May 2013

Martinez rewards Porter’s faith in him

After outfielder J.D. Martinez went 0-for-5 with five strikeouts in Monday’s win over the Rockies, Astros manager Bo Porter tapped him on the back and told him he would be right back in the lineup the next day. Martinez went 8-for-13 in the following three games against Colorado, rewarding Porter’s faith in him.

“I told him he’s not going to go the rest of the season and not strike out five times, so why does it matter if it happened in five consecutive at-bats?” Porter said. “You can’t let it become a mental thing where you’re thinking about the strikeout. You have to make sure you stay in the frame of mind that gives you the best opportunity to be successful.”

Martinez went 4-for-5 on Thursday’s win over the Rockies, setting a career high for hits. He’s hitting .416 (15-for-36) over his last eight games with three doubles, two home runs, eight RBIs and six runs scored.

“I just felt like a lot of this series, the strikeout and stuff, I was catching myself thinking too much,” Martinez said. “I was guessing the situation and what they’re going to throw me and stuff like that. Today I said, ‘I don’t care, I’m going to react. I’m going to look for the ball in a spot and if it’s there, I’m going to react to it.’ I felt like that’s what I did today.”

Castro named AL Player of the Week

Astros catcher Jason Castro was named on Tuesday as the team’s first American League Player of the Week.

Castro hit .579 (11-for-19) with one double, three home runs, five RBIs and five runs scored in six games for the week that ended Sunday, including a 10-for-12 stretch in a three-game sweep at the hands of the Oakland A’s.

Castro is the first Houston player to be honored as Player of the Week since Hunter Pence was named NL Player of the Week in September, 2010. Castro led the Majors in batting average, slugging percentage (1.105) and on-base percentage (.636), was tied for fourth in homers and was tied for fifth overall in total bases (21).

On Monday against the Kansas City Royals, the 25-year-old launched his fourth homer of the season, a solo shot in the third inning as the Astros went on to defeat the Royals, 6-5, at Minute Maid Park. After drawing a walk in a pinch-hitting appearance in a loss to Kansas City on Tuesday, Castro and the Astros bounced back in the rubber match between the two Clubs on Wednesday with a 3-1 victory.

The California native shined on the offensive and defensive sides, going 3-for-4 with a double, an RBI and a run scored at the plate, while throwing out a pair of base runners in the latter half of the contest to help seal the win for Houston.

On Saturday, the Stanford University product combined with teammate Matt Dominguez to launch a pair of homers each, but their efforts were not enough as the host Astros fell to the Oakland Athletics, 11-5. Castro went 3-for-4 in the outing as he and Dominguez became the first Astros duo to collect multiple homers in the same game since Lance Berkman and Craig Biggio on July 25, 2005 against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Castro’s pair of blasts gives him six homers on the season, equaling his 2012 total and tying a career high. Houston’s first round pick (10th overall) in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft continued to swing a hot bat in Sunday’s matchup with Oakland, collecting a career-high four hits and scoring a run as Houston fell to the visiting A’s, 6-2.

Castro, in his third Major League season, became the first Astros player with at least three hits in three straight games since Ty Wigginton on August 15-17, 2008.

In recognition of his American League Player of the Week Award, Jason Castro will be awarded a watch courtesy of Game Time.

Peacock called back up from Triple-A

The Astros recalled right-handed pitcher Brad Peacock from Triple-A Oklahoma City prior to Tuesday’s game against the Rockies, taking the roster spot of outfielder Robbie Grossman, who was optioned to the Minor Leagues on Monday. He’ll be in uniform for the 1:10 p.m. CT.

Peacock began the season in the Astros starting rotation, but was sent down after going 1-3 with a 9.41 ERA in six games (five starts) with Houston. He went 1-2 with a 4.98 ERA in four starts for the RedHawks, allowing 18 hits and striking out 27 batters in 21 2/3 innings.

Grossman, who was called up April 24, went 0-for-5 with a walk and three strikeouts on Monday to drop his batting average to .198 and on-base percentage to .310. He started 26 of 28 games, mostly in the lead-off spot.

“Just part of the game, part of the business,” Grossman said as he left Minute Maid Park on Monday. “If I played better it wouldn’t matter, but it is what it is.”

Grossman was acquired by the Astros in last year’s trade that sent pitcher Wandy Rodriguez to the Pirates. A Houston-area native, he hit .324 with a .452 on-base percentage in 19 games for Oklahoma City before being called up.

“They said to go down there and keep playing hard,” Grossman said.

The move could open the door for Brandon Barnes, who won Monday’s game with a walk-off win in the 12th inning, to get more playing time. Center fielder Justin Maxwell, who fractured his hand last month, could return soon and will begin a rehab later this week.

Grossman: ‘If I played better, it wouldn’t matter.’

Two weeks after Astros manager Bo Porter said Robbie Grossman would get every chance to prove he was his starting center fielder, the team optioned the outfielder to Triple-A Oklahoma City following Monday’s 3-2 win over the Rockies.

Grossman, who was called up April 24, went 0-for-5 with a walk and three strikeouts on Monday to drop his batting average to .198 and on-base percentage to .310. He started 26 of 28 games, mostly in the lead-off spot.

“Just part of the game, part of the business,” Grossman said as he left Minute Maid Park. “If I played better it wouldn’t matter, but it is what it is.”

The team is planning to call up right-hander Brad Peacock, giving them an extra arm heading into Coors Field later this week.

Grossman was acquired by the Astros in last year’s trade that sent pitcher Wandy Rodriguez to the Pirates. A Houston-area native, he hit .324 with a .452 on-base percentage in 19 games for Oklahoma City before being called up.

“They said to go down there and keep playing hard,” Grossman said.

The move could open the door for Brandon Barnes, who won Monday’s game with a walk-off win in the 12th inning, to get more playing time. Center fielder Justin Maxwell, who fractured his hand last month, could return soon and will begin a rehab later this week. Trevor Crowe has also played well in his limited chances.

Singleton to start season Tuesday

Astros top prospect Jonathan Singleton will begin his season Tuesday for Class A Quad Cities against Kane County after missing the first 50 games of the season for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program for a drug of abuse — his second positive test.

General manager Jeff Luhnow said Monday the plan is for Singleton to spend a few days with Quad Cities, a few days at Double-A Corpus Christi before eventually winding up at Triple-A Oklahoma City. He has spent the season so far playing in extended Spring Training.

“We have him on a schedule, and it partially depends on when the team is at home and when the team is on the road and what kind of trip it is and all that,” Luhnow said. “We’ll obviously monitor him and all that. It’s different than coming back from a medical situation when you have to get daily checkups to make sure he’s OK. We know he’s OK. He’s been playing in Florida.”

Singleton, a left-handed-hitting first baseman, hit .284 with 21 homers and 79 RBIs in 131 games last year at Corpus Christi and was expected to push for playing time on the Major League club this year. The Astros acquired him and three other players from the Phillies in the Hunter Pence trade in 2011.

When asked if Singleton could reach the Majors this year, Luhnow cautioned that he had yet to even play at Triple-A.

“I never assume someone is going to make that jump successfully out of the gate,” Luhnow said. “Ultimately he will, but he’s got to demonstrate to us he can handle that environment and pitching before we move him up here.”

Porter sees Dominguez, Castro for the long haul

Astros manager Bo Porter was asked repeatedly this spring about setting his starting lineup, and he always gave the same answer: “Jose Altuve is my starting second baseman and he’s going to hit leadoff.” In other words, Porter was set on the 5-foot-6 Altuve as his starting second baseman, but every other position was up for grabs.

Though the evaluation process continues in the outfield, earlier this month Porter identified J.D. Martinez as the starting left-fielder, Robbie Grossman as the starting center-fielder and Jimmy Paredes as the starting right-fielder — for now. These names are by no means locked in as much as Altuve, an All-Star a year ago, but Porter’s declaration was more about finding out what Martinez, Grossman and Paredes can do to prove they belong.

Which brings us to Saturday night, when third baseman Matt Dominguez and catcher Jason Castro both hit two homers, becoming the first Astros teammates to do that since Lance Berkman and Craig Biggio in 2005.

Dominguez, a tremendous defender, has seven homers in his last 12 games after not hitting a homer in his first 33 games this year, and the former first-round pick Castro has homered three times in his last six games and is hitting .450 in that span. Dominguez is hitting .253 with seven homers and a team-leading 24 RBIs, and Castro is hitting .265 with six homers and 15 RBIs.

After the game, Porter was ready to say Dominguez and Castro had joined Altuve in locking up a starting spot for the long term, and considering there’s nobody in the Minor Leagues ready to push them, that’s a good thing for the Astros.

“We found ourself a third baseman and we found ourself a catcher,” Porter said. “And coming into the season we knew we had a second baseman. This is the thing: You let them play long enough, the questions you have, they’ll answer them. One way or another, they will answer the questions you need to have answered. I will not leave this season without getting every question I have in my head answered.”

As for first base and shortstop? Jonathan Singleton appears to be the first baseman of the future and will begin his Minor League season next week after missing the first 50 games because of a second failed drug test. The shortstop spot is being kept warm until 2012 No. 1 pick Carlos Correa is ready, though Jonathan Villar could be interesting to watch next year.

And don’t sleep on Chris Carter, who has enough power to entrench himself at first base or designated hitter if he can cut down on his strikeouts.

Whether any of these names are here when the Astros hope to contend in a few years remains to be seen, but there are some signs on hope in the rubble of a 14-35 season.

Singleton headed to Quad Cities

Astros top prospect Jonathan Singleton, who is nearing the end of his 50-game suspension for a second failed drug test, will begin his season sometime next week at Class A Quad Cities before moving to Triple-A Oklahoma City, general manager Jeff Luhnow said Sunday.

Singleton, ranked by MLB.com as the top prospect the Astros’ organization, was suspended Jan. 9 after violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program for a drug of abuse. Singleton later said in a statement he had tested positive for marijuana.

Singleton, a left-handed-hitting first baseman, hit .284 with 21 homers and 79 RBIs in 131 games last year at Double-A Corpus Christi and was expected to push for playing time on the Major League club this year. The Astros acquired him from the Phillies in the Hunter Pence trade in 2011.

Luhnow didn’t have an exact date for Singleton’s return, saying it would happen next week. He would likely be eligible to return May 28, which would be the 51st game on Corpus Christi’s schedule and he was on its roster when suspended.

“Right now, it looks like we’re going to send him to Quad Cities for a short period of time and from there to go his next assignment, which will probably be Oklahoma City,” he said. “Just give him a chance to play under the lights somewhere else, and Quad Cities is our newest affiliate and we love the ballpark and we love the management team and it’s a good opportunity.

“Whenever we have a chance to send a big leaguer, or close to a big league player there, is strengthens the bond between us and our affiliate.”

Clark, Perez speak with Paredes

Astros bench coach Eduardo Perez and first base coach Dave Clark both had conversations with outfielder Jimmy Paredes on Saturday, a day after he crashed into teammate Jake Elmore and forced him to drop a ball that allowed the Pirates to score the winning run in the ninth inning

Paredes, who was in right field, didn’t see Elmore, the second baseman, waving his arms to signal he was prepared to catch the ball, at which point Paredes should have backed off. It was the second time in less than week Paredes ran into a second baseman. He crashed into Jose Altuve on Monday in Detroit and partially dislocated Altuve’s jaw.

“This is Major League Baseball and you can’t have those kinds of fundamental mishaps in big league games,” manager Bo Porter said. “It should not happen.”

Perez said he was honest with Paredes. He told him the play in Detroit wasn’t his fault because Altuve didn’t hear him calling for the ball, but on Friday he should have peeled off as Elmore was raising his hands.

“He was a little confused on how he’s going to look down and up at the same time,” Perez said. “It’s just him being a little bit raw out there, but he’s got to learn from it. I tried to tell him to switch positions [Paredes used to play second base] and think about when you’re a second baseman, what do you do? How do you call it? You call it by raising your hand and you’re expecting the right-fielder to see you. Now you’re a right-fielder and you have to see him. If he’s under the ball, he’s getting it.”

Veteran pitcher Edgar Gonzalez, who was on the mound at the time, spoke to Paredes in their native Spanish after the game and offered words of encouragement.

“He told me that happens in the game sometimes and he told me the most important thing is you and Elmore are fine,” Paredes said. “There were no injuries. Nobody got hurt. In the game, that situation happens. That’s what he was he was telling me. Just keep going.”

Source: Reid Ryan to be named president

Reid Ryan, the son of Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan and president of CEO of Ryan-Sanders Baseball, will be named as the next president of the Astros, a source confirmed to MLB.com on Thursday.

Ryan, who runs the Triple-A Round Rock Express (Rangers) and Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks (Astros), both of which are owned by Nolan Ryan and Houston businessman Don Sanders, will be introduced at a news conference on Friday.

The position as president of the Astros became open when George Postolos announced Monday he was stepping down.

Reid Ryan didn’t return a phone call seeking comment late Wednesday, and the Astros are not commenting on the search for a new president.

Reid Ryan serves on the Board of Trustees for Minor League Baseball, the executive committee of the Pacific Coast League and is the Board of Trustees representative for the Baseball Internet Rights Company (BIRCO). He’s also involved in many other business ventures including real estate, banking and the restaurant industry.

His father, Nolan Ryan, played 27 years in the Major Leagues, including nine with the Astros, and became baseball’s all-time strikeout leader before being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999. He’s currently president and CEO of the Rangers.

Porter apologizes to umps for illegal pitching change

Astros manger Bo Porter issued a public apology Friday afternoon for making an illegal pitching change in Thursday’s loss to the Angels, a move that led to the two-game suspension and fine of crew chief Fieldin Culbreth and fines for the rest of his crew.

Porter pulled pitcher Wesley Wright from the game in the seventh inning Thursday before he had a chance to face a batter, which is a misapplication official baseball rule 3.05(b). The rule states a pitcher must face at least one hitter before he can come out of the game, unless he’s injured.

The other members of Culbreth’s crew – Brian O’Nora, Bill Welke and Adrian Johnson – also received fines by Major League Baseball stemming from the same sequence of events.

Porter, the first-year manager, was adamant following the game he was allowed to make a pitching change because the Angels had brought in a pinch-hitter after Wright was announced as being in the game, but he was informed later that night Wright should have faced the batter.

“I would say the first thing is me, personally, I want to apologize to their whole crew for putting them in that position,” Porter said. “And it’s unfortunate for the game of baseball, but at the same time I had a chance to speak to [Culbreth] last night after the fact and he called over and I stand corrected of my thought process and interpretation of what it is I believed the rule to be. I want to give them my apology, and I wish the whole thing never happened.”

Porter said Culbreth called over to his office after the umpire had spoken to his superiors and told him the pitching change hadn’t been handled properly. Porter said he apologized to Culbreth at that time, and then took time prior to Friday’s game to apologize again through reporters.

“When I went out there last night, my interpretation of it and my thought process of what it is I believed the rule to be was the fact that the scheduled hitter had to be faced by that pitcher,” Porter said. “After the game, I found out that was not the case and there are some repercussions. As I sit here today, it’s more that I feel sorry for the crew chief and crew for having to wear what it is that happened last night.”

Angels manager Mike Scioscia had been playing the game under protest, which was dropped when his team scored three runs in the eighth and won, 6-5.

The controversy came in the seventh inning. With runners at first and third and two outs, Porter brought in Wright, a lefty, to face left-handed hitter J.B. Shuck. Porter then subbed in the right-handed Hector Ambriz before Wright threw a pitch after he saw right-hander Luis Jimenez on deck to pinch-hit.

Porter said Wright could have been pulled when a pinch-hitter entered the game had he pitched the previous inning and was beginning a fresh inning, but he reiterated it was an honest mistake.

“But a mistake we don’t want to have,” he said. “That’s why to me, I give my deepest apology to their entire crew. Mike Scioscia was right. I feel bad I put them in position where they felt that, ‘Maybe Bo is right,’ and then a decision was made that ended up not being the right decision.”

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