March 2013

Poll: How many games will the Astros win in 2013?

Now that we know what the roster is going to look like on Sunday when the Astros face the Rangers in their American League debut, it’s time for your voice to be heard. Based on what you know about the Astros, the influence of manager Bo Porter and the rest of the AL West, how many games will the Astros win in 2013?

Take the poll:

Big day from Singleton ends Astros’ stay in Florida

The Astros wrapped up Grapefruit League play with an 11-4 win over the Tigers on Thursday afternoon at Osceola County Stadium, getting a pair of homers from Jonathan Singleton and one each from Jason Castro and Rick Ankiel.

After the game, the clubhouse was bustling with activity as players showered, packed and boarded buses for their charter flight to Houston. The Astros will play the Cubs in exhibition on Friday and Saturday at Minute Maid Park.

“I think everybody is excited to get on the airplane and get back to Houston,” Astros manager Bo Porter said.

With four homers Thursday, the Astros have hit 46 homers in 33 games in Florida — their most since hitting 48 in 2002. Porter says he’s confident the power surge will carry into season.

“I’m extremely confident,” he said. “You’d rather be in this position than have a spring where you haven’t hit the ball and wondering if they can hit or not. These guys have good track records, they’ve played at a high level and we believe we have 25 quality baseball players.”

Singleton homered in his first two at-bats off Anibal Sanchez.

“I was just going out there trying to do my best,” he said. “He left a couple of pitches over the plate and I tried to put a good swing on it.”

Singleton, the team’s top prospect, will remain in Kissimmee through the end of May while he sits out his 50-game suspension for a second failed drug test, testing positive for marijuana. He will start the season at Triple-A Oklahoma City but could be hitting homers at Minute Maid Park before 2013 is out.

Martinez to see doctor, could be headed to DL

After an exceptionally healthy spring camp, the Astros may have to put outfielder Fernando Martinez on the disabled list.

Martinez, who’s made the club as one of the team’s backup outfielders, was scratched from the lineup for Thursday’s game against the Tigers and he admitted going on the DL was a possibility. He missed a week earlier this spring with lower back tightness and will be examined by a doctor Friday in Houston.

“I think it’s the [left] oblique right now,” Martinez said. “I feel a little more pain right now than I did before. Hopefully a couple of days off and I’ll be back.”

Martinez said the team has discussed possibly having to put him on the disabled list. The Astros are taking a bevy of extra players to Houston, so they wouldn’t have to go reach to find his roster replacement. Trevor Crowe and J.D. Martinez were among the last outfielders cut from camp.

Martinez is holding out hope he won’t have to go on the DL.

“I can play like that, but sometimes when I throw and I swing I feel a little pain,” he said.

The 24-year-old left-handed hitter batted .237 with six homers and 14 RBIs in 41 games last year for the Astros, who claimed him off waivers on Jan. 11, 2012.

 

Astros set 25-man roster, tab Peacock for rotation

The Astros finalized their 25-man roster, setting their pitching rotation for the start of the 2013 season on Thursday by telling right-hander Brad Peacock he would be the club’s fourth starter. Right-hander Alex White is bound for the bullpen in a long relief role.

Astros manager Bo Porter also locked in the the bullpen by telling Rule 5 pick Josh Fields, Hector Ambriz and Rhiner Cruz they had made the club. Edgar Gonzalez will start the season at Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Peacock, acquired by the Astros in last month’s trade that shipped Jed Lowrie to Oakland, had a strong spring for Houston, allowing 16 hits and seven earned runs in 19 2/3 innings in seven games (three starts). White’s numbers weren’t quite as good, but he did pitch three games of the bullpen last year for Colorado.

“He did a tremendous job,” Porter said. “I talked to him and White and told them I thought we deserved to have six starters make the rotation, and I’m a big believer in carrying a long guy for the flexibility of saving your bullpen. I told White, ‘You’re going to get your innings.’ It’s a competition that’s not just going to stop at the end of Spring Training. It will continue through the course of the season.”

With Bud Norris (Sunday), Lucas Harrell (Tuesday) and Philip Humber (Wednesday) pitching against the Rangers in the season-opening series, Peacock will start Friday against his former team, the Oakland A’s. Erik Bedard is scheduled to pitch Saturday against the A’s, with Norris throwing the homestand finale on Sunday.

Porter likes the makeup of the bullpen. Jose Veras will be the closer and he said the eighth-inning role will initially be determined by matchups. White can work in long relief, but he said Hector Ambriz and Rhiner Cruz can pitch multiple innings from the right side and Xavier Cedeno from the left side.

“I love the fact we have two lefties down there who are capable of getting out some of the better left-handed hitters in our league,” he said. “We also have a long guy, we have a good mix of guys who can pitch in the back end. I’m pretty confident in our bullpen.”

Peacock, 25, was selected by Washington as the No. 41 overall pick in 2006 and was shipped to Oakland five years later in the Gio Gonzalez trade. The Astros acquired him, outfielder Chris Carter and catcher Max Stassi from the A’s on Feb 4.

Peacock was 12-9 with a 6.01 ERA in 28 games (25 starts) at Triple-A last year following a terrific 2011 season in which he made his Major League debut with the Nationals and was 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA in three games (two starts).

“For the whole staff, he just looked like he got stronger each and every time he got the ball,” Porter said. “The outings got strong, the stuff got more crisp and the breaking ball really, really starting to get late depth. It was good to see. I have history with him and I saw him really, really good in 2010 and like I told him, ‘He looks like the guy I saw in 2010.’”

Here’s the 25-man roster:

Starting pitchers (5) — Bud Norris, Lucas Harrell, Philip Humber, Brad Peacock and Erik Bedard.

Relief pitchers (7) — Jose Veras, Josh Fields, Hector Ambriz, Xavier Cedeno, Wesley Wright, Rhiner Cruz, Alex White.

Catchers (2) — Jason Castro, Carlos Corporan.

Infielders (6) — Brett Wallace, Jose Altuve, Ronny Cedeno, Marwin Gonzalez, Matt Dominguez, Carlos Pena.

Outfielders (5) — Chris Carter, Justin Maxwell, Rick Ankiel, Brandon Barnes, Fernando Martinez.

Astros ready to break camp in Kissimmee

Philip Humber arrives at clubhouse

Philip Humber arrives at clubhouse

The players filed into the Major League clubhouse at Osceola County Stadium on Thursday morning like they’ve done so many times the past seven weeks, this time wearing slacks and sports coats and pulling large suitcases stuffed with clothes. The last day of Spring Training has been circled on the calendar for quite a while, especially for those players who have been in Kissimmee for nearly two months.

The Astros have split-squad games Thursday against the Tigers in Kissimmee and Braves in Lake Buena Vista, but they will be one team when they board the team charter this evening and fly to Houston. Several of the Astros’ top Minor League players are heading to Texas with the Major League club to play in this weekend’s games against the Cubs, including Carlos Correa, Jonathan Singleton, George Springer and Delino DeSheids Jr.

No one is more excited to get home than veterans like Wesley Wright, who are eager to put on the Astros’ new uniforms and play before the home crowd. The Astros will play the Cubs at 7:05 p.m. CT on Friday night at Minute Maid Park and 1:05 p.m. Saturday before opening the season against the Rangers on Sunday at 7:05 p.m. on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. Bud Norris will make his first Opening Day start against the Astros, facing Texas lefty Matt Harrrison

“I’m actually pretty anxious myself,” Wright said. “It’s been a little bit of a long Spring Training and I know everybody else is ready to get out of here and play some games that actually count towards the overall goal. We’ve had a good spring so far and that’s a good starting point. There’s a bigger picture out there we have to take care of and we’re excited to get started.”

Designated hitter Carlos Pena, who signed with the Astros in the offseason, is eager to get to Houston.

“We value the time we have here to get ready for the season, but I think everyone is looking forward to getting it going,” he said. “It’s part of the whole process, you know? It’s about time for us to move over to Minute Maid and play a couple of games and get ready for the season. I don’t think anyone is eager to rush it, but at the same time we’re glad we’re moving to the next step.”

Astros lineup vs. Tigers in Kissimmee:

2B Jose Altuve

CF Rick Ankiel

DH Carlos Pena

LF Chris Carter

1B Jonathan Singleton

RF Fernando Martinez

C Jason Castro

3B Matt Dominguez

SS Ronny Cedeno

RHP Philip Humber

Astros lineup vs. Braves in Lake Buena Vista:

RF Brandon Barnes

1B Brett Wallace

CF Justin Maxwell

3B Brandon Laird

C Carlos Corporan

LF Trevor Crowe

SS Marwin Gonzalez

2B Jose Martinez

DH Preston Tucker

RHP Lucas Harrell

Correa expects to start the season in Quad Cities

0310 027Davenport, Iowa is a long way from Puerto Rico, but that appears to be where 2012 No. 1 overall Draft pick Carlos Correa will begin the season with the Astros’ Class A team in Quad Cities.

The 18-year-old Correa, who went 1-for-4 with an RBI and a stolen base as starting shortstop for the Astros in their 6-2 loss to the Mets on Wednesday night in Port St. Lucie, said the Minor League roster assignments were posted earlier in the day, but he didn’t see them because he was traveling with the big club.

“I think I’m going to Quad Cities, Iowa, and I’m pretty excited about being there and doing my best,” he said.

Correa joined fellow top prospects Jonathan Singleton, George Springer and Delino DeShields Jr. in traveling with the Astros so manager Bo Porter could give some of his regulars the day off.

“Being here and playing with the big league club is an amazing experience and you’re here with the big league manager and all that you learned, all that you worked for, you try to show it here,” he said. “It’s pretty fun.”

Correa said his first spring in professional baseball went well.

“Spring was really good,” he said. “So far, there’s new coaches so they have been helping us a lot and they know a lot. I’m very excited about starting the season this year. We’ve prepared ourselves really good this spring, so we’re really excited.”

Peacock ends spring with strong outing

Now that he has all the information, Bo Porter must decide between Brad Peacock or Alex White for the fourth slot in the Astros rotation.

Peacock strengthened his case Tuesday night by allowing one run and two hits in five innings against the Yankees. Here’s how each has done this spring:

Peacock: 19 2/3 innings, 16 hits, 7 earned runs (3.20 ERA)

White: 19 2/3 innings, 33 hits, 15 earned runs (6.86 ERA)

The pitcher that doesn’t make the rotation will pitch out of the bullpen.

“I went in there and wanted to throw strikes and keep the ball down and let the defense do the work, and they played great behind me today,” said Peacock, who threw 71 pitches. “That’s what I wanted to do.”

Porter was in no hurry to anoint a fourth starter on Tuesday.

“The good news is we have until Saturday to make a decision because that fourth starter doesn’t go until [April 5 against Oakland],” he said. “It’s something that we’ll sit down and talk about and make a decision.”

The rest of the rotation is set with Bud Norris, Lucas Harrell, Philip Humber and Erik Bedard, who’s been appointed the fifth starter.

Peacock had good fastball command at Steinbrenner Field and wished for better secondary stuff, though Porter was happy he threw a pair of sliders to left-handers. For Peacock, who had a rough 2012 at Triple-A Sacramento, it’s about confidence.

“In the dugout, I visualize what’s going to happen, what hitters are coming up,” he said. “I just want to throw that pitch, what I see in my head. That’s what I do.”

Peacock and White have developed a close relationship over the past few weeks and are cut from the same cloth – soft-spoken southern who just want to help the Astros win.

“I don’t care where I’m at,” Peacock said. “I real excited I made the team, and hopefully I can take advantage of the opportunity.”

White pleased with first spring with Astros

Astros pitcher Alex White didn’t have the kind of spring that made anyone’s eyes pop out, and his results — a 6.87 ERA in 19 2/3 innings — weren’t great, but overall White is satisfied with being able to get his pitch count up and put himself in position to win a rotation spot.

He says he’s where he wants to be with all five pitches, though his change-up was a little iffy in his five-inning out Monday against Washington.

“Spring, for me, has always been tough, just trying to get ready for the season, especially this year competing for a job,” White said. “It’s been a good spring for me. I feel really good coming out of it and I’m just excited about the season.”

White threw a spring-high 84 pitches against the Nats.

“I wanted to get my pitch count up, obviously, and treat it like a real start,” White said. “I had good stuff and a real good sinker, real good split tonight. I got a lot of ground balls and gave up a few hits and a few runs.”

White will make the Astros’ Opening Day roster, but it remains to be seen whether he’s in the bullpen or the rotation. White and Brad Peacock are battling for the fourth spot in the rotation, and whoever doesn’t win it will begin the year as a long man in the bullpen.

“Me and Brad have gotten pretty close and we talk about it a lot,” White said. “We just want to help this team win and both of us will do either job pretty well, I think, and we’re comfortable in both spots and we’re excited about the opportunities.”

Peacock will get his turn on Tuesday night against the Yankees in a game that will be televised by MLB Network at 6:05 p.m. CT.

“I think we’ll sit down as a staff and talk about both guys and figure out what’s the best thing to do after Peacock starts tomorrow night,” Astros manager Bo Porter said. “They’ve both have done a tremendous job and that’s why they were both informed today that they both had made the ballclub. I don’t think we can make a wrong decisions because they both have done a tremendous job.”

When asked about White’s so-so spring numbers, Porter said: “I’m extremely pleased. You look at the fact his groundball ratio is where we expected it to be, he’s pounding the strike zone, he’s getting himself built up to the point that even when he’s gotten into jams, he’s been able to make quality pitches to get out of the jams. We’re pleased with Alex and we expected him to have a big year.”

 

Video: Porter, Luhnow share good news

Here’s a video of Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager Bo Porter on Monday’s roster activity:

Astros trim roster to 26 players

The Astros moved a huge step closer to finalizing their roster on Monday, trimming their Spring Training roster to 26 players.

Astros manager Bo Porter, general manager Jeff Luhnow and assistant general manager David Stearns brought nine players into an upstairs conference room inside the team’s clubhouse at Osceola County Stadium and informed them they were making an Opening Day roster for the first time: right-handers Brad Peacock and Alex White, left-hander Xavier Cedeno, infielder Matt Dominguez, catcher Carlos Corporan and outfielders Justin Maxwell, Brandon Barnes, Chris Carter and Fernando Martinez.

“It’s pretty special to be on an Opening Day roster and to have nine guys, this being their first time, we saw it fitting to get all those guys together and kind of let them share in the moment together,”  Porter said.

“What we did today was the same thing I did last year with [manager Brad] Mills was one of the more enjoyable experiences that a general manager will have,” Luhnow said. “We had a pretty large, significant group of players who had never been on an Opening Day roster before and to be able to bring them all in a room at this time of year when people are nervous about getting called into a room and notify them that not only are they making an Opening Day roster for the first time, but they’re part of history [is fun].

“As the Astros move to the American League to begin the second part of the century, it’s a significant event, not just for the Astros, but for baseball. Because they are going to be on an Opening Day roster for a first time, they’re young and their futures are ahead of them are they’re doing it all together. It’s incredible, the look on their faces. Some of them were expecting it but until you hear it and know you’re going to be a part of it. … When they’re there Sunday night and lining up between first base and second base and seeing the American flag behind them and Texas flag in front of them and 45,000 Astros fans, it’s going to hit them this is a special moment.”

The team also informed these non-roster players they wouldn’t make the club: right-hander Jose Valdez, left-hander Kevin Chapman, infielder Brandon Laird, catcher Rene Garcia and infielder Jose Martinez. They will travel with the team to Houston for this weekend’s exhibition games against the Cubs at Minute Maid Park.

Click here for reaction from Peacock and Laird.

Also, right-hander Chi-Jen Lo was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Here’s who’s left on the roster:

INFIELDERS (6) — Jose Altuve, Matt Dominguez, Marwin Gonzalez, Ronny Cedeno, Carlos Pena and Brett Wallace.

OUTFIELDERS (5) — Chris Carter, Rick Ankiel, Brandon Barnes, Fernando Martinez and Justin Maxwell.

CATCHERS (2) — Jason Castro, Carlos Corporan.

PITCHERS (13) — Hector Ambriz, Erik Bedard, Xavier Cedeno, Rhiner Cruz, Josh Fields, Edgar Gonzalez, Lucas Harrell, Philip Humber, Bud Norris, Brad Peacock, Jose Veras, Alex White and Wesley Wright.

  • Bedard has won the fifth starter spot, so Peacock and White are going for the fourth spot. The other will pitch in bullpen.
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