July 2014

Q and A with Moran and Marisnick

The Astros made a big trade on Thursday, sending right-handed pitcher Jarred Cosart, utility player Kike Hernandez and Minor League outfielder Austin Wates to the Marlins in exchange for outfielder Jake Marisnick, Minor League right-handed pitcher Frances Martes and third baseman Colin Moran, who was the No. 6 overall pick in last year’s Draft. They also received a 2015 Competitive Balance pick.

Here is a question-and-answer session from Moran and Marisnick.

Colin Moran

Q: What’s your reaction to being traded shortly after the Marlins took you so high in the Draft?

A: “It’s pretty surprising. I’ve been traded before. I’ve never even really been in pro ball for a Trade Deadline before. It’s exciting and I’m really happy to be a part of the Astros organization.”

Q: Do you think you’re ready for the jump up to Double-A?

A: “I’m excited for it and can’t wait to get started.

Q: What do you know about the Astros, if anything? Do you know anybody in the organization? How familiar are you with the team?

A: “When it comes to the team, I’m not too familiar. I’m a big baseball fan, so I’m pretty familiar with some guys in the organization. We had a few players drafted last year from (inaudible) so there’s quite a few faces that I’ll recognize.”

Q: Do you think it’s kind of cool that you and Mark Appel end up on the same team?

A: “Yeah. I know from playing in college and seeing him, he’s a great player and I’m excited to be on the same team.”

Q: Can you talk a little bit about you as a player? We can read the scouting report, but can you talk about what you bring and your skill set?

A: “Yeah, I mean, I try to go out there every night and be consistent. I’m a good defensive third baseman and not necessarily a huge power hitter, just more of gap to gap. Just try to hit the ball to all fields, but the big thing is try to be consistent every night.”

Q: Have you spoken with Jeff Luhnow, and if you did, what was the conversation?

A: “I have not. I had a chance to talk with the team, members of the organization. I was just really excited.”

Q: How do you feel about your season so far and is there anything you’ve been working on in particular?

A: “I think it’s been a good season. I learned a lot my first full season, trying to learn how to play every day and the adjustments that go along with it. I think I’ve gotten a lot better as the season’s gone on.”

Q: What would you say your timeline is? Do you think you have another year in the Minors left?

A: “I don’t think like that necessarily. Just trying to do everything I can to get better every day so when I do make it I’ll be ready and have an impact.”

Jake Marisnick

Q: What’s it like to, first of get traded, and come to an organization with a chance to play every day?

A: “It’s exciting. It’s definitely came as a surprise. This is my second time being traded and both times it came as a little bit of a surprise. Just knowing another team wants you to come in and play for them is exciting. I’m really excited for this opportunity. I’m ready to get after it.”

Q: I know they said when [Dexter] Fowler comes back he’ll play center, where are you most comfortable playing if you can’t play center?

A: “It doesn’t matter. Anywhere on the field, anywhere in the lineup is great. I’ll play wherever.”

Q: How important to you is that opportunity to be able to get every day Major League at-bats?

A: “As a young guy, getting out there and being able to play in the Major Leagues against that competition is huge for development and competing and just being able to see that level. It’s great for development.”

Q: How has this season gone for you? You’ve been up and down a little bit, right?

A: “Yeah, it’s been great. I came in and struggled my first month in the Minor Leagues in Triple-A and had a chance to make adjustments and find my way and started to swing the bat a little bit, and every time I go up it’s an opportunity to learn and see how the game’s played at that level. I’m excited to get out there and play.”

Q: Do you know any Astros?

A: “In Triple-A here with the Marlins, we played Oklahoma City a few times and got a chance to know some of the guys, and some of the guys I played against in showcases in high school and stuff. Getting to know them was awesome coming into the organization.”

Q: What’s it like to be joining an organization that’s trending upwards?

A: “It’s awesome. Getting to know some of these players and what they’re capable of and seeing all the young talent they have, it’s exciting. The same thing I came into here — just coming in and playing with young players is always fun, just seeing what they’re capable of and watching them grow and being able to grow with them.”

Q: How has your knee been following offseason surgery?

A: “It’s been awesome. It’s actually feeling better than it had in years. I think it might have been something that happened a while back, and just having that fixed and being able to run the way I’ve been running this year is awesome. I’ve felt great.”

Q: You’ve struggled a little bit in the Majors. Why do you believe that is, and do you think you’ll be able to do a little bit better with this opportunity now?

A: “A lot of people, first time up you put too much pressure on yourself. You want to do, not more than you capable of, but you try to force it to happen. I was able in a few games to let it happen and I was able to play my game and at times I ended up putting too much pressure on myself. I’m looking forward to getting out there and just taking advantage of the opportunity and letting my game come out.”

Q: For people who don’t know you, could you describe your game a little bit and what you would bring to the Astros?

A: “A little bit of everything. I like getting after it and getting dirty and playing hard. That’s kind of how I grew up playing. I played football in high school and that’s kind of carried over into my game on the field and I just like getting after it and playing hard.”


Springer placed on DL with right quad strain

The Astros placed outfielder George Springer on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday with a right quad strain. Marc Krauss has been recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City to take Springer’s spot on the roster.

Springer didn’t play on Sunday in Chicago or in Tuesday’s series opener against the A’s because of what he described as “overall discomfort” in his right knee/quadriceps area. Astros manager Bo Porter said prior to Tuesday’s game Springer wasn’t to the point where he needed to go on the disabled list, but things obviously changed.

The Astros were already short-handed in the outfield with Dexter Fowler and Alex Presley both on the DL, but Krauss can play right field and left field as well as first base. Springer is hitting .231 with 20 homers and 51 RBIs through 78 games in his rookie season, putting him one homer shy of Lance Berkman’s club rookie record. He’s also struck out 114 times in 295 at-bats.

Krauss hit .173 with four homers and 13 RBIs in 39 games with the Astros earlier this year.




Springer out of Astros’ lineup again

Astros rookie outfielder George Springer was out of the lineup for a second consecutive game Tuesday with soreness in his right knee/quadriceps area.

Springer, who hit his 20th homer Saturday and didn’t play in Sunday’s series finale against the White Sox, did some baseball drills prior to Tuesday’s series opener at O.co Coliseum to test the leg and still had enough discomfort that didn’t allow him to play.

“I went out and did some stuff and just got some discomfort and we’ll take it from there,” Springer said.

When asked if was his knee or quad that was bothering him more, Springer said it was “overall discomfort.” He wasn’t sure when he would be able return to action, but as of now the situation doesn’t appear to warrant a stint on the disabled list.

“I don’t have a clue,” he said. “I just got to get through it and see what happens.”

Astros manager Bo Porter waited until Springer finished working out with the trainers before filling out his lineup, which again had Enrique Hernandez in center field.

“We wanted to allow him to get treatment and the training staff brought him out and went through some drills, and we went through some running and feel if he’s not able to go full speed without having discomfort, we don’t want to take any chances of it getting worse or him blowing his quad or doing something where we’re dealing with an injury that will take much longer to heal than where we’re at right now,” he said.

Porter said the DL currently isn’t an option.

“As time goes on, the information we get each and every day will allow us to make that decision as we move forward,” he said. “When you look at the 15-day DL, you have to ask yourself, ‘Is he not going to play within the next 15 days?’ and we’re not at that point right now.”

Cosart expects to be on innings limit

Sunday was right-hander Jarred Cosart’s scheduled day to pitch, but the Astros choose to start Brad Peacock and give Cosart some extra rest. He’s thrown 105 2/3 innings in the first half, which puts him on pace to best his personal high of 153 set last year between Triple-A Oklahoma City and the Astros.

Cosart’s arm feels fine, but he said general manager Jeff Luhnow indicated to him his workload would increase by 20 percent each season until he reaches 200 innings. That means he could be shut down around 183 2/3 innings this year.

“When I first came over here, Jeff said they were going to do a 20-percent increase in my innings every year until I got to 200,” Cosart said. “By that time, I’ll have a couple of years under my belt and hopefully we’ll be fighting for a playoff spot, so my innings won’t really matter. They didn’t tell me an exact number [of innings], but if you go off 20 percent of last year, it would be right around [190].”

Cosart was shut down last Sept. 9 after throwing 60 innings in 10 starts in his debut with the Astros. He had thrown 93 at Triple-A Oklahoma City.

“That’s tough to have to sit and watch for about a month,” Cosart said. “I’ll take missing one now. I’m not hurt or anything like that, so I support the decision. I know I have a 190-innings limit, so if I average five or six a start I’m going to be cutting it close at the end of the year anyway.”

Hernandez makes good impression

Astros manager Bo Porter is going with the hot hand, keeping rookie Enrique Hernandez in the starting lineup at shortstop for the second game in a row Saturday. Hernandez had three hits Friday and made a pair of outstanding defensive plays, probably saving at least three runs.

“He’s been playing really well,” Porter said. “You look at the way he played defensively yesterday, the way he played defensively in left field a couple of days ago and he continues to swing the bat well. He’s been a great addition to our ballclub.”

The Major League staff is still trying to get a feel for Hernandez, who wasn’t in big league camp. He made his Major League debut Wednesday and had an RBI double in his first at-bat, and then hit a homer Wednesday. He entered Saturday with six hits in 12 at-bats. Defensively, the 22-year-o.ld Hernandez ran down a ball in center to end the first inning Friday to strand the bases loaded, and he started a terrific double play in the hole to end the fifth. And he showed great arm strength, throwing out a runner from his knees.

“Defensively, I never quit on a ball,” he said. “I’m just going to go until someone calls me off, I catch the ball or the ball drops.”

Porter admitted Hernandez has been a spark to the team, though they’ve yet to win since he’s been up. Hernandez was drafted out of Puerto Rico in the sixth round in 2009.

“He’s definitely brought a spark to the team,” Porter said. “Again, it’s refreshing to see a guy rewarded for just performing at each and every level. He wasn’t in big league camp, so it’s not like the Major League staff had an opportunity to work with him or know him. He basically knocked the door down and played his way here and is continuing to knock down the door and play his way into the lineup. I like to see stories like that.”

Astros announce Minor League Players of Month

The Astros’ player development department has named June’s Minor League Pitchers and Players of the Month at their four full-season affiliates and two Dominican Summer League affiliates. These awards are chosen every month by the field staff of each team.

At Triple-A Oklahoma City, RHP Nick Tropeano was named Pitcher of the Month after going 4-0 with a 2.02 ERA (eight earned runs/35 2/3 innings), 34 strikeouts and just seven walks in five starts during June. The 2011 fifth-round pick currently ranks third in the Pacific Coast League in ERA (2.38) and WHIP (0.95), and tied for eighth in strikeouts (81). After allowing four runs in his first start of the year, Tropeano has allowed three runs or less in each of his last 15 outings. Oklahoma City’s June Player of the Month award went to IF Gregorio Petit, who hit .370 (34-for-92) with five doubles, five homers, 18 RBIs and a .998 OPS (.389 on-base percentage/.609 slugging percentage) in 24 games in June.

LHP Luis Cruz received Double-A Corpus Christi’s June Pitcher of the Month honors after going 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA (three earned runs/21 innings) and 21 strikeouts in four starts during the month. The 23-year-old has posted a 5-5 record and a 3.16 ERA (24 earned runs/68 1/3 innings) with 63 strikeouts in 15 outings this season for the Hooks, holding opponents to a .228 batting average. Earning Corpus Christi’s June Player of the Month Award was OF Leo Heras, who hit .273 (18-for-66) with five doubles, one triple, two homers, 14 RBIs, six stolen bases and an .821 OPS (.351 on-base percentage/.470 slugging percentage) in 21 games in June. A native of Tijuana, Mexico, Heras was acquired from Los Diablos Rojos de Mexico of the Mexican League in August of 2013.

The Class A Advanced Lancaster Pitcher of the Month honors for June went to RHP Juan Minaya. The 23-year-old allowed just one earned run in his 9 1/3 innings of relief during the month (0.96 ERA), and struck out 10 batters with a .176 opponents’ average in his six June outings. IF Conrad Gregor took home Lancaster’s June Player of the Month award after batting .396 (38-for-96) with 11 doubles, one triple, six homers, 25 RBIs, 28 runs scored and a 1.182 OPS (.464 on-base percentage/.719 slugging percentage) in 24 games in June. A fourth-round pick in the 2013 draft out of Vanderbilt, Gregor led the California League in hits, extra base hits (18), total bases (69) and doubles during the month of June.

LHP Evan Grills was named the Class A Quad Cities June Pitcher of the Month after posting a 0.95 ERA (2 earned runs/19 innings) with just two walks and 17 strikeouts in his four appearances in June. Grills currently leads the River Bandits in innings pitched (76 2.3) and ranks seventh in the Midwest League in ERA (2.70). The club’s June Player of the Month award went to IF Tyler White, who hit .324 (22-for-68) with four doubles, one triple, five homers and a 1.079 OPS (.447 on-base percentage/.632 slugging percentage) in 22 June games. White ranks eighth in the Midwest League in OPS (.880) and sixth in OBP (.403).

In the Dominican Summer League, the Astros named a Pitcher and Player of the Month for each of their two clubs. For the DSL Astros Orange club, LHP Cristhopher Santamaria was named June Pitcher of the Month while IF Cristopher Luciano was named June Player of the Month. Santamaria went 1-1 with a 2.20 ERA and 25 strikeouts in his six June appearances. Luciano hit .301 (28-for-93) with seven doubles, one triple, two homers, 24 RBIs and an .887 OPS in 24 June games. For the DSL Astros Blue club, RHP Erasmo Pinales won Pitcher of the Month honors while IF Connor MacDonald picked up Player of the Month honors. In six June starts (five for the Astros Blue, one for the Astros Orange), Pinales went 1-0 with a 2.79 ERA (nine earned runs/29 innings) and 22 strikeouts. MacDonald, a native of Australia, hit .311 (28-for-90) with eight doubles, one triple, one homer, 17 RBIs and an .881 OPS in 25 games during the month.

Astros to be active internationally

Astros director of international Oz Ocampo will be in Venezuela on Wednesday for the start of the July 2 international signing period. He will then head to the Dominican Republic with hopes of signing some young talent, general manager Jeff Luhnow said.

The Astros once again have the largest pool of money to spend internationally at $5,015,400, and Luhnow says his club plans to be “reasonably aggressive.”

Colleague Jesse Sanchez has story about what to expect during the international signing period, as well as a list of Top 30 prospects.

“We’re hoping he comes back from both of those locations with agreements with several of what we believe will be the top players in this year’s class,” Luhnow said. “It’s a good class. It’s deep and has got pitchers, position players. I’m excited about it. I think we’re going to add a lot of depth to our system this year.”

A 16-year-old international player is eligible to sign with a Major League team between July 2 through June 15 of next year if the prospect turns 17 before Sept. 1 of this year or by the completion of his first Minor League season. Additionally, any prospect who is already 17 or older and has not previously signed a Major or Minor League contract, resides outside the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico and has not been enrolled in a high school or college in the U.S., Canada or Puerto Rico within the previous year is eligible to sign during the period.

There are also specific signing guidelines each team must follow, including penalties for exceeding spending limits.

Luhnow said offers will be made beginning Wednesday and agreements could be reached quickly in what has been described previously as a free-for-all.

“Once you sign them, it’s a matter of submitting it to Major League Baseball,” Luhnow said. “There are some kids that can’t sign until they turn 16 and that would be in later July or August, for the most part. The ones that are 16, you’ll see a lot of the top guys signed on July 2 or July 3 or right around then. We plan to be a part of that this year.”

Santana, Hernandez, Chapman on way up

The Astros are preparing to call up slugging outfield prospect Domingo Santana, along with infielder Enrique Hernandez and left-handed reliever Kevin Chapman, a baseball source told MLB.com early Tuesday.

The arrival of Santana would be the third top prospect the Astros have called up since mid-April, joining outfielder George Springer and first baseman Jonathan Singleton. Santana is rated by MLB.com as the organization’s No. 7-rated prospect.

The Astros optioned Jonathan Villar to Triple-A following Monday’s game, so Hernandez would take his place on the roster. It’s unclear what other roster moves would be made to accommodate Santana and Chapman. Veteran pitcher Jerome Williams was designated for assignment late Monday, but Anthony Bass has rejoined the team and is expected to come off the disabled list Tuesday.

Santana, one of four players acquired from the Phillies in the 2011 blockbuster deal that sent Hunter Pence to Philadelphia, was hitting .304 with 13 homers and 51 RBIs through 84 games for the RedHawks. He’s been playing right field. He would be the last of those four players to reach the Majors.

Hernandez went 3-for-5 with a home run and two doubles with a season-high four RBIs on Monday in Oklahoma City’s 10-6 win over Colorado Springs. He’s hitting .337 eight homers and 31 RBIs in 67 games for the RedHawks.

Chapman, who appeared in six games for the Astros earlier this year, has thrown in 26 games for Oklahoma City and has allowed only three earned runs in 28 2/3 innings (0.94 ERA), while striking out 37.