March 2013

Porter impressed with those who didn’t make first cut.

Astros manager Bo Porter said the players cut from Major League camp on Sunday made good impressions on the club. The team made their first cuts by reassinging second baseman Delino DeShields Jr., outfielder Jake Goebbert, outfielder Marc Krauss, center fielder George Springer and catcher Chris Wallace to Minor League camp and optioning left-hander Rudy Owens and right-hander Sam Demel to Minor League camp.

“It’ like I explained to all those guys this morning that came in: You get to this point in Spring Training, from a pitching standpoint, the starters are getting built up and they’re going to start to go deeper into the game and position players are going to start getting more at-bats, which means those guys that have been coming in piggybacking those guys, the opportunities for them are going to get more limited,” he said. “They start playing games in the Minor Leagues on the 14th [Thursday] and this gives those guys an opportunity to get down there and get regular at-bats.”

Demel, who was picked up on waivers, had allowed 10 hits and 11 runs in 2 1/3 innings of work this spring. Owens, acquired by the Pirates in the Wandy Rodriguez deal, had only pitched three innings. He’s a starter, so going to Minor League will allow him to pitch regularly in a rotation.

“[Demel] is a sinkerball pitcher, and sometimes it takes those guys a little bit longer to get the sink on their ball, get the action going,” Porter said. “We didn’t want him to sit there as a roster guy in camp and get the minimum opportunities to pitch in the game. That’s why we thought it would be the best thing for him to get to Minor League camp so he can get his sinker going.”

On Owens, Porter said: “Owens came over in a trade and he’s a rotation guy that will start the season in Triple-A, and we have to give him an opportunity to get build up.”

On DeShields: “Delino did a great job. Every situation we put him in, we gave him an opportunity to use his skill sets and he used him to the best of his ability and helped us win some ballgames. Like we told him, go down there and continue to work on the things you do well and allow your speed to impact the game. He did a tremendous job when he was here and we expect him to have a tremendous year.”

DeShields, Springer among Astros’ first cuts

The Astros made their first roster cuts of the spring Sunday morning, reassigning second baseman Delino DeShields Jr., outfielder Jake Goebbert, outfielder Marc Krauss, center fielder George Springer and catcher Chris Wallace to Minor League camp and optioning left-hander Rudy Owens and right-hander Sam Demel to Minor League camp.

The cuts leave the Astros with 54 players in camp.

“The important thing for players like DeShields and Springer, who are a part of our future, was to come up here and make a good impression with a new staff and both of them absolutely did that,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “Goebbert has been a part of our Minor League system for a while and made a good impression, and Krauss had some big hits for us.

“The message to all those guys basically is you accomplished what your goal was this spring, you came up here and made a good impression on the staff. Krauss is a little bit closer. He’s a guy you could see having some time in Houston this year, and it’s nice when the staff has positive feelings about them so when we have a discussion, if there’s an opening later in the summer, they’ll be inclined to want him to come up.

“For all those guys, they did exactly what we wanted them to do.”

Minor League games begin on Thursday, and the Astros are expected to make another round of cuts later in the week, likely Wednesday. Players who were added to the 40-man roster for the first time this year can’t be cut from camp until Wednesday.

“It makes sense for them to go down there and get regular playing time rather than struggling to get at-bats up here,” Luhnow said. “As we get deeper and deeper into spring, the pitchers are going to be extended, but we want to see the position players be out there longer than two or three at-bats. It’s just a matter of allocating that resource of playing time.”

Luhnow said it hasn’t yet been determined at which level of the Minor Leagues the players cut on Sunday will begin the season. DeShields, the team’s first-round pick in 2010, was Houston’s Minor League Player of the Year after stealing a combined 101 bases last year. Springer, the team’s top Draft pick in 2011, put up big numbers at Class A Lancaster last year.

“Obviously, the more impressions they made here the better chance they have of starting at a higher level,” Luhnow said. “Realistically, given that Springer got a taste of Double-A last year and DeShields got a taste of high A, we don’t want to be too unrealistic about what the right level is for their development.”

Astros make first roster cuts

The Astros made their first roster cuts of the spring on Sunday morning.

Reassigned to Minor League camp:

2B Delino DeShields Jr.

OF Jake Goebbert

OF Marc Krauss

CF George Springer

C Chris Wallace

Optioned to Minor League camp:

LHP Rudy Owens

RHP Sam Demel

Game 15: Astros can’t hang with Mets

What happened: The Mets scored three times in the third inning and four times in the fourth inning and held off a late charge to beat the Astros, 9-6, on Saturday afternoon at Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie, Fla. (boxscore)

What we learned: Veteran RHP Edgar Gonzalez is a candidate to make the club in long relief. Gonzalez, who went 3-1 with a 5.04 ERA in six starts with the Astros at the end of last season, threw the final three innings and allowed one hit and one run while striking out two batters. With all the extra arms in competition for the rotation, Gonzalez’s future might lie in the bullpen. And he has extensive Major League experience in relief.

“He came in and threw three solid innings, attacked the strike zone and changed speeds and worked fast,” Astros manager Bo Porter said. “He was in the big leagues last year. He can start games, he can be in long relief. He’s a strike-thrower and changes speed and keeps the defense on their toes and ready to go. He did a tremendous job today.”

What else: 1B Carlos Pena cranked a two-run homer in the fourth inning. … 1B Nate Freiman had a two-run single to the opposite field.RHP Chia-Jen Lo had another scoreless outing, striking out two batters in one inning. … Delino DeShields Jr., who came into the game in the sixth inning, had a pair of hits. … Porter was happy with the team’s fundamental play in the outfield, and they had plenty of chances considering the Mets bashed 12 hits, including five doubles. LF Marc Krauss and SS Jose Martinez had a terrific relay combination late in the game that nearly resulted in an out at the plate.

“We were pleased with the outfielders,” Porter said. “The relays were great, and this time of year you just want to make sure fundamentally you’re doing things right, you’re getting aligned right. Our guys are doing a good job with that.”

What went wrong: The Astros fell behind early for the second game in a row and couldn’t recover, despite swinging the bats pretty well. After starter RHP Alex White gave up five hits and four runs in 2 2/3 innings, LHP Kevin Chapman allowed three hits and three runs in one inning, and LHP Rudy Owens allowed a run and three hits in one-third of an inning. … LF Fernando Martinez‘s errant throw from left field in the fourth inning allowed a run to score.

What they said: “[The numbers] are always important, especially when I’m trying to make the club. Right now I”m trying to get my work in and get better at some things I need to get better at and I felt like I did that today. Just keep pitching.” — Astros starting pitcher Alex White.

What’s next: RHP Brad Peacock, acquired in last month’s trade that sent Jed Lowrie to Oakland, will get the start in place of RHP Lucas Harrell, who’s nursing a slight groin strain when the Astros face the Phillies at 12:05 p.m. CT on Sunday. Peacock has pitched three innings in three different stints this spring, allowing six hits and five earned runs as he battles for a spot in the rotation.

Who’s injured: RHP Lucas Harrell (right groin strain) will miss his start Sunday and is day-to-day. … LHP Erik Bedard (right glute strain) threw in the bullpen on Saturday and should be close to game action. … IF Jake Elmore (left oblique strain) is day-to-day.

Links of the day: Astros notebook takes a closer look at Marc Krauss, has Jeff Luhnow talking about the scouting trail and more on Jake Goebbert’s life on the farm.

The day in photos:

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Astros players get ready for morning stretch

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Dave Clark shows George Springer how to shield the sun from his eyes with two fingers

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George Springer, Kevin Chapman, Robbie Grossman

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Fernando Martinez catches up with old teammates

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Brandon Barnes yells into the stands

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Rene Garcia, Jimmy Paredes, Jonathan Villar

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Brandon Barnes is pensive

White pounds strike zone against Mets

If Alex White‘s goal was to come out and throw strikes, he certainly accomplished that Saturday afternoon against the Mets at Tradition Field. White, vying for one of the final spot in the Astros’ rotation, worked 2 2/3 innings and allowed five hits and four runs in his second start and third appearance of he spring. He threw 41 of his 55 pitches for strikes.

“I threw a lot of strikes and made some really good pitches and gave up some hits that were not hit real well. It’s going to happen,” White said. “I threw a lot of strikes and that’s a big key for me. I walked one guy and he ended up scoring. Those are things I can’t do. I feel good about the outing. Obviously, the numbers aren’t what I wanted them to be, but it’s a little early and we keep working.”

White issued a two-out walk in the first to Ike Davis, and he stole second and scored on a single by Lucas Duda right into the teeth of an Astros shift on the right side of the infield. White retired the next five batters in a row before giving up four hits and three runs in the third, including back-to-back RBI doubles by Duda and John Buck.

With three weeks to go in spring, White would like better results, but he’s happy his slider  is improving.

“I think you’ll see more breaking balls the better it gets,” he said. “Last year and especially the year before that,I didn’t have a really good breaking ball, but now that it’s becoming a pretty good pitch, you’re going to see more of it.”

Debating the roster part of daily routine for Luhnow

Greetings from Port St. Lucie, Fla., where the Astros will play the Mets at 12:10 p.m CT today.

Traditions Field

Traditions Field

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and assistant GM David Stearns are on the trip, and Luhnow said he’s pleased with some of the players who are having consistent performances, such as Brandon Laird, Rick Ankiel and Brandon Barnes.

“Those have been good outcomes,” he said. “It’s nice to have a couple of starting pitchers do well like [Philip] Humber and [John] Ely, so you can find good news and bad news in every game during the spring. It’s still early on, but I’m very excited about some for the early strong performances and hoping that more guys jump on that train.”

Luhnow and manager Bo Porter talk roster composition on a daily basis, but with three weeks before the start of the regular season, a lot can change. Remember last year? It wasn’t until halfway through spring a year ago when Lucas Harrell was stretched out and put in the rotation, and he wound up being their best starting pitcher, going 11-11.

“Bo and I are talking about it constantly, and upstairs we’re hypothesizing on scenarios on who makes the club and what it means for everybody else,” Luhnow said. “Our conversations will different today than they will a week from now and than they will at the end of March. If spring would end today, what we would we do? We have that conversations every couple of days.”

Starting lineups

ASTROS

2B Marwin Gonzalez

LF Fernando Martinez

1B Carlos Pena

DH J.D. Martinez

3B Brett Wallace

CF Rick Ankiel

C Jason Castro

RF Trevor Crowe

SS Jonathan Villar

RHP Alex White

METS

RF Marlon Byrd

2B Justin Turner

1B Ike Davis

LF Lucas Duda

C John Buck

CF Matt den Dekker

DH Anthony Recker

SS Ruben Tejada

3B Wilmer Flores

RHP Jeremy Hefner

Game 14: Rough day on the mound

What happened: The split-squad Braves sent 10 batters to the plate in the first inning and batted around again in the second inning to jump on the Astros and hold on for a 14-9 win over Friday afternoon at Osceola County Stadium (boxscore).

What we learned: RHP Jordan Lyles is struggling, but he’s healthy and hasn’t yet thrown his full arsenal, so there’s no reason to be concerned yet. The Braves sent nine batters to the plate against Lyles, who threw 33 pitches, and seven of them reached base via a hit, including a hard-hit double by Reed Johnson and a two-run homer by Freddie Freeman.

“Today they just hit balls where guys weren’t, they balls hard, they hit balls soft,” Lyles said. “The credit goes to them. It has nothing to do with me really. When it comes right down to it, I need to make better pitches. But I’m not throwing all my pitches right now. The scoreboard doesn’t look good but that’s not the main focus right now.”

What we learned II: RHP John Ely has some good contol, which is why the Astros traded for him. Ely, whose first two outings were rough, righted the ship and threw three scoreless innings on a day when Astros pitchers struggled to keep the Braves off the board.

“Ely was great,” manager Bo Porter said. “He came in and stabilized the game and gave our offense a chance to go on the run we were on. I kept telling our pitchers, whether middle relief, long relief, you get an opportunity to put up zeroes, we’re going to score runs. We have a bunch of guys in our offense that can change the game with one swing. If we continue to put up zeroes, you never know what will happen.”

Here is Porter talking about starting pitching:

What else: Trailing 14-1, the Astros outscored the Braves 8-0 the rest of the way. … OF Brandon Barnes (.368) went 2-for-2 with his third homer, IF Brandon Laird (.429) went 2-for-2 and 3B Matt Dominguez and IF Jose Martinez each had two hits. OF Trevor Crowe had a three-run triple. … RHP Ross Seaton finished the game by throwing two scoreless innings. … OF Jake Goebbert made a terrific sliding catch on the left field line in the eighth inning, earning a handshake from Porter. … OF Marc Krauss hit his first homer of the spring.

What went wrong: Lyles, RHP Sam Demel and LHP Wesley Wright combined to allow 13 hits and 14 runs in two innings of work. Wright has allowed eight hits and six runs in four innings this spring, and Demel has given up 10 hits and 11 runs in 2 1/3 innings.

“He’s had some tough outings,” Porter said of Demel. “A lot of it is deep counts and getting into hitter’s counts and they’ve been able to put some good swings on the ball. Hopefully next time out he’s able to get some things cleaned up and able to get some hitters using his slider, which is a really good pitch to put hitters away.”

What they said: “From the fourth inning on, we won the ballgame, 7-0. It speaks to the never-say-die attitude of our ballclub and those guys fighting back to make it a ballgame. When you have guys diving at the balls in the type of game that was on the scoreboard, from a staff standpoint we take notice of those things and we realized those guys continued to fight.” -- Astros manager Bo Porter.

What’s next: RHP Alex White, acquired by the Astros from the Rockies in a trade in December, gets another chance to try to win a spot in the starting rotation when the Astros travel to Port St. Lucie to face the Mets at 12:10 p.m. CT. White has worked 3 2/3 innings this year and allowed five hits and three runs.

Who’s injured: LHP Erik Bedard (strained glute) threw off the mound Friday and could throw in the bullpen Saturday. … IF Jake Elmore (strained left oblique) is day-to-day. … C Max Stassi (sports hernia surgery) is out until April.

Tweet of the day:

Links of the day: Astros notebook as Erik Bedard and Lucas Harrell talking about their injuries, neither of which is major, Geoff Blum talks about his first game as a TV analyst and Ross Seaton is learning plenty in his first big league camp despite a lack of inning.

The day in photos:

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Bud Norris goes over mechanics with Ryan McCurdy

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Minor Leaguers warm up

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Rudy Owens throws in the bullpen

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J.D. Martinez

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Justin Maxwell

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Brett Wallace

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Rio Ruiz

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Mike Foltynewicz

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Austin Wates

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Ernesto Genoves

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Tyler Heineman

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Bobby Borchering

Lyles not concerned with results…yet

Astros right-hander Jordan Lyles wasn’t thrilled with giving up seven hits and six runs in only two-thirds of an inning Friday against the Braves, but he threw caution to the wind, reminding reporters he’s still throwing primarily fastballs and changeups.

Still, the Braves sent nine batters to the plate against Lyles, who threw 33 pitches, and seven of them reached base via a hit, including a hard-hit double by Reed Johnson and a two-run homer by Freddie Freeman.

“Today they just hit balls where guys weren’t, they balls hard, they hit balls soft,” Lyles said. “The credit goes to them. It has nothing to do with me really. When it comes right down to it, I need to make better pitches. But I’m not throwing all my pitches right now. The scoreboard doesn’t look good but that’s not the main focus right now.”

When his outing was through, Lyles went to the back fields and worked with Triple-A Oklahoma City pitching coach Steve Webber.

“The past few years I’ve had a tendency to dip my shoulders a little bit and I was working on staying back a little more,” he said. “It was good work. I understand why they came and got me this early. There’s no need for me to throw as many pitches as I did in one inning. I wasn’t upset about that, and it give me a chance to get work in at my own pace.”

In three starts this year, Lyles is 0-3 with a 25.20 ERA. He’s pitched five innings in three starts and allowed 20 hits and 14 earned runs.

“I’m definitely not concerned, but I don’t think anybody in this clubhouse is happy with giving up runs after runs,” Lyles said. “It’s part of the game, but I think next outing I’ll start mixing in my cutter and slider. I think these outings won’t show up as much when I start mixing in those pitches and start going for outs.”

Lyles said the ball feels as good coming out of his hand as it has this early in the last few springs. His next start will be a better indicator of where he’s at in the spring.

“When you’re out there, you’re still competing, don’t get me wrong,” he said. “I’m not saying ‘Here’s the ball hit, it as far as you can.’ Guys are going to see the boxscore and are not going to be happy, but I’m getting myself ready for Apri, and this is Spring Training and I want to go into the season healthy. That’s my main focus.”

Bedard throws off the mound

Erik Bedard throws on Friday

Erik Bedard throws on Friday

Astros left-hander Erik Bedard, who’s been limited to two innings this spring because of a right glute sprain, threw about 10 or 12 pitches off the mound Friday morning under the supervision of pitching coach Doug Brocail and assistant athletic trainer Rex Jones.

“That was just to see if it feels good, and it feels good so tomorrow I’ll throw a regular bullpen,” Bedard said. “If goes well, the next step is probably a game.”

Bedard admitted he’s getting antsy to get on the mound, especially considering he’s trying to make a new team and impress a new set of eyes.

“When you come to new team you always want to make a good impression and be out there with the guys and throw when your turn is up,” he said. “I missed my turn one time, so I’ll try to get on the mound as quick as I can.”

Bedard, 34, is in camp as a non-roster invitee. He went 7-14 with a 5.01 ERA in 24 starts last year for the Pirates and was their Opening Day starter. He has a 63-64 career record with a 3.85 ERA in 192 games (189 starts) in stints with Baltimore, Seattle, Boston and Pittsburgh.

In other news

  • RHP Lucas Harrell (groin strain) has been scratched from his scheduled start Sunday against the Phillies in Kissimmee. RHP Brad Peacock will take his place. Harrell’s injury isn’t considered serious.

Astros lineup Friday vs. Braves:

RF Brandon Barnes

2B Jose Altuve

LF Chris Carter

CF Justin Maxwell

1B Nate Freiman

DH George Springer

3B Matt Dominguez

SS Marwin Gonzalez

C Chris Wallace

—-

P Jordan Lyles. Also scheduled to pitch: John Ely, Ross Seaton, Hector Ambriz and Wesley Wright.

Split-squad Braves lineup for Friday:

RF Jordan Schafer

CF Reed Johnson

1B Freddie Freeman

2B Dan Uggla

3B Chris Johnson

LF Evan Gattis

DH Joey Terdoslavich

SS Tyler Pastornicky

C Matt Pagnozzi

LHP Sean Gilmartin

Game 13: Humber looks sharp in win over Nats

What happened: RHP Philip Humber threw four strong innings, and C Jason Castro bounced a two-run single into right field to score a pair of runs in the eighth inning to break a tie and send the Astros a 4-2 win over the Nationals on Thursday afternoon at Osceola County Stadium (boxscore).

What we learned: Humber has impeccable control of his fastball right now. He is still throwing mostly fastballs, and he was able to spot it so well against the Nats that he breezed through four innings.

“I threw my fastball where I wanted to throw it,” he said. “I threw four-seamers, two-seamers, and I think that helped things a little bit. When the [spring] season comes, the hitters are behind the pitchers for the most part. I’m going to have to throw more off-speed stuff than I did today [eventually]. But that’s definitely a good sign. That’s the first thing to come and usually everything else follows that.”

What we learned II: The Astros are better when they play at a quicker pace. Astros manager Bo Porter spoke to his pitchers and catchers on Thursday morning about the importance of working quicker, which he says won’t allow the defensive players to get lackadaisical on the infield.

“It’s something that we did address,” Porter said. “When you start to get deep counts and the pitchers are working slow, the defense gets on its heels a little bit. We reminded our guys, you want the plays made behind you, you need to get that ball, you need to go, you need to keep everybody on their toes and ready to go. The pitcher’s today did a great job with that, and Humber set the tone and every guy that came behind him, followed him.”

What else: OF Rick Ankiel‘s stolen bases in the eight inning set the stage for Castro’s game-winning hit. Not only did it get Ankiel into scoring position, but it forced the Nats bring the infield in with runners at second and third, and Castro bounced a hit over the infielder’s head. … OF Fernando Martinez went 2-for-2 with a double. … Only two of the Astros’ 11 hits were for extra bases. … OF J.D. Martinez, whose 22 at-bats this spring are tied for second-highest on the team, is hitting .364 (8-for-22).

What went wrong: The Astros only made one error, and it came when 1B Carlos Pena lost a high chopper in the sun and closed his glove either too early or too soon. … The Astros were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

What they said: “I was thinking that Bo was coming out to talk to me and he said, ‘Good job, you’re done,'” — Astros LHP Dallas Keuchel on being removed from the game after two innings.

What’s next: RHP Jordan Lyles will start for the Astros when they face the Atlanta Braves at 12:05 p.m. CT at Osceola County Stadium. RHPs John Ely, Ross Seaton, Hector Ambriz and LHP Wesley Wright are also scheduled to pitch.

Who’s injured: LHP Erik Bedard (strained glute) is day-to-day). … C Max Stassi (sports hernia surgery) is out until April.

Tweet of the day:

Links of the day: You must read this feature on OF Brandon Barnes, whose tattoos reveal a lot about his life. The Astros notebook features owner Jim Crane talking about TV negotiations, Porter discussing the early-season rotation and LHP Erik Bedard talking about his injury.

The day in photos:

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Nolan Fontana ran the bases in big league camp

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Wesley Wright steps on first base following flip from Marc Krauss

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Trainer Nate Lucero and former first-round pick Jio Mier share a laugh

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Rene Garcia prepares to bunt

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Jake Goebbert

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Brett Oberholtzer pitches with Doug Brocail watching

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Hitting coach John Mallee and Carlos Pena

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Brett Wallace

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Rick Ankiel

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New TV announcers Alan Asbhy and Geoff Blum await pregame show

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