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Marisnick moved to leadoff spot

Astros center fielder Jake Marisnick has flourished hitting in front of Jose Altuve for much of this season, but after entering Saturday in a mini-slump (1-for-15 over his previous five games), manager A.J. Hinch was hoping moving him to the top of the order would do the trick.

Marisnick will still be hitting in front of Altuve, who was moved down to second against the Angels. Marisnick hit ninth the first two weeks of the season, with Altuve in the leadoff spot. Marisnick was hitting a scorching .382 through Sunday, but has one hit  since.

“His results haven’t been great, but I don’t call it struggling,” Hinch said. “He’s had a couple of games he hasn’t recorded as many hits as he did at the beginning of the season, but I wouldn’t say struggling is fair. He plays with a ton of energy, plays a terrific  defense.”

With Marisnick hitting leadoff, he figures to get at least one more at-bat per game, which could help him. Also, Marisnick has plenty of speed and Altuve has a great bat control, so the Astros will be able to embark on more hit and runs and push the tempo more. It also gives the Astros some team speed at the top.

“I’m not married to it,” Hinch said. “Things change quickly, but I like Marisnick and Altuve hitting back to back. When Marisnick was hot early, it was very tempting to move him in the order.”

Altuve hit second in the order much of last  year.

“I feel really comfortable in that position,” he said. “We’re also going to have Jake Marisnick getting one more at-bat, and for me he’s the best hitter right now on the team. That’s going to give your team one more chance to score a  run.”

Marisnick was a leadoff hitter coming through the Minor Leagues with the Marlins.

“Hopefully we feed off of each other and get rolling and get this offense going a little bit,” he said. “We’ve been struggling here the last couple of games. It would be nice to get rolling.”

 

Astros’ Minor League Players of Month

The Astros’ player development department has named April’s Minor League Pitchers and Players of the Month at each of their four in-season minor league affiliates (these awards are chosen every month by the field staff of each team):

At Triple-A Fresno, RHP Richard Rodriguez was named April Pitcher of the Month after going 1-0 with a 2.65 ERA in seven games during the month. The right-hander closed out April with three straight scoreless outings, spanning eight innings. Fresno’s Player of the Month award went to OF Preston Tucker, who led all of Minor League baseball in home runs (nine) and RBIs (29) during the month of April. The left-handed hitter batted .329  with a .371 on-base percentage and a .683 slugging percentage (1.054 OPS) during the month.

 RHP Chris Devenski fired 19 1/3 scoreless innings across four games (two starts) en route to getting named Double-A Corpus Christi’s Pitcher of the Month for April. Acquired by the Astros in the Brett Myers trade with the White Sox in 2012, Devenski was named the Texas League Pitcher of the Week for the week of April 20-26. He went 2-0 with 16 strikeouts and a .121 opponents’ batting average in April while leading the Texas League in ERA. SS Carlos Correa was named the Hooks’ Player of the Month for April after hitting .385 with 11 doubles, one triple, five homers, 22 RBIs, five steals and a 1.198 OPS in 19 April games. Ranked by MLB.com as the No. 3 prospect in baseball, Correa was named the Texas League Player of the Week for the week of April 20-26. During the month of April, he ranked among the top five Double A players in extra-base hits (first), doubles (first), slugging (first), OPS (first), hits (T-first), runs (19, T-first), RBIs (second), batting average (third) and homers (T-third).

At Class A Lancaster, RHP Tyler Brunnemann earned Pitcher of the Month honors after giving up just one run in 15 2/3 relief innings in April. Last year’s California League Championship Series MVP fanned 18 batters in his eight games during the month. The Astros 2014 Minor League Player of the Year, OF Brett Phillips, picked up right where he left off by claiming JetHawks’ Player of the Month honors this April. The left-handed hitter posted a .341 batting average with 13 extra-base hits (six doubles, three triples, four homers) and a 1.013 OPS in 20 games in April. Phillips ranked second in the California League in total bases (52) and fourth in OPS in April.

Class A Quad Cities Pitcher of the Month honors went to RHP Joe Musgrove, who went 3-1 with a 0.87 ERA and 20 strikeouts in four games (two starts) in April. Musgrove walked just one batter in his 20 2/3 innings, posting the fifth-lowest ERA in the Midwest League during the month. A 2014 draftee (13th round), C Jamie Ritchie received Quad Cities Player of the Month honors after hitting .344 with two doubles, one homer, seven RBIs and a .467 on-base percentage in 17 games in April. Ritchie finished second in the Midwest League in on-base percentage, fourth in OPS (.926) and sixth in batting average during the month.

Lowrie placed on DL; Villar called up

The Astros placed shortstop Jed Lowrie on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with a still yet-to-be-diagnosed injury to his right thumb. Infielder Jonathan Villar was recalled from Triple-A Fresno and was in uniform for Tuesday’s game against the Padres.

Lowrie suffered the injury while sliding home in the eighth inning of Monday’s 9-4 win over the Padres at Petco Park and flew to Houston on Tuesday for an MRI. The club has not said exactly what the injury is or how long Lowrie is expected to be out.

Infielder Marwin Gonzalez figures to get the lion’s share of playing time at shortstop in Lowrie’s absence.

The injury comes at a bad time for Lowrie, who went 2-for-3 against the Padres on Monday and blasted his fourth homer of the season. Lowrie is hitting .476 (10-for-21) with a .621 on-base percentage during the current road trip in which the Astros have a 6-1 record.

In the eighth inning Monday, Lowrie was on second base when he raced home on a single by Colby Rasmus, saying his knee stuck in the dirt and caused him to land awkwardly on his thumb as he crossed the plate.

“I just stuck,” he said. “I’ve slid like that my whole life. I always slide on my left side and drag my knee across. Today it was like I just stuck. My knee hit and stuck and I flipped over and my hand was in the way.”

This is the eighth trip to the disabled list for Lowrie, who signed a three-year contract with the Astros in December. He was on the disabled list last year with Oakland with a fractured right index finger.

Astros-Mariners lineups

Astros vs. Mariners
Wednesday, April 22, 2015 – Safeco Field (9:10 pm)
Astros (8-6)   Mariners (5-9)
No. Player Pos.   No. Player Pos.
27 Jose Altuve 2B 7 Seth Smith (L) DH
18 Luis Valbuena (L) 3B 16 Austin Jackson CF
4 George Springer RF 22 Robinson Canó (L) 2B
11 Evan Gattis DH 23 Nelson Cruz RF
8 Jed Lowrie (S) SS 15 Kyle Seager (L) 3B
15 Jason Castro (L) C 20 Logan Morrison (L) 1B
23 Chris Carter 1B 13 Dustin Ackley (L) LF
28 Colby Rasmus (L) LF 5 Brad Miller (L) SS
6 Jake Marisnick CF 3 Mike Zunino C
Starting Pitcher Starting Pitcher
56 Roberto Hernandez (0-1, 3.37) RHP 33 J.A. Happ (0-1, 2.70) LHP

Astros-Mariners lineups

Astros vs. Mariners
Tuesday, April 21, 2015 – Safeco Field (9:10 pm)
Houston Astros (7-6)   Seattle Mariners (5-8)
No. Player Pos.   No. Player Pos.
27 Jose Altuve 2B 13 Dustin Ackley (L) LF
18 Luis Valbuena (L) 3B 16 Austin Jackson CF
4 George Springer RF 22 Robinson Canó (L) 2B
11 Evan Gattis DH 23 Nelson Cruz DH
15 Jason Castro (L) C 15 Kyle Seager (L) 3B
9 Marwin Gonzalez (S) SS 7 Seth Smith (L) RF
23 Chris Carter 1B 20 Logan Morrison (L) 1B
28 Colby Rasmus (L) LF 5 Brad Miller (L) SS
6 Jake Marisnick CF 3 Mike Zunino C
Starting Pitcher Starting Pitcher
31 Collin McHugh (2-0, 1.54) RHP 32 Taijuan Walker (0-2, 17.18) RHP

Astros-Mariners lineups

Houston Astros vs. Seattle Mariners
Monday, April 20, 2015 – Safeco Field (9:10 pm)
Houston Astros (6-6)   Seattle Mariners (5-7)
No. Player Pos.   No. Player
27 Jose Altuve 2B 16 Austin Jackson
18 Luis Valbuena (L) 3B 13 Dustin Ackley (L)
4 George Springer RF 22 Robinson Canó (L)
11 Evan Gattis DH 23 Nelson Cruz
8 Jed Lowrie (S) SS 15 Kyle Seager (L)
15 Jason Castro (L) C 7 Seth Smith (L)
9 Marwin Gonzalez (S) 1B 3 Mike Zunino
28 Colby Rasmus (L) LF 20 Logan Morrison (L)
6 Jake Marisnick CF 5 Brad Miller (L)
Starting Pitcher Starting Pitcher
59 Asher Wojciechowski (0-1, 4.50) RHP 18 Hisashi Iwakuma (0-1, 6.55)

Astros waiting for sluggers to explode

A week into the season, Astros manager A.J. Hinch said he’s not concerned about the lack of production in the middle of his batting order. Through six games, the third, fourth and fifth spot in the Astros’ lineup were hitting .070 (4-for-57).

Those numbers are largely because of the struggles of designated hitter Evan Gattis (0-for-20) and Chris Carter (1-for-19), but they were back in the lineup for Monday’s series opener against the A’s. Carter sat out Sunday’s game after a tough game Saturday.

“I like that we’ve been able to keep our head above water a little bit without that kind of production – to hold serve or whatever analogy you want to use,” Hinch said. “It’s important for us to stay afloat while those guys are getting themselves on track.

“I don’t want to put any heightened press or expectations on them. They’re good players, good, productive offensive players. These 20, 25 at-bats, depending on when they happen, create different kinds of emotions for players. I don’t wake up thinking we have a problem in the middle of our order or these guys aren’t going to bounce back.”

Hinch had lunch with Gattis on Monday, but it was pure happenstance. He walked into Union State on Monday and Gattis was eating in the café in the lobby, and Hinch joined him. Gattis’ offensive woes never came up.

“You encourage them and continue to put them out there,” Hinch said. “These are our guys. They know that. Obviously, I’ve got a job to do to give them days off or get some sparkplugs in there if they are struggling. These guys know that we back them and they’re not going to continue to struggle in the production categories they have so far.”

Hinch reminded reporters the Astros have faced some tough pitching this year, including a Cleveland starting staff that was fourth in the AL in ERA and strikeouts last year.

“I think you have to put that into context as well,” he said. “These guys don’t go up to the batter’s box trying not to do something. … I don’t make too much out o fit, but I don’t leave it unaddressed.”

Astros set Minor League rosters

The Astros have set their preliminary 2015 Minor League rosters for four of their affiliates, Triple-A Fresno, Double-A Corpus Christi, Class A Lancaster and Class A Quad Cities. The announcement was made by Astros director of player Development Quinton McCracken.

These rosters are subject to change and will not be officially finalized until the Minor League Opening Day. Rosters do not include disabled list players.

Fresno:

PITCHERS

Buchanan, Jake

Chapman, Kevin*

Cruz, Luis*

Downs, Darin*

Hoyt, James

Jankowski, Jordan

Rodgers, Brady

Rodriguez, Richard

Shirley, Tommy*

Stoffel, Jason

Straily, Dan

White, Alex

CATCHERS

Flores, Luis

Stassi, Max

INFIELDERS

Dominguez, Matt

Duffy, Matt

Petit, Gregorio

Singleton, Jon*

Sclafani, Joe#

Torreyes, Ronnie

OUTFIELDERS

Aplin, Andrew*

Hoes, L.J.

Santana, Domingo

Sosa, Ruben#

Tucker, Preston*

Corpus Christi:

PITCHERS

Appel, Mark

Baez, Angel

Ballew, Travis

Devenski, Chris

Emanuel, Kent*

Hader, Josh*

Hauschild, Mike

Lambson, Mitch*

McCullers, Lance

Minor, Daniel

Perez, Tyson

West, Aaron

Westwood, Kyle

CATCHERS

Booth, Brett

Heineman, Tyler#

Pena, Roberto

INFIELDERS

Correa, Carlos

Fontana, Nolan*

Gregor, Conrad*

Kemp, Tony*

Mier, Jio

Moran, Colin*

Nash, Telvin

White, Tyler

OUTFIELDERS

Heras, Leo*

Hernandez, Teoscar

Kemmer, Jon*

Meredith, Brandon

Lancaster:

PITCHERS

Brunnemann, Tyler

Cotton, Chris*

Fant, Randall*

Feliz, Michael

Frias, Edison

Grills, Evan*

Holmes, Brian*

Houser, Adrian

Morton, Zach

Sanudo, Gonzalo

Scribner, Troy

Sims, Blaine*

Tiburcio, Frederick

CATCHERS

Holberton, Brian*

Morales, Jobduan#

INFIELDERS

Davis, JD

Fernandez, Jose

Mayfield, Jack

McDonald, Chase

Moon, Chan#

Reed, AJ*

OUTFIELDERS

Mitchell, Ronnie*

Phillips, Brett*

Ramsay, James*

Vasquez, Danry*

Wik, Marc*

Quad Cities:

PITCHERS

Chrismon, Austin

Comer, Kevin

Dykxhoorn, Brock

James, Joshua

Lee, Chris*

Mengden, Daniel

Minnis, Albert*

Montero, Jose

Musgrove, Joe

Peterson, Eric

Radziewski, Bryan*

Thompson, Ryan

Yuhl, Keegan

CATCHERS

Gonzalez, Alfredo

Nottingham, Jacob

Ritchie, Jamie

INFIELDERS

Hernandez, Alex

Hyde, Mott

Lindauer, Thomas

Muniz, Bryan

Tanielu, Nick

Trompiz, Kristian

OUTFIELDERS

Bottger, Ryan#

Boyd, Bobby*

Fisher, Derek*

Martinez, Jorge#

McMullen, Sean*

* – denotes left-hander

# – denotes switch-hitter

 

Astros set 25-man roster

The Astros set their 25-man roster on Wednesday with a flurry of moves, including RHP Josh Fields (groin), LHP Brett Oberholtzer (blister) and RHP Brad Peacock (returning from offseason hip surgery) to the DL

CATCHERS (2)

Jason Castro

Hank Conger

STARTING PITCHERS (5)

Dallas Keuchel

Scott Feldman

Collin McHugh

Asher Wojciechowski

Roberto Hernandez

RELIEF PITCHERS (7)

Chad Qualls

Luke Gregerson (closer)

Pat Neshek

Tony Sipp

Sam Deduno

Joe Thatcher

Will Harris

OUTFIELDERS (5)

Colby Rasmus

Jake Marisnick

George Springer

Evan Gattis

Robbie Grossman

INFIELDERS (5)

Jose Altuve

Jed Lowrie

Luis Valbuena

Marwin Gonzalez

Jonathan Villar

DESIGNATED HITTER (1)

Chris Carter

Astros roster coming into focus

The Astros made several roster moves Sunday affecting a total of eight players in Major League camp. Five players were reassigned to minor league camp: shortstop Carlos Correa, left-handed pitcher Darin Downs, catcher Tyler Heineman, right-handed pitcher James Hoyt and infielder Gregorio Petit. Three players were optioned to minor league camp: right-handed pitcher Jake Buchanan, infielder Matt Dominguez and catcher Max Stassi. Following the moves, the Astros; roster now stands at 32 players, including 30 players on the 40-man roster and two non-roster invitees.

Here’s a breakdown (locks in bold):

CATCHERS (2)

Jason Castro

Hank Conger

Breakdown: Catchers are set.

STARTING PITCHERS (7)

Dallas Keuchel

Scott Feldman

Collin McHugh

Brett Oberholtzer

Roberto Hernandez (non-roster)

Asher Wojciechowski

Brad Peacock (likely to start season on DL)

Breakdown: Considering Peacock won’t be stretched out until mid-April, it’s Hernandez and Wojciechowski for the final rotation spot. The Astros have to make a decision by Hernandez by noon Tuesday whether to play him a $100,000 roster retention bonus. He pitched well Saturday, so he’s the favorite. But if Oberholtzer, who missed a week or so on the mound because of a lat strain and illness, can’t get stretched out in time for the start of the season, Wojciechowski could be called upon.

RELIEF PITCHERS (9)

Chad Qualls

Luke Gregerson

Pat Neshek

Tony Sipp

Josh Fields

Sam Deduno

Kevin Chapman

Joe Thatcher (non-roster)

Will Harris

Breakdown: Deduno was told he’s made the club, leaving one spot in the seven-man bullpen. Harris is the only right-hander in the group, so it will come down to whether the Astros want to carry a second lefty with Sipp. Thatcher has had a terrific spring and is the favorite, though Chapman has also pitched very well. Keep in mind Fields is nursing a sore groin and might not be ready for Opening Day, which would open up another spot.

OUTFIELDERS (7)

Colby Rasmus

Jake Marisnick

George Springer

Evan Gattis

Robbie Grossman

Alex Presley

L.J. Hoes

Breakdown: Grossman has had a better spring than Presley and appears to be the favorite. Presley is out of options, however, which complicates things. Hoes is a long shot who is now nursing a sore hand.

INFIELDERS (6)

Jose Altuve

Jed Lowrie

Luis Valbuena

Marwin Gonzalez

Jonathan Villar

Jon Singleton

Breakdown: Villar has a leg up on the final spot on the infield, and the fact he’s looked good in center field only bolsters his chances. Singleton has struggled recently and is facing an uphill battle of making the club.

DESIGNATED HITTER (1)

Chris Carter

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