DeFrancesco, who has a 1,235-1,088 career record as a manager in the Minor Leagues, would like to be on Porter’s staff. It’s unclear which members of the current coaching staff are going to remain.

“I would love to stay at the Major League level on Bo’s staff and that’s up to [owner] Jim [Crane] and Jeff and Bo to decide if that’s something available,” he said. “I think I do have the option of going back to Oklahoma City and doing the Triple-A team again to manage that. But there might be other avenues down the road for me if it’s somewhere in the front office or in player development or a special assistant or something that route, maybe that’s a direction I could go.”

Q and A with new Astros manager Bo Porter

The Astros on Thursday named Washington Nationals third-base coach Bo Porter as their 17th manager. Porter, 40, will remain with the Nationals until the playoffs are over and will then be charged with taking over an Astros team that will be coming off back-to-back 100-loss seasons.

Porter held a question-and-answer session with the Houston media:

Q: Can you talk about what it means to get the job?

A: “I’m completely honored. It starts with Jim Crane at the top. He’s put together a great leadership team and am I just honored to be a part of that leadership team. When you look at the success in the organization, you have continuity from the top all the way down to the bottom. They did a thorough search and did a great job of doing their due diligence and going through the process, and I’m just honored that I’m the one they decided and were all in agreement I was the man for the job.”

Q: What excites you most about being a part of this team?

A: “What excites me the most is it’s a young group, but at the same time it’s a very talented group. Jeff Luhnow and his staff from the day in which he took over the organization, he has done a great job of surrounding himself with quality people off the field as well as on the field. The talent pool is very good and now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing you here in Houston?

A: “I think the biggest challenge would be basically getting everybody on board with the direction and the vision the leadership group has put together. Jim Crane has made it very clear his goal is to build an organization that will have sustained excellence, and in order to do that you have to build from within your organization and start with the core players. It’s getting everyone on the same wave length, and I think we are all in agreement that message has already started to be delivered and we will continue to deliver that message throughout the whole organization.”

Q: There’s only 30 of these jobs. When did it hit you that you’ve got one of them now, or has it hit you?

A: “It actually hit me yesterday [Wednesday]. I talked to my wife [Stacie] after I finished meeting with Jim, George [Postolos] and Jeff and this is very special for her because my wife is from Houston, she grew up on the southwest side of Houston, she’s a Westbury High School graduate. So it’s a little bit, I guess you could say, more of a chill down her spine. I get to come home, we get to be at home, and at the same time she understands the dynamics of baseball and all that comes with the job because she’s been on this journey with me the entire time. To hear her respond and the joy in her voice really hit home of just how exciting this time is.”

Q: What have you learned from the Nationals experience that translates to what you will be having to do with the Astros?

A: “I think the biggest thing is you look around the diamond at the team we put out there every night and you look at Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detweiler, Bryce Harper, you have Drew Storen in the bullpen and Craig Stammen – you look at that and you say to yourself, ‘All those guys are homegrown.’ If you are able to grow your own talent and they get to the big leagues and they become core players, they’re level of commitment to the overall excellence of the organization runs a little bit deeper than players that may come from the outside or they come here from different avenues into your organization. That’s the goal and the commitment of the organization from the top down, that’s one of the things that driven me to this job. When I sat around and talked with the leadership group, our vision and our plan was dead on. We were on the same page.”

Q: What then will constitute success for you? Ia it wins, losses, or is it a measure of improvement within the organization?

A: “I think the biggest thing is when you start talking about the number of games you’re going to win and you’re going to lose, I tend to focus more on the process, and if you take care of the process, the desired results, you’ll get it much more often. When I speak to the team and we’re talking about… Everybody wants to win a game, so at the end of the day if you take care of the process you will [get there]. From the standpoint from the offseason program, leading into spring Training, all of our conversations from the team, from the players, is let’s worry about the things we can control. And we can control the process.”

Q: What have you learned from other managers with whom you worked, or if you could go back to Hayden Fry at Iowa [former football coach]?

A: “I’ve been blessed to be around some tremendous leaders. You speak about Hayden Fry. He is one of the people that had a huge impact on my life. Early on, I was 17 years old and coming out of high school, and had the fortune of playing baseball and football at the University of Iowa. Coach Fry, when it comes to attention to detail, he takes it to the Nth degree. That is something that I learned at the University of Iowa and has stayed with me throughout my playing days and definitely through my coaching days. Our job as a coach or as a leader is basically put our players in a position to be successful, to help them play to their potential. In order to do that you have to be prepared and you have to be able to give them the information that arms them to play at a fast speed and to have an opportunity to be success. The time I’ve spent with all the managers I’ve been around, from Jim Riggleman and Davey Johnson… Riggleman runs a great ballgame, and I had the fortune to spend some time with him as a player. He was my manager in Chicago and got some time to spend with him as the third base coach in Washington when he was the manager. Davey Johnson has done a great job here and the way he communicates with players, it’s something that they could be linked to, the players feeling a connection you have to have to a player that allows a player to play at a high level. I’ve been blessed to be around a lot of good people. It would be a long list if I sat here and had to name everyone, but I’m one of those people that try to learn from every situation, good or bad, so I would say from the good ones I learned a lot of what to do, and if I found myself in a situation where it was something I didn’t think I would do, you learn from that situation as well.”

Q: How weird is thing going to be for you having this job and still working for the Nationals and trying to win a World Series with them?

A: “One of the great things about this whole process is that everybody was going forward with the overall objective here. We’re trying to be as courteous as possible and ask as any many questions and speak to as many people as possible, but at the same time I don’t want to lose sight of a major goal of this organization that I’m currently working with, the Washington Nationals. We set out in Spring Training and that goal we feel is attainable. We have a chance and out of respect to what our team is doing here, I am going to take as many questions as I can today, but after today when I get to the ballpark, my immediate focus goes back to the job at hand, and that is to do everything I can to be the last team standing to win a World Series championship.”

Q: Some people say you bring a football mentality to baseball? Do you agree with that, and what does that mean?

A: “Well, I think people that know my style, I guess intensity is a word that we use. I’m a passionate person. I’m passionate about going about my work in the right way, and I think that would be a reflection of our ballclub. When you want to do so something and you want to do it well, you need to do it with enthusiasm. And that’s something I’ve always believed in. I think enthusiasm is contagious. I think when you have those kinds of players on your ballclub, a player that may not project the same level of enthusiasm as the next person, that’s something as a team when you see an effort that your fellow teammates are putting out, it kind of makes you go to another level. When they look at me, I want them to see that energy, that intensity , that passion. It gives them a sense of this is how the game is supposed to be played and this is how we’re going to play it.”

Q: What do you see as the biggest challenge in the move to the American League?

A: “I think the biggest thing is whenever you change leagues, just like for a player, there is a get-to-know-you phase where you’re trying to get to know the league and the league is trying to get to know you, but at the end of the day  it’s baseball. Just like when you have Interleague games. The only thing that changes is when an American League team goes to a National League ballpark is that the pitcher has to hit. So my experience in baseball, being in the National League, I got to coach for many years, playing in the American League as a player, it’s baseball and you have to play the game regardless of whether you’re in the National League or the American League.”

Astros narrow search to 3-4 candidates

Astros owner Jim Crane said Tuesday the club has whittled its managerial search to three or four candidates and hopes to be able have the process wrapped up either later this week or early next week. The announcement of the hire will depend on whether the new manager is working for a playoff club.

“It will really depend on the selection we make, how quickly we announce that based upon where the teams are and the candidates we’re talking to,” Crane said. “If they’re in the playoffs, we might have to wait until the playoffs are over.”

Crane said the club has a good feeling about “a couple of candidates,” but said the team is still checking backgrounds and references. He didn’t rule out the idea of any remaining potential candidates having another interview with management.

“We got a very good look at a lot of different people and we learned a lot through the process,” Crane said. “We think the group we have left, any one of them will be a good manager.”

Among the candidate who have interviewed and are still in the hunt are Red Sox bench coach Tim Bogar, Rays bench coach Dave Martinez, Nationals third base coach Bo Porter and Astros interim manager Tony DeFrancesco.

“I’m confident we’re going to get a great manager,” general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “There’s a lot of excellent baseball people that are ready to help the organization. … It’s splitting hairs which one is better than the other. Really, it’s about which one is a better fit for the organization at this point in time given where we’re going.”

Astros hope to pick manager by next week

Astros owner Jim Crane said the club hopes to wrap up its managerial search by the end of next week, but it could be a while before the team is able to announce its next manager.

Crane, who had several of his partners in his hometown on Tuesday for a board meeting, said the Astros have interviewed six candidates to become full-time manager and have two more interviews scheduled. Crane said the final two or three candidates could be brought in for another round of interviews, but some candidates have been ruled out.

“I don’t know when we’re going to announce it,” he said. “We have to figure out the schedule on that. We’re trying to get to a conclusion. It can be a little cumbersome because of the teams [that employ candidates] are in the playoff hunt and we have to be sensitive about the schedule.”

In other words, if the Astros decide to hire a manager who is currently on the staff of a team that makes the playoffs, they’ll have to wait until that team’s season is complete before announcing the choice.

“They wouldn’t come on board until everything’s over,” he said.

Astros president George Postolos and general manager Jeff Luhnow accompanied the Crane to St. Louis, but it’s not known if they were planning to conduct any interviews while here.

“We’re not talking about who we’re interviewing,” Crane said.

What is known is Red Sox bench coach Tim Bogar will interview for the Astros’ full-time managerial opening Wednesday in Tampa, a source told MLB.com. The Red Sox are in the middle of a series against the Rays in St. Petersburg.

Bogar will be the fifth known candidate to interview. Former Padres and Phillies manager Larry Bowa, Nationals third base coach Bo Porter, Rays bench coach Dave Martinez and Astros interim manager Tony DeFrancesco have also interviewed.

But Bowa is out of the running after telling Fox Sports he will not be the next manager of the Astros, saying he and general manager Jeff Luhnow agreed it’s a younger man’s job.

“Jeff and I both were under the understanding that long-term it should be a younger guy — we both agreed on that,” Bowa told the web site. “The interview was really professional. Jeff has his ducks in a row. It’s just going to take some time.”

Crane said he’s pleased with the pool of candidates the Astros have interviewed.

“We’ve gotten to look at some good people,” Crane said. “We’re doing a good job of seeing what we need, who we need and what fits best for us.”

Bogar to interview with Astros on Wednesday

Boston Red Sox bench coach Tim Bogar will interview with the Astros on Wednesday at a location yet to be determined, a source told MLB.com. The Red Sox are in the middle of a series against the Rays in St. Petersburg.

Bogar will be the fifth known candidate to interview for the Astros’ full-time managerial position. Former Padres and Phillies manager Larry Bowa, Nationals third base coach Bo Porter, Rays bench coach Dave Martinez and Astros interim manager Tony DeFrancesco have also interviewed.

Bogar interviewed with the the Astros prior to the 2010 season. The club wound up hiring Brad Mills, who was the Red Sox bench coach.

Bogar has been on the Red Sox staff since the 2009 season and is a former manager in the Astros’ Minor League system. He began his managerial career in 2004 with the rookie-league Greeneville Astros and went 41-26 and won the league title. Bogar managed in Class A Lexington the next year and was named South Atlantic Manager of the Year.

The Indians hired Bogar in 2006, and he led their Double-A Akron affiliate to the Eastern League title and was named the league’s Manager of the Year.

Astros 2012 Minor League recap

The Astros sent out a press release Monday detailing the club’s success this year in the Minor Leagues.

Class A Lancaster’s win to capture the California League championship on Saturday night put an exclamation point on what was a highly successful season for the Astros’ Minor League system in 2012.

The Astros saw dramatic improvement in the performance of their Minor League clubs this season, posting the fourth-best combined record in baseball at 439-394 (.527). Domestically, the Astros 417-347 (.546) record was tops in baseball. Six of the Astros’ eight Minor League clubs finished at .500 or above with three advancing to postseason play. In 2011, the Astros’ Minor League clubs ranked last (30th) with a 337-488 (.408) combined record with no clubs finishing at .500 or above. The improvement from 2011 to 2012 was one of the most dramatic of any organization in recent years.

Since taking control of the organization in November of 2011, Astros owner Jim Crane has emphasized the importance of building a strong farm system that will result in sustained success at the Major League level.

The 2012 success of the Minor League system culminated with Lancaster winning the first league championship in the club’s 17-year history. The JetHawks went 8-2 in the playoffs, winning their last five games en route to the title. Tri-City (A), who won a club-record 51 games during the regular season in 2012, fell one win shy of winning the NY-Penn League championship.

THE PLAYERS

Several players in the Astros system had outstanding seasons in 2012 and are viewed as among the top prospects at their positions in all of minor league baseball. Double-A Corpus Christi first baseman Jonathan Singleton and Class Lancaster second baseman Delino DeShields Jr. were recently named to the Baseball America 2012 Minor League All-Star team. They were two of just eight position players named to the squad out of every club. Additionally, MLB.com’s Prospect Watch lists Singleton at No. 1 among first basemen, DeShields at No. 2 among second basemen and Astros 2012 first-round draft pick Carlos Correa at No. 10 among shortstops. Correa, who will turn 18 on Saturday, was the first overall pick in the Draft.

OF George Springer, the Astros No. 1 draft pick in 2011, had an outstanding first full season in professional baseball, hitting .318 with 10 triples, 22 HR, 82 RBIs and 28 SBs with a .955 on-base plus slugging in just 106 games at Lancaster before being promoted to Corpus Christi.  Nineteen-year-old OF Domingo Santana also had a fine season in Lancaster, hitting .302 with 23 HRs, 26 doubles, six triples, 97 RBIs and a .921 on-base plus slugging. Class Lexington RHP Mike Foltynewicz, another first-round pick from the 2010 Draft, was named the South Atlantic League’s Most Outstanding Pitcher after posting a 14-4 record with a 3.14 ERA in 27 starts. Lexington IF Zach Johnson led the SAL in RBIS with a club-record 108.

Tri-City C Tyler Heineman (8th pick, 2012 Draft) won the NY-Penn League batting title with a .358 average while ranking 2nd in on-base-pct. (.452). Tri-City starters RHP Aaron West (6-2, 2.04 ERA), LHP Brian Holmes (7-2, 2.57 ERA), RHP Brady Rogers (7-2, 2.89) and RHP Lance Day (6-1, 2.73), all drafted or signed in 2012, played a major role in the ValleyCats playoff run.

RESTOCKING THE SYSTEM

Several prospects were added to the Astros’ Minor League system this season as a result of the MLB First-Year Player Draft and trades made during the season. Several industry experts rated the Astros draft as one of the best in baseball, highlighted by the selection of Correa and RHP Lance McCullers, Jr., selected in the supplemental first round. Correa hit .371 in 11 games at Rookie Level Greeneville after being promoted from the Gulf Coast League Astros after 39 games. McCullers, 18,  tallied 29 strikeouts in 26 innings at two levels while allowing just 20 hits.

As part of the organization’s plan to infuse young talent into the system, general manager Jeff Luhnow acquired 17 players in five trades this season, several of whom are former first-round Draft picks. Several had an immediate and positive impact on the organization after arriving. Twenty-one-year-old RHP Chris Devenski, acquired in a four-player deal with the White Sox, hurled a no-hitter for Lexington on Sept.1 vs. Rome, striking out 16 batters in the game. 23-year-old 3B Matt Dominguez, acquired from Miami, is already contributing at the big league level, hitting .292 in 20 games for the Astros with four home runs (three three-run homers) while  starting virtually every day at third base since Aug. 30.

Below is a recap of each affiliate’s 2012 season

TRIPLE-A OKLAHOMA CITY: (78-65, 2nd place)

Oklahoma City finished the 2012 season with a 78-65 record and a 2nd-place finish in the Pacific Coast League American Southern Division … The RedHawks finished the year with the best record for a non-playoff team in club history … Oklahoma City fell just 1 1/2 games short of a playoff berth … On Sept. 11, the Astros announced that the player development contract between the RedHawks and Astros would be extended through the 2014 season.

Red-Hot RedHawk: IF Jimmy Paredes hit .318 (161-for-507) with 28 doubles, 13 homers, 59 RBIs and 37 stolen bases in 124 games in 2012 before a promotion to the Major Leagues … Paredes was tied for first in the PCL in steals, secod in hits and total bases (242) and third in runs scored (92) at the time of his call-up … He was a PCL Mid-Season All-Star and was named the PCL Player of the Week on July 23.

Lefty Masher: IF Brett Wallace posted a .300 (93-for-310) batting average with 16 doubles, 16 homers and an .885 on-base plus slugging in 86 games with OKC this year … Wallace hit at .354 (35-for-99) against left-handed pitching this season … The 2012 season marked his third consecutive year with a .300-plus batting average at the Triple-A level, hitting .356 (37-for-104) in 2011 and .301 (116-for-385) in 2010.

Solid Stretch Run: LHP Brett Oberholtzer put up a 2.02 ERA (eight earned runs/35 2/3 innings pitched) with 31 strikeouts over his last five starts of the season … LHP Rudy Owens went 2-3 with a 2.93 ERA (10 earned runs/30 2/3 innings pitched) over his final five starts … Owens was acquired by the Astros in the Wandy Rodriguez trade.

Top Prospect: In six appearances (five starts) with OKC, RHP Jarred Cosart went 1-2 with a 2.60 ERA (8 earned runs/27 2/3 innings pitched) and 24 strikeouts … In his final 18 innings, Cosart ranked third in the PCL with a 2.27 groundball/flyball ratio …  He was ranked by MLB.com as the organization’s top pitching prospect, Cosart posted a 3.52 ERA (34 earned runs/87 innings pitched) in 15 starts with Double-A Corpus Christi before his promotion to OKC.

Homer King: In his first season in the Astros organization, IF Mike Hessman led the PCL and the entire Astros system with 35 homers.

DOUBLE-A CORPUS CHRISTI: (81-59, 1st place) – Texas League South Division Regular Season Winner

Corpus Christi went 81-59 in the regular season, which was the best record in the Texas League and the club’s best record in franchise history … The Hooks made the playoffs for the first time since the 2006 season (76-63), when they won the Texas League Championship … Over the final 97 games of the 2012 season, Texas League Manager of the Year Keith Bodie led the Hooks to a 63-34 (.649) record.

On the Rise:In his first full season at the Double-A level, IF Jonathan Singleton hit .284 (131-for-461) with 94 runs, 27 doubles, four triples, 21 homers, 79 RBIs and 88 walks … Singleton ranked tied for first in the Texas League in runs and ranked fourth with an .893 on-base plus slugging (.396 on-base/.497 slugging) …  He was recognized as one of the top prospects in baseball when he was chosen to participate in the 2012 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, where he went 3-for-4 with two runs scored, one walk and one RBI … The 20-year old entered the season as the third-youngest player in the league … He was named to Baseball America’s 2012 All-Star Team for all of Minor League baseball.

K-Collector: RHP Jose Cisnero led the Texas League with 116 strikeouts before a promotion to Triple-A Oklahoma City … In 20 starts with the Hooks, he posted a 9-6 record with a 3.40 ERA (41E earned runs, 108 2/3 innings) and a .227 (93-for-410) opponents batting average … Cisnero finished the season with 148 total strikeouts between the Double-A and Triple-A levels … The 2012 season marked the third consecutive season that the right-handerrecorded more than 100 strikeouts.

Hit Machines: OF Austin Wates and OF Jake Goebbert finished the season tied for fourth in the Texas League with a .304 batting average … Wates, a 3rd-round draft pick in 2010,hit .300 (158-for-526) last year for Class A Advanced Lancaster before posting a .304 (109-for-359) average for the Hooks in 2012 … Goebbert hit .305 (83-for-272) for Corpus Christi in 2011 before hitting .304 (112-for-368) for the club this season … the 2009 13th-round pick added 23 doubles, six triples and nine homers for the Hooks in 2012.

New Arms: Three of the Astros newly acquired pitching prospects made successful debuts in Corpus Christi … RHP Asher Wojciechowski went 2-2 with a 2.06 ERA (10 earned runs/43 2/3) and 34 strikeouts in eight starts with the Hooks … He ranked 2nd in the Texas League in ERA after joining the club … In his final six starts with Corpus Christi, LHP Rob Rasmussen posted a 3-2 record with a 3.31 ERA (13 earned runs/35 1/3 innings pitched) and 32 strikeouts … RHP Matt Heidenreich tallied three wins with a 3.67 ERA (14 earned runs/34 1/3 innings pitched) in seven starts with the Hooks.

Top Thief: Although he was on the DL for the final 54 games of the season, IF Jonathan Villar still led the Texas League with 39 stolen bases … Villar hit .261 (85-for-326) and added 11 homers and 50 RBIs.

Reliable Relief: RHP Jason Stoffel led the Texas League with 27 saves … He went 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA (15 earned runs/58 innings pitched) and 57 strikeouts … He closed out the regular season with nine consecutive scoreless appearances (9 1/3 innings) … LHP Kevin Chapman posted a 6-3 record along with a 2.64 ERA (17 earned runs/58 innings) and 59 strikeouts in 49 relief appearances this season … Chapman was acquired by the Astros in the Jason Bourgeois/Humberto Quintero trade.

CLASS A ADVANCED LANCASTER: (74-66, 2nd place) – California League Champions

The Lancaster JetHawks won the California League Championship after sweeping the Modesto Nuts, 3-0, in the Championship Series … It marked the first championship title in the club’s 17-year history … Lancaster went 8-2 in the playoffs, including a 5-0 run to close out the postseason … The JetHawks finished in second place in the California League South Division during the regular season.

Spring in California: OF George Springer tore through the California League in his first full-season of pro baseball with a  .955 on-base plus slugging (.398 on-base/.557 slugging) … The 2011 first-round draft pick out of UConn hit .318 (137-for-433) with 101 runs, 18 doubles, 10 triples, 22 homers, 82 RBIs and 28 stolen bases in 106 games before a promotion to Double-A … At the time of his callup, Springer ranked in the league’s top 10 in average (eighth), runs (first), hits (second), extra-base hits (second), total bases (first), triples (second), homers (tied-third), RBIS (fifth), walks (fifth), stolen bases (sixth), OBP (tied, sixth), SLG (second) and on-base plus slugging (second) … He received mid-season and post-season All-Star honors.

Young-Hawk:At 19 years old, OF Domingo Santana entered the 2012 season as the youngest player in the California League … The Dominican-native hit .302 (138-for-457) with 87 runs, 26 doubles, six triples, 23 homers, 97 RBIs and a .921 on-base plus slugging (.385 on-base/.536 slugging).

Towering Texan: RHP Bobby Doran was Lancaster’s most consistent starter before a promotion to Double-A … The 6-foot-6, 235 pound right-hander from Flower Mound, Texas,posted an 8-4 record with a 3.57 ERA (41 earned runs/103 1/3 innings pitched) and 70 strikeouts in the hitter-friendly California League … Doran was named a California League Mid-Season All-Star.

Power Surge:The JetHawks boasted two of the premier home run hitters in the California League in Telvin Nash and Erik CastroNash was second in the league with 29 homers, while Castro finished tied for third in the league with 27 blasts … as a team, Lancaster ranked third in the league in home runs.

Quality Control: RHP David Martinez was one of the league’s top pitchers in the second half of the season … Martinez went 7-2 with a 3.08 ERA (30 earned runs/87 2/3 innings) and just 14 walks in 14 appearances (13 starts) … He led the league in inning pitched over the second half and ranked third in ERA … He also led the club with nine wins.

Ni-Tro Part II: After dominating the South Atlantic League with the Lexington Legends, RHP Nick Tropeano continued his stellar play in his 12 starts with Lancaster … The 2011 5th-round pick went 6-3 with a 3.31 ERA (26 earned runs/70 2/3 innings pitched) and 69 strikeouts … After his promotion to Lancaster on July 1, he ranked tied for first n the California League in strikeouts, forth in innings pitched, sixth in ERA, and tied for sixth in wins.

CLASS A LEXINGTON: (69-69, 4th place)

At 69-69 overall, Lexington finished 4th overall in the South Atlantic League Southern Division … The club recorded a 39-30 record in the first half.

League’s Top Pitcher: RHP Mike Foltynewicz was voted by the SAL’s field managers, general managers, writers and broadcasters as the league’s Most Outstanding PItcher for the 2012 season … Foltynewicz went 14-4 with a 3.14 ERA (53 earned runs/152 innings pitched) and 125 strikeouts in 27 starts for Lexington … He ranked tied for first in the league in wins, secnd in innings pitched, fourth in ERA and sixth in strikeouts … His 19 career wins at Lexington are a club record (previously held by Mike Nannini who had 15 wins).

Delino-mite: IF Delino DeShields set an Astros’ Minor League record with 101 steals this season (83 with Lexington, 18 with Lancaster) … His 83 stolen bases with Lexington broke the previous franchise-record of 48 stolen bases by Josh Anderson set in 2004 … DeShields hit .298 (131-for-440) with 96 runs, 22 doubles, 5 triples, 10 homers, 52 RBIs and a .401 on-base percentage with Lexington … He hit .344 (62-for-180) with a .990 on-base plus slugging in 45 second-half games … The 2010 first-round pick was named to Baseball America’s 2012 All-Star Team for all of Minor League baseball.

Historic Legend: After coming to the Astros organization as the player to be named later in the Brett Myers trade, RHP Chris Devenski threw the first individual no-hitter in Legends club history on Sept. 1. He struck out 16 batters and issued just one walk in his performance that garnered him SAL Pitcher of the Week honors … In five starts with Lexington, he went 2-2 with a 3.07 ERA (10 earned runs/29 1/3 innings pitched) and 38 strikeouts.

100 Club: IF Zach Johnson led the SAL and set a club record with 108 RBIs … The record was previously held by Jake Goebbert, who drove in 98 runs in 2009 … Johnson hit 15 homers and ranked third for third in the SAL with 38 doubles.

Ni-Tro Part I: RHP Nick Tropeano was superb in 15 appearances (14 starts) with Lexington before a promotion to Lancaster, going 6-4 with a 2.78 ERA (27 earned runs/87 1/3 innings pitched) and 97 strikeouts … He was leading the SAL in innings pitched and strikeouts at the time of his call-up.

Take Your Base:From his arrival in Lexington until the end of the season, 2012 2nd-round draft selection IF Nolan Fontana led the SAL with a .464 on-base percentage … He drew 65 walks as opposed to 44 strikeouts … From his debut on July 5 until Aug. 17, Fontana reached base in 34 consecutive games.

SHORT-SEASON TRI-CITY: (51-25, 1st place) – Stedler Division Regular Season Champions

Tri-City advanced to the New York-Penn League Championship for the second time in the last three years, and the forth time in franchise history … The Stedler Division regular-season champs recorded the most wins in franchise history (51) and set a franchise record in attendance by drawing 159,966 fans … The club also set a franchise record with 17 sellouts … On Sept. 6, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow announced that the Astros and ValleyCats had extended their player development contract through the 2014 season.

Batting Champ:A2012 eighth-round draft selection C Tyler Heineman won the NYPL batting title after hitting .358 (69-for-193) in 55 games …He also ranked second in the league with a .452 on-base percentage.

Stocked Stable: The ValleyCats had a loaded starting rotation this season … RHP Aaron West (6-2, 2.04 ERA) led the way with 59 strikeouts and the seventh-lowest ERA in the league … LHP Brian Holmes (7-2, 2.57 ERA) finished sixth in the league in strikeouts with 65 … RHP Brady Rodgers (7-2, 2.89 ERA) gave up just 11 walks in his 62 1/3 innings … A 2012 undrafted free agent, RHP Lance Day (6-1, 2.73 ERA) gave up just eight walks, posting a 1.14 WHIP in 11 appearances (eight starts) … RHP Vincent Velasquez (4-1, 3.35 ERA) struck out 51 batters in 45 2/3 innings pitched … RHP Juri Perez went 2-2 with a 1.81 ERA (10 earned runs/49 2/3 innings) in nine appearances (eight starts).

Outfield Threats:OF Andrew Aplin and OF Preston Tucker were both 2012 Draft selections that made successful debuts in Tri-City … Aplin (.348, four homers),the Astros fifth-round pick, was leading the NYPL in steals (20) and ranked 2nd in on-base plus slugging (.978) in his 44 games with the club before a promotion to Class A Advanced Lancaster … Preston Tucker hit .321 (53-for-165) with eight homers and a .899 on-base plus slugging (.390 on-base/.509 slugging), winning NYPL player of the week honors twice … The eighth-round draft selection posted a 15-game hitting streak from Aug. 10-26.

Lights Out ‘Pen: LHP Kenny Long gave up just three runs in 17 appearances, leading the league in holds with eight … Closer RHP Blake Ford was tied for first in the league with 14 saves, posting a 2.28 ERA (7 earned runs/27  2/3 innings) in 27 appearances.

ROOKIE-LEVEL GREENEVILLE: (36-32, 3rd place)

At 36-32, Greeneville finished the season with the club’s best record since its inaugural season in 2004 (41-26) … The Astros led the Appalachian League in attendance for the ninth straight season.

Blazing the Trail: IF Brian Blasik, who was signed as an undrafted free agent this season, hit .318 (69-for-217) and led the club with 43 RBIs … Blasik ranked fifth in the league in RBIs and was named an Appalachian League All-Star … He was also named his team’s MVP.

Rising Star: IF Carlos Correa, the first overall selection in the 2012 draft, hit .371 (13-for-35) with three doubles, one triple and one homer in 11 games with Greeneville … Correa was promoted to Greeneville after 39 games in the Gulf Coast League … The 17-year old hit 11 doubles, one triple and two homers during his time in the GCL.

ERA Leader: RHP Daniel Minor led the league with a 2.75 ERA (18 earned runs/59 innings) in 11 starts … Minor threw 19 consecutive scoreless innings over three starts from Aug. 4-17 that earned him pitcher of the week honors.

1st-Rounder Update: RHP Lance McCullers, the Astros 2012 supplemental 1st-round pick, posted a combined 3.46 ERA (10 earned runs/26 innings pitched) with 29 strikeouts in eight starts between Greeneville and the Gulf Coast League.

GULF COAST LEAGUE ASTROS: (28-31, 3rd place)

All-Star Astro: IF Darwin Rivera ranked tied for sixth in the GCL in average (.310), tied for second in hits (62), and 3rd in doubles (14) … Rivera was elected to the GCL All-Star Team.

DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE ASTROS: (22-47, 8th place)

 Pitching Leaders: LHP Edwin Villarroel led the team with 68 innings pitched and posted a 2.25 ERA (17 earned runs/68 innings) … RHP Samil De Los Santos went 2-3, recording a 2.50 ERA (16 earned runs/57  2/3 innings pitched) and 63 strikeouts … Both pitchers were named DSL All-Stars.

Luhnow meets with Bowa on ‘baseball related matters’

Larry Bowa, a long-time Major League player, manager and coach, was at Minute Maid Park on Friday to meet with general manager Jeff Luhnow at a time when the Astros are searching for a manager.

Luhnow, who picked up Bowa at the airport on Friday morning, wouldn’t confirm whether Bowa was a candidate for the full-time managerial position. Bowa, before leaving the airport, said he was meeting to “exchange baseball ideas.”

Luhnow later said in a text message to MLB.com: “Larry is here to meet with me on some baseball related matters.”

Bowa comes to Houston one day after Nationals third base coach Bo Porter was in town to interview on Thursday. Earlier in the week, the Astros interviewed Rays bench coach Dave Martinez for their managerial position, a source told MLB.com.

Martinez, 47, has been the bench coach of the Rays since 2008 and served as a Spring Training coach for manager Joe Maddon the previous two seasons. Martinez played 16 seasons in the Major Leagues with eight different teams.

As a player, Bowa was a five-time All-Star selection with the Phillies and also played for the Cubs and the Mets. A fiery personality as a player and later as a manager, he was a career .260 hitter in 16 Major League seasons and finished his career with 2,191 hits and won a World Series with the Phillies in 1980.

Bowa managed the Padres in 1987-88 and later managed the Phillies from 2001-04. He also served as a coach with the Phillies, Angels, Mariners, Yankees and Dodgers. In six years as a manager, he was 418-435 (.490) with no post-season appearances.

He was named National League Manager of the Year in 2001 after the Phillies went from last place in 2000 to within two games of the division title the next year. He was dismissed with two games remaining in the 2004 season.

Bowa, 66, has been a studio analyst for the MLB Network since early in 2011.

The Astros began interviewing managerial candidates this week in an effort to find a full-time manager. Brad Mills was let go last month after nearly three years at the helm of the club, and Tony DeFrancesco has been managing the club on an interim basis.

Astros to interview Bo Porter

Nationals third base coach Bo Porter arrived in Houston on Thursday afternoon to interview with the Astros for their vacant managerial position. Porter is the first name to surface as having interviewed for the full-time job.

Porter, who lives in the Houston area and is in his second season with the Nationals, declined to comment. He was picked up at the airport by Astros owner Jim Crane.

Porter, 40, has interviewed for managerial jobs previously, mostly recently with the Marlins in the middle of the 2010 season after they had dismissed Fredi Gonzalez.

Prior to joining the Nationals, Porter was the third base coach for the D-backs for one year and later served briefly as bench coach in Arizona under Kirk Gibson.

The Astros began interviewing managerial candidates this week in an effort to find a full-time manager. Brad Mills was let go last month after nearly three years at the helm of the club, and Tony DeFrancesco has been managing the club on an interim basis.

Porter played a little more than three seasons in the Major Leagues with the Cubs, A’s and Rangers. He began his coaching career in 2005 as the hitting coach for Class A Greensboro and later as manager at Class A Jamestown in 2006. He served as the Marlins’ third base coach and baserunning instructor from 2007-09.

Astros 2013 schedule is out

SCROLL DOWN FOR FULL SCHEDULE

The Astros will kick off their inaugural season in the American League West in 2013 with 15 consecutive games against their new division opponents, including an opening series at home against the Texas Rangers, April 2-4. The Astros will open at home for the 29th time in the last 35 years when the Rangers play the first of 10 games at Minute Maid Park next year.

Houston will play each team in the AL West 19 times in 2013, with the Rangers and Seattle Mariners playing 10 games each in Houston and the A’s and the Los Angeles Angels coming to Minute Maid Park for nine games. The Astros will play 10 games at Oakland and Los Angeles and nine at Arlington and Seattle.

And the Astros aren’t done with the NL Central just yet.

Houston will play three games in Pittsburgh (May 17-19) and in Chicago against the Cubs (June 21-23), while playing host to the Brewers (June 18-20) and Reds (Sept. 16-18) for three games. They will play a pair of two-game series against the Cardinals that will begin in Houston (June 25-26) before moving to St. Louis (July 9-10).

Another quirk to the new schedule has the Astros playing four consecutive games against the Rockies – two in Houston on May 27-28 and followed by two in Denver on May 29-30. In all, the Astros will play 20 Interleague games against NL clubs.

The Boston Red Sox will make their lone trip to Houston on Aug. 5-7, while the New York Yankees won’t invade Minute Maid Park until the final three regular-season games of the year, Sept. 27-29.

Astros 2013 schedule

(Home games in bold; Times TBA)

                Tuesday, April 2 – Texas

                Wednesday, April 3 – Texas

                Thursday, April 4 – Texas

                Friday, April 5 – Oakland

                Saturday, April 6 – Oakland

                Sunday, April 7 – Oakland

Monday, April 8 – at Seattle

Tuesday, April 9 – at Seattle

Wednesday, April 10 – at Seattle

Friday, April 12 – at L.A. Angels

Saturday, April 13 – at L.A. Angels

Sunday, April 14 – at L.A. Angels

Monday, April 15 – at Oakland

Tuesday, April 16 – at Oakland

Wednesday, April 17 – at Oakland

                Friday, April 19 – Cleveland

                Saturday, April 20 – Cleveland

                Sunday, April 21 – Cleveland

                Monday, April 22 – Seattle

                Tuesday, April 23 – Seattle

                Wednesday, April 24 – Seattle

Thursday, April 25 – at Boston

Friday, April 26 – at Boston

Saturday, April 27 – at Boston

Sunday, April 28 – at Boston

Monday, April 29 – at N.Y. Yankees

Tuesday, April 30 – at N.Y. Yankees

Wednesday, May 1 – at N.Y. Yankees

                Thursday, May 2 – Detroit

                Friday, May 3 – Detroit

                Saturday, May 4 – Detroit

                Sunday, May 5 – Detroit

                Tuesday, May 7 – L.A. Angels

                Wednesday, May 8 – L.A. Angels

                Thursday, May 9 – L.A. Angels

                Friday, May 10 – Texas

                Saturday, May 11 – Texas

                Sunday, May 12 – Texas

Monday, May 13 – at Detroit

Tuesday, May 14 – at Detroit

Wednesday, May 15 – at Detroit

Friday, May 17 – at Pittsburgh

Saturday, May 18 – at Pittsburgh

Sunday, May 19 – at Pittsburgh

                Monday, May 20 – Kansas City

                Tuesday, May 21 – Kansas City

                Wednesday, May 22 – Kansas City

                Friday, May 24 – Oakland

                Saturday, May 25 – Oakland

                Sunday, May 26 – Oakland

                Monday, May 27 – Colorado

                Tuesday, May 28 – Colorado

Wednesday, May 29 – at Colorado

Thursday, May 30 – at Colorado

Friday, May 31 – at L.A. Angels

Saturday, June 1 – at L.A. Angels

Sunday, June 2 – at L.A. Angels

Monday, June 3 – at L.A. Angels

                Tuesday, June 4 – Baltimore

                Wednesday, June 5 – Baltimore

                Thursday, June 6 – Baltimore

Friday, June 7 – at Kansas City

Saturday, June 8 – at Kansas City

Sunday, June 9 – at Kansas City

Monday, June 10 – at Seattle

Tuesday, June 11 – at Seattle

Wednesday, June 12 – at Seattle

                Friday, June 14 – Chicago White Sox

                Saturday, June 15 – Chicago White Sox

                Sunday, June 16 – Chicago White Sox

                Monday, June 17 – Chicago White Sox

                Tuesday, June 18 – Milwaukee

                Wednesday, June 19 – Milwaukee

                Thursday, June 20 – Milwaukee

Friday, June 21 – at Chicago Cubs

Saturday, June 22 – at Chicago Cubs

Sunday, June 23 – at Chicago Cubs

                Tuesday, June 25 – St. Louis

                Wednesday, June 26 – St. Louis

                Friday, June 28 – L.A. Angels

                Saturday, June 29 – L.A. Angels

                Sunday, June 30 – L.A. Angels

                Monday, July 1 – Tampa Bay

                Tuesday, July 2 – Tampa Bay

                Wednesday, July 3 – Tampa Bay

                Thursday, July 4 – Tampa Bay

Friday, July 5 – at Texas

Saturday, July 6 – at Texas

Sunday, July 7 – at Texas

Tuesday, July 9 – at St. Louis

Wednesday, July 10 – at St. Louis

Friday, July 12 – at Tampa Bay

Saturday, July 13 – at Tampa Bay

Sunday, July 14 – at Tampa Bay

 

ALL-STAR BREAK

                Friday, July 19 – Seattle

                Saturday, July 20 – Seattle

                Sunday, July 21 – Seattle

                Monday, July 22 – Oakland

                Tuesday, July 23 – Oakland

                Wednesday, July 24 – Oakland

Thursday, July 25 – at Toronto

Friday, July 26 – at Toronto

Saturday, July 27 – at Toronto

Sunday, July 28 – at Toronto

Tuesday, July 30 – at Baltimore

Wednesday, July 31 – at Baltimore

Thursday, Aug. 1 – at Baltimore

Friday, Aug. 2 – at Minnesota

Saturday, Aug. 3 – at Minnesota

Sunday, Aug. 4 – at Minnesota

                Monday, Aug. 5 – Boston

                Tuesday, Aug. 6 – Boston

                Wednesday, Aug. 7 – Boston

                Friday, Aug. 9 – Texas

                Saturday, Aug. 10 – Texas

                Sunday, Aug. 11 – Texas

                Monday, Aug. 12 – Texas

Tuesday, Aug. 13 – at Oakland

Wednesday, Aug. 14 – at Oakland

Thursday, Aug. 15 – at Oakland

Friday, Aug. 16 – at L.A. Angels

Saturday, Aug. 17 – at L.A. Angels

Sunday, Aug. 18 – at L.A. Angels

Monday, Aug. 19 – at Texas

Tuesday, Aug. 20 – at Texas

Wednesday, Aug. 21 – at Texas

                Friday, Aug. 23 – Toronto

                Saturday, Aug. 24 – Toronto

                Sunday, Aug. 25 – Toronto

Monday, Aug. 26 – at Chicago White Sox

Tuesday, Aug. 27 – at Chicago White Sox

Wednesday, Aug. 28 – at Chicago White Sox

                Thursday, Aug. 29 – Seattle

                Friday, Aug. 30 – Seattle

                Saturday, Aug. 31 – Seattle

                Sunday, Sept. 1 – Seattle

                Monday, Sept. 2 – Minnesota

                Tuesday, Sept. 3 – Minnesota

                Wednesday, Sept. 4 – Minnesota

Thursday, Sept. 5 – at Oakland

Friday, Sept. 6 – at Oakland

Saturday, Sept. 7 – at Oakland

Sunday, Sept. 8 – at Oakland

Monday, Sept. 9 – at Seattle

Tuesday, Sept. 10 – at Seattle

Wednesday, Sept. 11 – at Seattle

                Friday, Sept. 13 – L.A. Angels

                Saturday, Sept. 14 – L.A. Angels

                Sunday, Sept. 15 – L.A. Angels

                Monday, Sept. 16 – Cincinnati

                Tuesday, Sept. 17 – Cincinnati

                Wednesday, Sept. 18 – Cincinnati

Thursday, Sept. 19 – at Cleveland

Friday, Sept. 20 – at Cleveland

Saturday, Sept. 21 – at Cleveland

Sunday, Sept. 22 – at Cleveland

Monday, Sept. 23 – at Texas

Tuesday, Sept. 24 – at Texas

Wednesday, Sept. 25 – at Texas

                Friday, Sept. 27 – New York Yankees

                Saturday, Sept. 28 – New York Yankees

                Sunday, Sept. 29 – New York Yankees

Biggio playing integral role in mangerial search

Craig Biggio might not be ready to throw his name into the team’s managerial search, but he’s certainly going to have a say in finding the Astros’ next skipper. Biggio, a special assistant to general manager Jeff Luhnow, is involved in the interview process to find a full-time manager.

“I’m honored and excited about it,” he said. “I’ve been part of this organization for a long period of time and they trust my judgment and my decision-making. I’m honored to be part of this process.”

With the Astros still undergoing a large-scale overhaul in their on-field talent, Biggio recognizes the importance of finding the right man for the job.

“It’s an exciting time for this organization,” he said. “You’re looking at getting a guy, a baseball man that’s going to lead these kids in the right direction and get them back to where we were before. Whenever you’re looking for a manager, you’re looking for somebody who’s hopefully going to be around here for the  next 10 years. That’s the type of personality you’re trying to look it.”

Of course, Biggio played for seven different managers – Hal Lanier, Art Howe, Terry Collins, Larry Dierker, Jimy Williams, Phil Garner and Cecil Cooper – during his 20-year Astros career, so he knows a little bit about what it takes to be a successful manager.

“There’s no doubt about it,” he said. “There’s a lot of things that go on when you’re with the manager and coaching staff and players and the relationships you have with them and relationships you have in the clubhouse and in the airplane. There’s a lot of things that go on, and we’ve had some really good ones over the years, and we’re trying to find a lot more.”

Biggio endured a rebuilding phase early in his career, with the club losing 97 games in 1991. They improved to 81-81 in 1992, 85-77 in 1993 and had a 66-49 record in the strike-shortened season of 1994. Beginning in 1997, the Astros won four division titles in five years.

“That’s how quickly it turns around when you have the right personnel and the right people and right leadership involved,” Biggio said. “It doesn’t happen overnight, but when you have the right people in the right situations it can turn around quicker than the players think it could.”

Biggio has become a trusted adviser to Luhnow, and his presence is the interview room during the managerial search is much more than window dressing.

“I like this side of it,” Biggio said. “You’re a part of a team down here [on the field] and part of a team up there [in the GM’s box], but as an organization you all work together. When we all work together we’re going to be pretty successful, and that’s the reason why the years we had here when we had the second-best record over a 10-year period is because your ownership group and front-office group and field personnel and the team were all on the same page, and once you get back to that we’ll start winning a lot more baseball games.”

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