April 2013

Lyles, Keuchel on way to join Astros

The Astros are preparing to call up right-hander Jordan Lyles and left-hander Dallas Keuchel from Triple-A Oklahoma City, a baseball source told MLB.com on Tuesday.

It’s unknown what the corresponding roster moves will be, but the Astros have yet to announce who will start Thursday’s game against the Tigers in Houston. That’s the rotation spot formerly occupied by Brad Peacock, who struggled and was moved to the bullpen.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow couldn’t be reached for comment.

Lyles, 22, was set to begin the season in the Astros starting rotation, but he was sent to Triple-A following a poor spring. He went 2-2 with a 5.32 ERA in six games (five starts) for the RedHawks, throwing a strong game Saturday in which he allowed three hits and one run in five innings.

Lyles made 25 starts for the Astros last year and was 5-12 with a 5.09 ERA.

Keuchel, 25, also began the season in Oklahoma City, but was recalled April 6 when Travis Blackley went on the disabled list with a left shoulder strain. Keuchel posted a 3.38 ERA in 10 2/3 innings in four relief appearances with Houston before being sent back down on April 21 when the Astros’ bullpen was in need of a fresh arm.

Peacock moved to the bullpen

Right-hander Brad Peacock, who has struggled as a starter this year, was told Monday by manager Bo Porter he was being moved into the bullpen. The team’s starter for Thursday’s game against Detroit will be announced later. Peacock, acquired from the A’s on Feb. 4 in the Jed Lowrie trade, went 1-3 with an 8.44 ERA in 21 1/3 innings in five starts.

“It more so has to do with us an organization trying to put him in position where he could have some success,” Porter said. “We believe that he’s still a starting pitcher and you guys have witnessed it. We’ve had starters go down in the bullpen and pitch in long relief and they’ve had great success, and we’re hoping the same thing can happen with Brad Peacock.”

Porter wouldn’t say if the Astros’ starter for Thursday would come from among their long relievers — Travis Blackley, Paul Clemens or Jose Ciserno — or from Triple-A.

“Jeff [Luhnow] and I had a good conversation yesterday and we continued that conversation today and we’ll have an announcement later this week of who that starter will be,” he said.

Porter said Peacock just gets need to get some confidence.

“It’s amazing what success can do for you,” he said. “The whole plan is to try to get him down there, find some favorable match-ups and situations to put him in rather than starting the game. Hopefully, the success he’s able to have in the bullpen builds him back up where we get him back into the rotation. That is definitely the plan.”

Peacock had trouble throwing strikes, which got him in deep counts and ran his pitch count up high. The Astros want him to attack hitters more, and the bullpen will give him a chance to do that.

“When you’re a starter and you think about pacing yourself throughout a game where hitters are probably going to see you three times and you’re talking six, seven innings, the difference coming out of the bullpen is basically you come in and say to yourself, ‘This guy’s going to see me one time,'” Porter said. “The mentality of attack is a little bit different coming out of the bullpen.

“When you look at Peacock in the games in which he started, there were a lot of deep counts. From a mental standpoint, one of the things I’m hoping comes out of the bullpen [move] is more of an attack-mode and once he’s in the rotation it carries over.”

Astros lineup Saturday vs. Sox

Astros lineup Saturday vs. Red Sox

2B Jose Altuve

RF Brandon Barnes

1B Brandon Laird

LF Chris Carter

DH Ronny Cedeno

C Carlos Corporan

3B Matt Dominguez

SS Marwin Gonzalez

CF Robbie Grossman

RHP Brad Peacock

Maxwell out 4 to 6 weeks; Owens sidelined

Astros outfielder Justin Maxwell, who fractured his left hand on Tuesday, is expected to be out four to six weeks, the team announced Friday.

Maxwell, 29, fractured the fifth metacarpal of his left hand but does not require surgery. He is currently in a splint. Maxwell started the Astros’ first 20 games in center field and played every inning this year before exiting Tuesday’s game against Seattle after the fourth inning.

Meanwhile, the Astros announced left-handed pitcher Rudy Owens, who is on the 40-man roster and currently assigned to Triple-A Oklahoma City, has been sidelined with a stress fracture of his left foot that will require surgery. He will miss up to five months.

Owens, 25, suffered a stress fracture in his left foot and will have surgery in Houston on Monday. Following the surgery, he will be in a walking boot for approximately six weeks. Owens made four appearances for Oklahoma City this season, posting a 3.71 ERA.

Astros’ lineup at Red Sox

Astros’ lineup at Red Sox:

CF Robbie Grossman

2B Jose Altuve

C Jason Castro

1B Carlos Pena

DH Chris Carter

LF Fernando Martinez

3B Matt Dominguez

RF Rick Ankiel

SS Marwin Gonzalez

RHP Philip Humber

Maxwell to DL, Grossman joins club

The Astros have placed outfielder Justin Maxwell on the disabled list with a fractured left hand, suffered when he was hit by a pitch in Tuesday’s win over the Mariners. The team recalled outfielder Robbie Grossman from Triple-A Oklahoma City.

(click here for video of Maxwell injury)

Maxwell was removed from Tuesday’s game between the fourth and fifth innings after being hit in the left wrist by a pitch in the bottom of the third, driving in a run with the bases loaded.

Maxwell was hitting .234 with one homer and six RBIs in 77 at-bats as Houston’s starting center fielder. The move likely means Brandon Barnes will get most of the playing time in center field.

Grossman, a switch-hitter, was hitting .324 with 13 runs scored and a .452 on-base percentage in 19 games for Oklahoma City, going 9-for-22 in his past five games. Acquired from the Pirates in the Wandy Rodriguez trade at the Trade Deadline last year, he hit .267 with a .371 on-base percentage in 36 games at Double-A Corpus Christi.

This will be Grossman’s Major League debut.

Luhnow considers Norris crucual to future

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow was adamant Monday the team wasn’t planning to trade starting pitcher Bud Norris despite persistent rumors he’s on the trade block. Norris is 2-2 with a 4.74 ERA heading into his fifth start of the season Tuesday against the Mariners.

“Bud’s a critical part of our team,” Luhnow said. “He’s always going to be rumored to be moved, and that’s unfortunate for him and unfortunate for us, but here’s nothing active happening right now. There hasn’t been in a long time and we’re not planning on moving Bud. He’s an important part of our team right now.”

Cisnero comes up, Oberholtzer down

In an effort to have fresh arms in the bullpen capable of working multiple innings, the Astros on Monday recalled right-hander Jose Ciserno from Triple-A Oklahoma City and optioned left-hander Brett Oberholtzer back down after a brief stay on the Major League roster.

Oberholtzer was called up Sunday and made his debut against the Indians, throwing two innings while allowing two home runs. He was recalled after long relievers Paul Clemens (3 1/2 innings) and Dallas Keuchel (2 2/3 innings) worked multiple innings in Saturday’s 19-6 loss to Cleveland (Keuchel was sent down after the game).

Cisnero has appeared in three games, making one start, for the RedHawks, going 1-1 with a 9.35 ERA in 8 2/3 innings. He last pitched Thursday, throwing three innings Round Rock. He had a terrific year in 2012, going 14-7 with a 3.70 ERA in 20 starts at Double-A Corpus Christi and eight at Oklahoma City.

He’s expected to provide support in long relief for a bullpen that has had to eat up a lot of innings in the last week. Only one Astros starting pitcher has pitched into the sixth inning in the team’s last six games, including three starters that didn’t survive the first inning.


Debut is dream come true for Oberholtzer

Nothing like catching a 5 a.m. flight when you haven’t slept, arriving at the ballpark at 11 a.m. and making your Major League debut only a few hours later. For Brett Oberholtzer, it was nothing short of a dream come true.

The Astros called up the lefty from Triple-A Oklahoma City, informing him late Saturday night in Albuquerque, N.M. he was headed to Houston. He pitched two innings in relief Sunday and gave up a pair of solo home runs and a double in Houston’s loss to Cleveland.

“I was a little nervous, not as nervous as I thought I would be,” said Oberholtzer, who was acquired from the Braves in the 2011 trade for Michael Bourn. “It’s all about how to handle it and continue to make progress.”

Oklahoma City manager Tony DeFrancesco summoned Oberholtzer into his office following Saturday night’s game and scribbled on paper for a few minutes before telling him nonchalantly he was going to Houston.

“It meant the world to me, though,” he said. “Growing up as a kid you always want to become a professional baseball player. I had that goal since I was 5 in tee ball. I need to continue to work hard and make strides and I’m glad I started my career.”

Once gathered his thoughts late Saturday, he called his parents in Delaware. It was 2 p.m. ET.

“My mom was sick, but she texted me in the morning and asked if it was for real,” he said.

Oberholtzer had been starting for the RedHawks, but he’ll pitch in long relief for the Astros. Paul Clemens was unavailable Sunday after throwing 3 1/3 scoreless innings Saturday, and Dallas Keuchel threw 2 2/3 innings before being sent down.

“Having guys down in the bullpen as long guys is vital to the overall success of the team,” Astros manager Bo Porter said. “You look at the short sample in which we’ve had this year, and they’ve saved us quite a few times, times when our starter has gotten in trouble early and other times we wanted to bridge to the back end of our bullpen.”

Oberholtzer made three starts for Oklahoma City, going 0-2 with a 9.49 ERA. In 12 1/3 innings pitched, he’s allowed 18 hits, 13 earned runs and four walks.

Oberholtzer on his way to join the Astros

The Astros called up left-handed pitcher Brett Oberholtzer on Sunday and sent left-hander Dallas Keuchel back down to Triple-A Oklahoma City. Oberholtzer will wear No. 65.

Oberholtzer made three starts for Triple-A Oklahoma City, going 0-2 with a 9.49 ERA. In 12 1/3 innings pitched, he’s allowed 18 hits, 13 earned runs and four walks. He last pitched Tuesday, allowing five hits and five runs in five innings in a loss to Round Rock.

Keuchel didn’t make the team out of spring camp, but was called up when Travis Blackley went on the disabled list April 6 with a shoulder strain. He’s appeared in four games in relief and has a 3.38 ERA in 10 2/3 innings, allowing seven hits and seven earned runs in 2 2/3 innings in Saturday’s loss to Cleveland.

This will be the first time on a Major League roster for Oberholtzer, who was one of four players acquired from the Braves in the Michael Bourn trade in 2011.