February 2014

Game 1: Astros pile up runs, hits against Braves

What happened: The Astros bashed out 12 hits to beat the Braves, 7-5, in their Grapefruit League opener Friday in Lake Buena vista, Fla. (boxscore).

What we learned: The Astros’ approach of practice situational hitting during batting practice appears to have paid off. The Astros were a solid 6-for-16 with runners in scoring position.

“I felt like offensively we had some really good at-bats,” manager Bo Porter said. “We did a tremendous job of situational hitting. When you look at a lot of the situations we put these guys in throughout the course of the first week, week and a half of Spring Training, it was pretty evident they came up real quick today. Man on second base, nobody out. Man on third base, less than two outs. I felt like offensively we really strong together some good ABs.”

What we learned II: RHP Lucas Harrell, who threw 50 pitches in two innings of work, was encouraged by his first outing, which focused on mainly sinkers and changeups. He allowed the Braves to load the bases with no outs in the first inning and allowed just one run, and then he overcame a leadoff walk in the second with three quick outs, including a nice play by shortstop Jonathan Villar.

“I think the second inning was definitely back to normal, what I was in 2012,” Harrell said. “I was pretty encouraged by that.”

What we learned III: Seeing Carlos Correa (SS), Delino DeShields Jr. (CF) and George Springer (RF) all on the field at the same time is rather exciting. All three entered the game in the fifth inning. DeShields and Spinger came on as pinch-runners and both immediately stole bases.

What else: C Max Stassi showed some nice opposite-field pop with a double high off the right-field wall. That came moments after he nearly homered down the right-field line, but watched it go foul. … RF Marc Krauss was the only Astros player with two outs, going 2-for-3. … RF George Springer replaced Krauss in the fifth inning and wound up stealing two bases. Delino DeShields Jr. also had a steal. … Peter Moylan, Darin Downs and Chia-Jen Lo each threw scoreless innings.

What went wrong: The Astros did run into a couple of outs on the bases, but Bo Porter didn’t mind the aggressiveness. … Paul Clemens gave up five hits and two runs in two innings. … Rudy Owens allowed a solo homer.

What they said: “He was floating. It didn’t even look like he was running that fast,”Dexter Fowler on Delino DeShields Jr.’s stolen base in the fifth inning.

What’s next: RHP Scott Feldman, who signed a three-year, $30-million contract with the Astros this offseason, makes his debut for Houston when it travels to Lakeland, Fla., to face the Tigers at 12:05 p.m. CT Saturday. Feldman pitched for the Rangers from 2005-12 before splitting last year between the Cubs and Orioles. He’s likely going to be the Astros’ Opening Day starter.

Who’s injured: RHP Mark Appel (recovering from appendectomy), RHP Asher Wojciechowski (lat strain), RHP Jessse Crain (calf strain/biceps tendon surgery recovery), OF Adron Chambers (hamstring strain), RHP Jorge De Leon (quad strain), LHP Raul Valdes (left knee surgery recovery).

Links of the day:

Feature story and video: No one knows Astros evolution better than Jason Castro.

Notes: Japhet Amador reports to camp, Moylan’s career launched at Champion Stadium, Luhnow to speak at analytics conference, Wojciechowki hopes PRP injection does the trick.

Tweets of the day:

The day in photos:

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Japhet Amador

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Will Tony DeFrancesco get to manage Carlos Correa this year?

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Carlos Correa signs autograph for Astros fan Michael Savage

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Former teammates Matt Albers and Chris Johnson

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Delino DeShields

Amador reports to camp

Japhet Amador reported to Astros camp on Friday afternoon. He went through a physical and worked out with the players who were staying behind at Osceola County Stadium instead of playing in the night game against the Braves at Disney.

Amador, signed last year out of the Mexican League, originally didn’t report to camp because of complications with his wife’s pregnancy. Now that he’s here, he will compete for a starting first base job, and he said he could be ready for game action in three or four days.

Amador’s agent, Oscar Suarez, served as his interpreter when the met reporters.

“It was a tough decision when she was in the hospital,” Suarez said. “It was his family’s decision, her family’s decision, but she’s doing better now. But he’s still worried she might have a setback or two.”

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Japhet Amador prepares to work out

Amador knows a few of the players in camp, having represented the Astros in the Arizona Fall League. Delino DeShields Jr. and Jonathan Meyer were his teammates.

“It was a long season for him since he played winter ball and he got the point he got to mentally get away from the game,” he said.  “Now he’s ready to come back.”

Amador hit 36 home runs for Diablos Rojos del Mexico. He led his team in homers and RBIs, with 121. In 104 games and 449 plate appearances, Amador struck out only 59 times.

“His dream is to become the first baseman here, and he’s got the support of his family, his wife’s family,” Suarez said. “This is where he wants to be, and he’s looking forward to the challenge.”

Meanwhile, right-hander Asher Wojciechowski was back in camp after flying to Houston for a PRP injection into an injured lat he’s been dealing with for a month.

“It’s feeling fine,” he said. “I think we’re going to give it a couple of more days of rest and then whatever the trainers want to do and go along with how I’m feeling. Hopefully this helps the recovery process.”

Astros relievers show their stuff

Eight relief pitchers took the mound for one-inning stints for hthe Astros on Thursday night during an intrasquad game at Osceola County Stadium. The Astros open Grapefruit League play at 5:05 p.m. CT on Friday against the Braves in nearby Lake Buena Vista, Fla., with Lucas Harrell scheduled to start and throw 45 pitches or two innings.

Bobby Doran, Josh Zeid, Jason Stoffel and Rhiner Cruz pitched for Team Everett, and Chad Qualls, Anthony Bass, Kevin Chapman and Luis Cruz threw for Team Ensberg. The goal for the pitchers in each inning was to try to protect a 2-1 lead.

The only run scored when Carlos Correa hit a grounder up the middle that scored Delino DeShields Jr., who flashed his wheels.

“It was pretty good,” manager Bo Porter said. “I felt like the pitchers did a tremendous job, even a couple of guys who got in trouble, you talk about being able to induce ground balls. I felt like the double plays were huge. When they did get in trouble they were able to induce the ground balls and get the double plays.”

The situational intrasquad game was yet another example of how the Astros have tried to better the focus this spring.

“They continue to do a great job,” Porter said. “Putting these guys in these situations has increased intensity of camp, and I think it’s going to bode well as we move into forward that now they’re ready to play baseball games because of the way we’ve run camp in these first 11 days,” Porter said.

Here are some links:

Astros expect Amador in camp Friday

Meyer embraces the nickname “Yeti”

Tropeano enjoying first big league camp

Correa learning from vet Izturis

Here’s the lineup for Friday’s Grapefruit League opener:

CF Dexter Fowler

2B Jose Altuve

RF Marc Krauss

DH Chris Carter

1B Brett Wallace

3B Matt Dominguez

C Carlos Corporan

LF Robbie Grossman

SS Jonathan Villar

Here are the photos of the day:

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Brett Wallace gets acrobatic

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Jarred Cosart and Matt Albers

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Pitching coach Brent Strom gets hands on with Jorge De Leon

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Tony De Francesco and Domingo Santana

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First base coach Tarrick Brock explains base running

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Catching instructor Jeff Murphy throws BP

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Max Stassi

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Jason Castro and Dexter Fowler interact

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Jose Altuve places a hex on Jonathan Villar

Astros tweets of the day

I was off today for the most part, but don’t think we won’t have tweets of the day:



Astros tweets of the day

Here are the Astros tweets of the day:



Amador could report to camp Friday

The agent for Japhet Amador, the burly slugger who didn’t report to Spring Training because of a family emergency, said Tuesday he could report to camp later this week. He has been at home in Mexico dealing with his ailing wife.

The Astros are attempting to have him report to camp by Friday, general manager Jeff Luhnow said.

“We’re talking right now,” agent Oscar Suarez said. “We’re just trying to figure it out.”

Amador was signed last year after he hit 36 home runs for Diablos Rojos del Mexico. He led his team in homers and RBIs with 121. In 104 games and 449 plate appearances, Amador struck out only 59 times. He represented the Astros in the Arizona Fall League.

Day 10: Astros have a little fun with hitting drill

In an effort to ramp up the intensity while promoting some camaraderie, Astros position players ended their workout Tuesday with a hitting competition that pitted a team picked by Jason Castro against a team picked by Brett Wallace.

The teams took turns batting against a pitching machine while trying to execute in different situations – squeeze bunts, man on third and one out, etc. – with manager Bo Porter standing  behind a net and playing umpire, determining whether the batted ball would have done the job in real life.

Each team was awarded points for proper execution, and Wallace’s team won the competition on a walk-off homer run by catcher Rene Garcia.

“I thought it was great,” Porter said. “Those guys started ragging each other a little bit. It’s always good to add a little fun to Spring Training, but at the same time you keep it intense and competitive, and I felt the guys did a great job.”

The losing team had to pick up more than 500 baseballs that were scattered around the outfield and the bullpens, while the winning team headed to the clubhouse.

“We’ve been working on a lot of those situations,” Wallace said. “It’s been a big focus for us this whole camp for everybody. Not only was it like competing against yourself, the guys in your group, but you’re putting the whole team in a real competitive situations.

“It’s the closest we’re going to get to a game right now. Any time you’re out on the field in a separate dugout competing against each other, it’s going to make it more real.

Garcia proved to be an unlikely hero.

“He called it, too,” Wallace said. “After everybody went through [and hit], you could pick who you wanted to go up. I went a couple of times and some other guys went up, and Rene was like, ‘I got it, I want to go.’ He called it and requested it and went up there and delivered. It’s pretty neat he did that.”

Check out these links:

Feature story and video: J.D. Martinez has revamped his swing from head to toe…literally.

Asher Wojciechowski not rushing back from injury.

Hitting competition light-hearted fun for Astros.

Update on Jesse Crain status.

Altuve, Izturis and Corporan give advice to Latin players.

Scouting season is heating up, says scouting director Mike Elias.

Here is the day in pictures:

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Carlos Perez

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Lucas Harrell

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Nick Tropeano

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Josh Fields

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Jerome Williams

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Cesar Izturis and Jose Altuve

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Dallas Keuchel

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Cesar Izturis

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Field filled with balls awaiting loser of hitting drill

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Jonathan Singleton

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Bo Porter and staff and players watch hitting competition

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Carlos Correa holds a young fan

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Astros mob Rene Garcia after his walk-off homer

Astros ramp up the spring intensity

The Astros have made an effort to ramp up the intensity this spring, and that’s been evident in several areas. Instead of just taking batting practice daily, the hitters are given situations – counts, men on base – when they step into the box so it gives them something to think about while they’re getting in their swings.

The team has gone as far as putting runners on base – behind a screen, of course – during batting practice so that even the runners get practice reacting to balls as they are hit. On Tuesday, there will be a competition between teams led by Jason Castro and Brett Wallace, who will have to pick a hitter to step into the plate in a scenario laid out by the hitting coach.

“From a staff standpoint, it does a number of things,” manager Bo Porter said. “One, we’re putting them in a competition where they’re going to compete. There will be something in which the losers will have to do at the end of the game. Two, it lets us know from a staff standpoint that they understand not only who they are but they also understand who their teammates are by who they pick to execute different situations.”

The hitting coaches have been keeping a points tally, and the winning team will get a reward.

Here are a couple of injury updates:

  • Right-hander Asher Wojciechowski is awaiting results from an MRI performed Monday on his lat, which is a large back muscle that helps control the shoulder. He suffered the injury Feb. 1 and has yet to throw off the mound. He expressed some frustration Tuesday.

“This is taking longer than I thought I would,” he said.

  • Right-hander Jesse Crain said his ailing right calf is progressing nicely. Crain is continuing his throwing program while recovering from biceps tendinitis surgery he had in October.

“The calf’s getting a lot better,” he said. “I should be out and hopefully running within the next week. The good thing is if I was on the mound throwing and getting ready for the season and this happened, it would be a setback. As far as where I am with my throwing program, it didn’t affect any of that. That’s a good thing and it’s still process, day by day thing and building my arm strength back up. Hopefully every day it’s getting stronger, which it is.”

Here is the Astros day in pictures

The day in pictures from Astros camp:

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Matt Dominguez

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Jonathan Singleton

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Jesus Guzman

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Chris Carter

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Bo Porter gives instructions

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Paul Clemens ducks to avoid a throw

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Brad Peacock, Jarred Cosart, Rudy Owens

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Rudy Owens, Bo Porter

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Kevin Chapman throws in the ‘pen

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J.D. Martinez and Gregario Petit

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Luis Cruz

Astros tweets of the day

Here are the Astros tweets of the day: