May 2014

Foreman to throw out first pitch Friday

Boxing legend and Houston native George Foreman will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Friday’s Civil Rights Game at Minute Maid Park. An official announcement will be made on Friday morning.

Foreman, a former world heavyweight champion who grew up in Houston’s Fifth Ward and still lives in the Bayou City, continues to give back to the community through his George Foreman Youth & Community Center.

MLB and the Astros will pay special tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education at the MLB Beacon Awards Luncheon, scheduled for noon CT Friday at the Hilton Americas Hotel.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig will speak at the event which will honor Motown Records founder and Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Berry Gordy, Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown and best-selling author and poet Dr. Maya Angelou, who passed away Wednesday.

The triumvirate will each receive an MLB Beacon Award, which recognizes individuals whose lives and actions have been emblematic of the spirit of the civil rights movement, and they will be recognized on the field prior to the Civil Rights Game.

The Civil Rights Game began in Memphis, Tenn., in ’07, centering on an exhibition game between the Cardinals and Indians. After another exhibition game in Memphis in ’08, the Civil Rights Game moved to Cincinnati (’09-10), then Atlanta (’11-12) as regular-season contests, and last year was hosted in Chicago by the White Sox.

The game will be broadcast live in Houston via Comcast SportsNet and MLB Network without blackout restrictions. It can also be heard on KBME (790 AM).

Blackout lifted for Friday’s game

Major League Baseball plans to lift the blackout for Friday’s Civil Rights Game between the Astros and the Orioles, which means all fans in the Astros’ viewing territory will be able to watch the game on MLB Network.

The game between the Astros and the Orioles will air nationally with Harold Reynolds, Matt Vasgersian and Sam Ryan calling the action. Both teams will wear Negro Leagues throwback uniforms. The Astros will don the colors of the Houston Eagles (1949-50) and the Orioles will be wearing the uniforms of the Baltimore Elite Giants (1938-50).

The first 15,000 fans to enter Minute Maid Park on Friday will receive a special commemorative Civil Rights game cap, and the Astros will treat fans to a post-game fireworks show with a Motown theme.

The Civil Rights Game began in Memphis, Tenn., in ’07, centering on an exhibition game between the Cardinals and Indians. After another exhibition game in Memphis in ’08, the Civil Rights Game moved to Cincinnati (’09-10), then Atlanta (’11-12) as regular-season contests, and last year was hosted in Chicago by the White Sox.

Astros call up Grossman, send down Hoes

Robbie Grossman, who began the year as the Astros’ starting left fielder before being sent to Triple-A Oklahoma City two weeks into the season, will rejoin the team Monday in Kansas City after he was recalled Sunday afternoon.

The Astros are bringing back Grossman to start in left field and are optioning struggling outfielder L.J. Hoes to Oklahoma City. Hoes is batting .209 with two homers and six RBIs in 28 games this year and had been starting in left field against left-handed pitchers.

“It gives L.J. an opportunity to get to Oklahoma City and play every day,” Astros manager Bo Porter said. “He’s been in a platoon pretty much the entire season here, and if you get to this stage and you talk about evaluating your players, if they’re not getting consistent at-bats you have to re-think the construction of the roster.

“Robbie went down to Triple-A and he’s hitting right at .300 and we feel like him being a switch-hitter and Opening Day starting left fielder, he’s got his confidence back and we’re going to give him an opportunity to help our ballclub.”

Grossman hit .125 off the bat for the Astros, but was batting .299 with three homers, 10 RBIs and a .373 on-base percentage in 34 games for the RedHawks. Last year, Grossman came up early in the season and struggled (.198 average) as well, before returning to hit .322 with a .816 OPS in the final three months.

“You’re eager to get off to a good start and things start to domino a little bit, and defensively there were a few plays that wore on him as far as plays he didn’t make he felt like he should have made,” Porter said. “When you’re confidence starts to go a little bit, we felt at the time it was the best thing to get him down to Oklahoma City and let him get his confidence back. We believe Robbie Grossman is an everyday outfielder. Getting him back is going to be a boost to our ballclub.”

Astros-Mariners lineup

Astros vs. Mariners
Sunday, May 25, 2014 – Safeco Field (3:10 p.m. CT)
Houston Astros (18-32)   Seattle Mariners (24-24)
Player   Player
27 Jose Altuve 2B   99 James Jones (L) CF
4 George Springer RF   7 Stefen Romero DH
21 Dexter Fowler (S) CF   22 Robinson Cano (L) 2B
15 Jason Castro (L) DH   17 Justin Smoak (S) 1B
30 Matt Dominguez 3B   15 Kyle Seager (L) 3B
18 Marc Krauss (L) 1B   3 Mike Zunino C
8 Alex Presley (L) LF   55 Michael Saunders (L) RF
22 Carlos Corporan (S) C   16 Cole Gillespie LF
9 Marwin Gonzalez (S) SS   5 Brad Miller (L) SS
Starting Pitcher   Starting Pitcher
60 Dallas Keuchel (5-2, 2.92) LHP   18 Hisashi Iwakuma (3-0, 1.76) RHP

 

Springer back in lineup for Astros

Astros manager Bo Porter invited George Springer to sit alongside him in the dugout Saturday afternoon for his daily pregame chat with the media. Springer jokingly provided some details about how he told Porter he was ready to rejoin the lineup.

“I in the training room and I told him ‘Springer nine,’” he said. “He didn’t know what that meant, and I told him ‘I’m going to play nine today.’”

“I asked him if he wanted to hit ninth, and he said ‘No,’” Porter responded.

Springer was all smiles upon returning to the lineup after missing two games with a strained right hip flexor. He was in right field, batting second. When asked if it felt better than he did on Friday, Springer said with a smile: “I’m in there.”

Springer did some agility work in the outfield with head athletic trainer Nate Lucero and outfield instructor Tarrik Brock earlier in the day before he was given the green light to play.

“I’m excited,” he said. “I’m in there. That’s all that matters. I get to play baseball today.”

Springer suffered the injury in the ninth inning Wednesday in Anaheim when he dived back into first base on a pickoff attempt. He entered Friday hitting.353 during a five-game hitting streak that included a homer Wednesday against Jered Weaver.

“He obviously makes our team better,” Porter said. “I’m a little bit happier when he’s in the lineup than when he’s not in the lineup. Getting him back in the lineup is definitely a boost for our ballclub.

Springer: “I’m itching to get back out there.”

Astros right-fielder George Springer was out of the starting lineup for the second consecutive game Friday with a strained right hip flexor. He told reporters he still felt a little bit of stiffness, but maintains he can play.

Springer suffered the injury in the ninth inning Wednesday in Anaheim when he dived back into first base on a pickoff attempt. He hobbled off the field and showed up at Safeco Field on Thursday sore, but able to play. Alex Presley started in right field for the second game in a row.

“I think I can play every day,” Springer said. “Not much has changed since I first got here. I want to play. I feel like I can play. At the same time, you’ve got to be smart and just take it as they go. I want to play and want to try to help us.”

Springer took some early batting practice without any problems.

“Certain things will affect it,” he said. “It’s just a little stiffness and I can play through it. You’ve got to be smart. You can’t try to overdue things now just because I want to get back out there, so I trust [head athletic trainer] Nate [Lucero]. I trust them and have to listen to them and not try to go to do something when I’m not 100 percent, I guess.”

Astros manager Bo Porter said Thursday that Springer’s status was day to day and that he didn’t want to rush him back to action.

“I’m itching to get back out there,” Springer said. “Whenever I can get back out there, whenever I get the chance to get back out there, I’ll go back out there.”

Springer entered Friday hitting .240 with four homers and 15 RBIs. He’s hitting .353 during a five-game hitting streak that included a homer Wednesday against Jered Weaver. His four homers in May are tied for fifth most all-time in club history by a rookie.

In his last 19 games, Springer ranks second among Major League rookies in hits (22), second in batting average (.282), RBIs (13) and OPS (.851) and tied for third in homers (four).

Astros vs. Mariners lineups

Astros vs. Mariners
Friday, May 23, 2014 – Safeco Field (9:10 pm)
Houston Astros (17-31)   Seattle Mariners (23-23)
Player   Player
27 Jose Altuve 2B   99 James Jones (L) CF
21 Dexter Fowler (S) CF   7 Stefen Romero DH
15 Jason Castro (L) C   22 Robinson Cano (L) 2B
30 Matt Dominguez DH   17 Justin Smoak (S) 1B
18 Marc Krauss (L) 1B   15 Kyle Seager (L) 3B
8 Alex Presley (L) RF   16 Cole Gillespie RF
28 L.J. Hoes LF   13 Dustin Ackley (L) LF
9 Marwin Gonzalez (S) 3B   3 Mike Zunino C
6 Jonathan Villar (S) SS   8 Willie Bloomquist SS
Starting Pitcher   Starting Pitcher
99 Rudy Owens (MLB debut) LHP   34 Felix Hernandez (5-1, 2.94) RHP

Owens to replace Peacock and make ML debut

Left-hander Rudy Owens will make his Major League debut on Friday night when he starts for the Astros against the Mariners at Safeco Field. He was called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City to take the place of Brad Peacock, who has been scratched with right forearm soreness.

Owens has appeared in 10 games at Oklahoma City and was 2-3 with a 6.05 ERA, making seven starts. He last pitched May 17 at Nashville, allowing eight earned runs in three innings. This will be the Major League debut for Owens, who missed most of last season after undergoing foot surgery.

To make room for Owens on the roster, the Astros have optioned right-hander Josh Zeid to Oklahoma City.

Astros manager Bo Porter said the move to scratch Peacock is precautionary. Peacock played catch prior to Thursday’s game with assistant athletic trainer Rex Jones keeping an eye on him.

Peacock, 26, began the season in the Astros bullpen before making his last six turns in the rotation. In his last start, he picked up his first win of the season, tossing 6 2/3 innings and allowing two runs en route to an 8-2 win over the White Sox. He is considered day-to-day with his injury.

“Obviously, it’s not a DL situation,” Porter said. “We we didn’t want to risk it or push it when we can push him back and bring somebody in to make this start, and hopefully he’ll take his turn five days from now.”

Owens, 26, will be the third Astros rookie to make his Major League debut as starter in the last three seasons, joining right-handed pitcher Jarred Cosart (July 12, 2013 at Tampa Bay) and left-handed pitcher Dallas Keuchel (June 16, 2012 at Texas). Owens was acquired by Houston from Pittsburgh along with left-handed pitcher Colton Cain and outfielder Robbie Grossman in exchange for left-handed pitcher Wandy Rodriguez on July 24, 2012.

Zeid, 27, has made seven appearances for the Astros this season across two Major League stints. In his appearances, he’s posted no record and a 3.86 ERA with eight strikeouts in 7.0 innings pitched.

Springer still day to day

Upon his arrival at Safeco Field on Thursday, Astros right fielder George Springer told manager Bo Porter he’s ready to play. Alas, Springer, who strained his right hip flexor in the ninth inning Wednesday in Anaheim, was held out of the lineup by Porter.

Springer said Thursdays he’s still sore but could play if needed. He didn’t take batting practice Thursday.

“I want to help contribute no matter what,” he said. “I like playing every day. I’m an everyday kind of guy. If I’m not playing, it’s tough. If he needs me, I’ll get ready to go out and just try to help.”

Porter typically airs on the side of caution and likes to give players an extra day when they say they’re ready.

“He’s much better, but we decided to give him a day,” Porter said. “The injury happened [Wednesday] night and it’s not something you want to risk any further damage. We’re going to give him a day today and [Friday] he’ll come out and he’ll run around.”

Representing the tying run at first with one out in a 2-1 loss to the Angels, Springer’s leg gave out on him as he tried to get back to the base as Angels right-hander Jered Weaver made a quick — and successful — pickoff move.

“I woke up today happy, breathing, so I can play,” he said.

Astros sign veteran reliever Farnsworth

The Astros have agreed to terms with free agent right-handed pitcher Kyle Farnsworth, who will be in uniform for Saturday’s game against the White Sox. Reliever Paul Clemens was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City after Friday’s game.

Farnsworth, 38, posted three saves and a 3.18 ERA in 19 Major League games with the Mets this season. He was given his release Wednesday, just two days after earning a save for the Mets in their 9-7 win over the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

A veteran of 16 Major League seasons, Farnsworth has appeared in 877 career games with the Cubs (1999-2004), Tigers (2005, 2008), Braves (2005, 2010), Yankees (2006-08), Royals (2009-10), Rays (2011-13), Pirates (2013) and Mets (2014).

Clemens, 26, has made eight appearances for the Astros this season, posting a 4.08 ERA. He pitched Friday against the White Sox, tossing 2 1/3 innings. With the addition of Farnsworth, the Astros 40-man roster is now full at 40.

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