May 2013

Major League Baseball reviewing improper pitching change

A Major League Baseball spokesman said Friday the controversial pitching change in the seventh inning of Thursday’s Astros-Angels game was not applied correctly and that the matter is being reviewed.

The Angels were playing the game under protest before rallying for three runs in eighth inning to win, 6-5. Angels manager Mike Scioscia argued with the umpires that Astros manager Bo Porter made an illegal pitching change in the seventh inning.

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

Rule 3.05 (b) says that a pitcher must face at least one hitter before he can come out of the game, unless he’s injured. Wright wasn’t injured, and Scioscia argued at length with the umpires before notifying them he was playing the game under protest.

“My contention was that the pitcher who came in had to face one batter,” Scioscia said Thursday. “That’s why I protested it, and we’re happy we won.”

Porter said following the game he sat in a meeting last year with Nationals manager Davey Johnson that laid out the rule (Porter was Washington’s third-base coach).

“If you have to pinch-hit for that batter, you now have the right to bring in another pitcher,” he said. “Technically ,Wesley came in to pitch the batter that was scheduled to hit [Shuck] but he pinch-hit for the batter that was scheduled to hit. Which, from my understanding of the rule, you can bring in another pitcher to face the pinch-hitter.”

Porter said he stopped to talk to the umpires to make sure Jimenez was officially in the game.

“Once I made sure that he pinch-hit for the batter that was scheduled to hit, then I started towards the mound,” he said. “The home plate umpire [Adrian Johnson], he kind of stopped me. He said, ‘Whoa, Bo,’ and then Scioscia started yelling he has to face a hitter.

“I just calmly explained to him my interpretation of the rule is ‘Yes he has to face hitter, as long as it’s the hitter that’s scheduled to hit.’ The hitter that was scheduled to hit had now been pinch-hit for, which now gives me the right to bring a pitcher to face the pinch-hitter.”

Porter address pitching change controversy

Here’s what Astros manager Bo Porter told the media about the seventh-inning pitching change controversy in Thursday’s loss to the Angels.

With runners at first and third and two outs and the Angels trailing, 5-3, in the seventh, Porter brought in lefty Wesley Wright to face left-handed hitter J.B. Shuck. Porter then subbed right-hander Hector Ambriz before Wright threw a pitch after he saw right-hander Luis Jimenez on deck to pinch-hit.

Rule 3.05 (b) says that a pitcher must face at least one hitter before he can come out of the game, unless he’s injured. Wright didn’t appear to be injured, and Angels manager Mike Scioscia argued at length with the umpires before notifying them he was playing the game under protest.

Q: Can you walk us through the pitching change in the seventh inning?

A: “My understanding of the rule, and I was fortunate enough last year to sit in with [Nationals manager] Davey [Johnson] when they changed the rule of a pitcher having to face a batter. But at the same time, if you have to pinch-hit for that batter, you now have the right to bring in another pitcher. Technically, Wesley came in to pitch the batter that was scheduled to hit [Shuck] but he pinch-hit for the batter that was scheduled to hit. Which, from my understanding of the rule, you can bring in another pitcher to face the pinch-hitter.”

Q:  What’s going through your mind when the umps are talking?

A: “At that point, you just let the umpires sort it out. Like I said, my understanding of the rule…I felt like if I did the best thing for my team, I was going to let the umpires sort it out. At that point, the umpires decided that we were able to let Ambriz face the pinch-hitter. I don’t think the delay or anything affected Ambriz from a standpoint of his effectiveness.”

Q: Just to be clear, before you went out to get Wesley you stopped to talk to the umpires for a while. That was…?

A: “The first thing I wanted to make sure is the pinch-hitter was in the game. That’s why I stopped before I went to the mound, to make sure he pinch-hit for the guy who was scheduled to hit.”

Q: So Jimenez was in the game?

A: “Yes. Once I made sure that he pinch-hit for the batter that was scheduled to hit, then I started towards the mound. The home plate umpire, he kind of stopped me. He said, ‘Whoa, Bo,’ and then Scioscia started yelling he has to face a hitter. I just calmly explained to him my interpretation of the rule is ‘Yes he has to face hitter ,as long as it’s the hitter that’s scheduled to hit.’ The hitter that was scheduled to hit had now been pinch-hit for, which now gives me the right to bring a pitcher to face the pinch-hitter.”

 

Humber leans on Graham in times of need

Astros pitcher Philip Humber, who was told Wednesday by manager Bo Porter he was being moved from the rotation to the bullpen, was disappointed but understands the team’s decision. Humber is 0-7 with an 8.82 ERA in seven starts, including a 16.20 ERA in his last four starts after a solid start.

“It’s fine with me,” he said “To me, I’m looking at it as an opportunity to take a step back and there are some things I need to get better at. It will give me a chance to work on that and help the team however I can.”

Humber took advantage of Monday’s day off to meet with Rice University coach Wayne Graham, who won his only College World Series title when Humber pitched a complete game in the title game against Stanford 10 years ago.

“A lot of things he told me were the same things these guys told me, and I guess I was in a different frame of mind and more open to suggestions,” he said. “I’ve been kind of down on myself. I didn’t think my stuff was very good this year and kind of focused on that, rather than really just making pitches down the zone. My stuff’s going to get better, but right now it is what it is. Whatever your stuff is, if you’re throwing it up in the strike zone, it’s going to get hit hard. That’s what I want to get better at is locating all my pitches so I can get guys out. That’s the main thing.”

Humber made 10 relief appearances last year after the White Sox moved him out the starting rotation, so he’s no stranger to what needs to be done out of the bullpen.

“For me it’s a matter of getting right and getting more opportunities to get in there,” he said. “I need to get better. That’s the main things, that’s what I’m focused on, where ever I’m at — rotation or bullpen. I’ve got to pitch better and I’m not satisfied with what I’ve done so far, so I’ll keep working at it.”

Keuchel, Bedard to rotation; Humber to bullpen

Astros manager Bo Porter said Wednesday left-hander Dallas Keuchel will start Friday’s series opener against the Rangers, with fellow southpaw Erik Bedard moving back into the rotation to throw Saturday’s game. Meanwhile, struggling right-hander Philip Humber has been moved to the bullpen.

“We’re just trying to go with the guys that give us the best opportunity at this time,” Porter said.

Keuchel is 0-1 with a 4.96 ERA in six relief appearances, so Friday will mark his first start of 2013. He made 16 starts for the Astros last year and was 3-8 with a 5.27 ERA, including a complete-game win over Cleveland on June 23.

“One of the things you look at, the Rangers’ lineup it’s left-handed dominant and they have some left-handed guys in their lineup, and we felt like if we can get both of our lefties matched up against them it would put us in good position,” Porter said. “Dallas has done a tremendous job out of the bullpen and he’s given us length every time he’s come into the game, and we’re going to give him an opportunity to get into the rotation.”

Bedard made five starts before being moved to the bullpen and now finds himself back in the rotation. He’s 0-2 with a 9.98 ERA as a starter this year, but in two relief appearances has allowed three hits and one run in 6 1/3 innings.

“The competition we have for these spots is a fluid situation and it wasn’t a competition that was going to end in Spring Training,” Porter said. “I made that perfectly clear to the guys then. Obviously, moves like this kind of reiterate that to them and we’re going to try to go with the hot hand and go with the guys that give us the best opportunity to win ballgames.”

Humber got off to a nice start for Houston and had a 2.89 ERA in three starts, but he was 0-3 after the Astros didn’t score any runs in any of those starts. But he’s 0-4 with a 16.20 ERA in four starts since.

“I talked to Humber and told him the same thing we told Bedard when we sent him down there,” Porter said. “I said, ‘It’s going to be a situation  you are built up and you’ve seen the long guys go down there and have success, like Keuchel, and end up back in the rotation.’ Bedard went down to the bullpen and did a tremendous job last time out and he’s going into the rotation. It’s a fluid situation we will continue to monitor and this competition will continue to go on.”

Bedard will pitch at Pittsburgh the following weekend, Porter said.

Luhnow talks with MLB Network

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow spoke with hosts Brian Kenny and Harold Reynolds on Tuesday during MLB Network’s “MLB Now,” discussing the rebuilding Astros, roster moves and the team’s tandem pitching project in the farm system. Here’s the video:

Astros shape the look of their outfield

Outfielders Rick Ankiel and Fernando Martinez were designated for assignment Monday, likely bringing an end to their tenure in Houston. The Astros also optioned infielder Brandon Laird to Triple-A Oklahoma City and recalled outfielder Trevor Crowe and infielder/outfielder Jimmy Paredes, as well was reinstating outfielder J.D. Martinez from the disabled list. </p>

Crowe, J.D. Martinez and Paredes will join the Astros before Tuesday’s 7:10 p.m. game against the Angels at Minute Maid Park. Ankiel has enough service time to refuse a Minor League assignment, at which point he would probably be released. The Astros have 10 days to decide what to do with Fernando Martinez, who will be released, traded or sent to the Minor Leagues if he passes through waivers.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow had high hopes for Ankiel, who he watched blossom into a potent outfielder while both were with the Cardinals. Ankiel hit just .194 in 25 games with five homers, 11 RBIs and a whopping 35 strikeouts in 62 at-bats.

“Rick Ankiel is a class guy, and I really like him both as a baseball player and as a person,” Luhnow said. “We brought him in here to help our younger kids, to mentor them and help out on the field. I really appreciate everything he did for us. The reality is the team is not where we wanted to be at this point and we feel like outfield is one of our weakest positions, and we wanted to give some guys who are having some success at Triple-A a chance to continue that up here.”

Luhnow met with manager Bo Porter on Monday at Minute Maid Park and went over the roster, and the general manager said the moves were made to fill some specific needs and not a shake-up of a club that’s lost 10 of 11 games and is 8-24.

“We sat down today and really talked about the mix of the team and what was available to us in Triple-A,” Luhnow said. “This is more of a testament about how Jimmy’s been doing in Triple-A, how Trevor’s been doing in Triple-A and wanting J.D. back. We weren’t making changes for the sake of making changes.”

Luhnow acknowledged the club also talked about the status of struggling starting pitcher Philip Humber, but Luhnow deferred to Porter.

Crowe is hitting .300 (33-for-110) in 29 games for Oklahoma City in 29 games this season, clubbing two homers and driving in 14 runs while stealing a team-high 11 bases. Crowe, a former first-round Draft pick by the Indians who’s appeared in 205 Major League games, was signed by the Astros this offseason as a Minor League free agent.

Paredes entered Monday hitting a team-high .376 (41-for-109) in 29 games for Oklahoma City, which ranked fifth in the Pacific Coast League, with a 1.040 OPS. Paredes has started at third base and in right field this season for the RedHawks and remains raw on defense.

J.D. Martinez, out since April 20 with a right knee sprain, hit .300 in five games on a rehab assignment with Double-A Corpus Christi. He played in 14 games, including 12 starts, for the Astros before heading to the disabled list.

Fernando Martinez, who had trouble staying healthy, was hitting .182 with a homer and three RBIs in 11 games, while Laird was batting .200 with two homers and five RBIs in 11 games

Which Astros pitcher should be moved into rotation?

The Astros announced Sunday they were moving LHP Erik Bedard out of the rotation and into the bullpen, opening up a rotation spot for Friday’s game against the Rangers at Minute Maid Park. There’s no shortage of candidates for that start, ranging from long relievers with starting pedigrees in Paul Clemens, Jose Ciserno and Dallas Keuchel, to Minor League prospects Jarred Cosart and Brett Oberholtzer.

So, who would you like to see moved into the rotation?

Bedard out of Astros rotation

For the second time in less than a week, the Astros made a change in their starting pitching rotation when manager Bo Porter announced Sunday left-hander Erik Bedard would be working out of the bullpen for an indefinite period.

Last week, right-hander Brad Peacock was moved out of the rotation and later sent to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Bedard is 0-2 with an 8.20 ERA in six games for the Astros this year, but has a 9.98 ERA in five starts. He threw 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief in an Opening Night win over the Rangers before making five starts, four of which the Astros have lost.

“I talked to Erik about it, and he took it well,” Porter said. “He understood the decision, and like I said to him, he’s not a guy that I’ll get up and sit back down. When he gets up [in the bullpen], I’m going to get him up and get him in the game. I understand where he’s at his in his career, but I do believe that he can really help us in a multitude of roles.

“His strikeouts are up and he’s a guy you can bring in if you find a pocket with some lefties that it may be the back end of a game situation, or it may be a long situation where we have a lead going into the sixth inning, kind of like we did Opening Day, and can set up the closer.”

The Astros will take advantage of Monday’s off today to keep Jordan Lyles (Tuesday), Bud Norris (Wednesday) and Lucas Harrell (Thursday) or four days of rest, and Porter said he’ll announce a starter for Friday’s game against the Rangers later in the week.

Left-hander Dallas Keuchel or right-handers Paul Clemens or Jose Cisnero – all of whom are in long relief roles in the bullpen – could make the start, but Porter didn’t rule out making a move. Top pitching prospect Jarred Cosart is scheduled to start Monday for Triple-A Oklahoma City, but the Astros don’t seem in a rush to promote him. Left-hander Brett Oberholtzer is scheduled to throw Friday for the RedHawks.

Astros lineup vs. Tigers

Astros lineup Sunday vs. Tigers:

CF Robbie Grossman

LF Fernando Martinez

C Jason Castro

1B Carlos Pena

DH Carlos Corporan

3B Brandon Laird

RF Rick Ankiel

SS Ronny Cedeno

2B Marwin Gonzalez

RHP Philip Humber

Astros name Minor League Players of the Month

The Astros player development department has named April’s Minor League Pitchers and Players of the Month at each of its four in-season Minor League affiliates. These awards are chosen every month by the field staff of each team:

TRIPLE-A OKLAHOMA CITY

RHP Jarred Cosart was named Pitcher of the Month after posting a 3-0 record and a 2.63 ERA (8ER/27.1IP) in six games (five starts) for the RedHawks. He allowed just a .190 (19×100) opponent’s batting average and led the club with 29 strikeouts in his 27.1 innings pitched. IF Marc Krauss was named the RedHawks Player of the Month after hitting .333 (26×78) with five doubles, six home runs and 25 RBI in 23 games in April. Krauss ranks tied for first among all Astros minor leaguers in RBI and ranks seventh in the Pacific Coast League in that category.

DOUBLE-A CORPUS CHRISTI

RHP Asher Wojciechowski was named Double A Corpus Christi’s Pitcher of the Month after going 2-1 with a save and a 2.08 ERA (6ER/26IP) in six games (three starts) for the Hooks. He allowed just 17 hits and seven walks in his 26.0 innings for a 0.92 WHIP, which ranked sixth in the Texas League. OF George Springer earned Player of the Month honors after posting a .297 (27×91) average, with eight doubles, eight home runs and 20 RBI in 25 games in April. He leads all Astros minor leaguers in home runs and ranks tied for first in the Texas League in home runs and third in OPS (.398OBP/.625SLG).

CLASS A LANCASTER

LHP Luis Cruz earned Class A Lancaster Pitcher of the Month honors after compiling a 1-1 record with one save and a 3.47 ERA (9ER/23.1IP) in six games (three starts). Drafted by Houston out of Puerto Rico in the ninth round of the June 2008 Draft, Cruz fanned 30 hitters in 23.1 inning pitched in April. Lancaster’s Player of the Month went to SS Nolan Fontana, who leads all Astros minor leaguers with a .508 on-base percentage. In April, Fontana hit .365 (31×85) with 22 runs scored, seven doubles, two homers and 19 RBI in 24 games for the JetHawks. Fontana leads the California League in walks (27) and runs scored (24), while ranking second in OBP and third in hits.

CLASS A QUAD CITIES

A second-round draft pick by Houston in the June 2010 draft, RHP Vince Velasquez went 3-0 with two saves and a 2.45 ERA (7ER/25.2IP) in six games (three starts) en route to being named Class A Quad Cities Pitcher of the Month. Velasquez had 31 strikeouts in 25.2 innings pitched last month, while allowing just a .156 (14×90) opponent’s batting average. OF Teoscar Hernandez was named the club’s Player of the Month after hitting .297 (27×91) with 18 runs scored, seven doubles, 12 RBI and eight stolen bases in 21 games. Hernandez leads the River Bandits in runs scored, hits, doubles, triples (3) and steals.

 

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