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DeShields Jr. suffers broken cheekbone

Astros outfield prospect Delino DeShields Jr. is expected to be out several weeks after suffering a broken cheekbone when he was hit in the face by a 90-mph fastball in Double-A Corpus Christi’s game in Frisco, Texas, on Friday night.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Saturday that DeShields, the team’s No. 7-ranked prospect, has a non-displaced maxillary sinus fracture in his left cheek. He said he will be further evaluated today, but the team doesn’t know how long he’ll be out.

“He’s lucky considering,” Hooks manager Keith Bodie said. “It could have been horrific, could have been catastrophic. He never saw the ball out of the pitcher’s hand and took a 90-mph fastball right in the face. You can imagine how lucky we are that he’s only got a fracture of his cheekbone. His head looks like a beach ball right now.”

Bodie said DeShields was released from the hospital early Saturday morning and spent the night at the team hotel, where teammates kept a close eye on him. He said he was resting with no problems, other than some major swelling.

“I’m sure that when we get back to Corpus they may want to take a look at him in Houston and go from there,” he said. “He’s going to be around us today and we need to keep an eye on him. He did OK through the night and that’s good news. Hopefully he’s on the road back to being mended.”

Bodie suggested the fact DeShields didn’t see the pitch could be a silver lining.

“So it doesn’t leave any lasting impressions imprinted in his mind in the future where he might be leery,” he said. “On the other hand, it was just a horrible thing to see. It’s going to be a very uncomfortable road back for him.”

DeShields went 1-for-3 and is hitting .259 with two homers and four RBIs this season as the Hooks starting center fielder.

DeShields, 21, hit .317 with five homers, 54 RBIs and 51 stolen bases last season at Class A Lancaster. Following the season, he made the move back to center field after playing a few season at second base.

Luhnow discusses Springer, Singleton and more

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Wednesday he had been thinking about calling up outfield prospect George Springer for several days prior to finally pulling the trigger. Springer will be in uniform for tonight’s game against the Royals at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros also reinstated right-hander Scott Feldman from the bereavement list and designated right-hander Lucas Harrell for assignment. Outfielder Robbie Grossman was optioned to Triple-A.

Springer was hitting .353 with three homers and nine RBIs at Triple-A Oklahoma City. He was the Astros’ first-round pick (No. 11 overall) in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. Luhnow said a combination of factors led to his decision to call on Springer.

“We’ve been in touch with the crew at Oklahoma City and he’s been playing some right field, some center field,” he said. “Part of what we wanted to do was give him enough reps in right field to get used to reading the ball off the bat and all that. We feel pretty good with the reps he’s got in Spring Training and the reps he’s gotten so far during the season that defensively he’s ready to go.

“Offensively, he’s been heating up the last week or so and we want to get a guy when he’s hot. Flip side of the equation is, we’ve got guys here that are really struggling offensively and we’re hoping he adds that spark to our offense and gets everybody going. We need to get [Jason] Castro, [Chris] Carter, [Matt] Dominguez – you name it — everybody needs to get going with the exception of maybe [Jose] Altuve. Even [Dexter] Fowler’s been off since he came back. What better way to get them going than to bring up the rookie that potentially could be a game-changer.”

Luhnow had initially given himself a deadline of the end of this series against the Royals to call up Springer if the club was still struggling on offense like it’s been.

“After Saturday’s game when we scored those five runs in that one inning, I thought ‘OK, well maybe we’ve turned around and I’ll give it a little more time,’” he said. “When you start a season with a group of players, you want to give them enough time to succeed, but the reality is we’re at the point where we can’t afford to have players underperforming and playing every day. We can’t have that, so in the case of both Lucas and Grossman, it was time to make a change.

“We’re not in a position where we can let players struggle for long periods of time in Houston. That’s what Triple-A is for and there are other options, and we have enough talent in our organization where everybody needs to realize that if you’re not performing there’s another option for us, and we’re going to go and get that option at some point.”

Luhnow did admit he’s worried about the pressure Springer will face being viewed by most as the man who will save the team on offense.

Last year, Springer batted .303 with a .411 on-base percentage while slugging .600 with 37 homers, 45 steals and 83 walks between Double-A Corpus Christi and Oklahoma City en route to being named the Astros’ Minor League Player of the Year.

“I am concerned about that, but not enough to not make the move happen because the reality is he’s got a history of being an exciting player who can hit home runs and steal bases and play good defense,” he said. “If he just sticks to what he’s good at, he’s going to be fine. We think he’s ready. Everybody has some transition when they get to the big leagues, and I expect he will have some transition.

“He will have our support and I fully believe that he is a type of worker and player that will quickly address any deficiencies that reveal themselves and he will be what everybody hopes and expects him to be, which is a very good to great player.”

Of course, Springer wasn’t the only player off to a great start for the RedHawks. First baseman Jon Singleton has been crushing the ball, but his arrival in Houston isn’t imminent.

“We’re happy that Singleton is off to a good start,” Luhnow said. “He does not have the Triple-A track record that Springer has yet. We feel he needs to develop that track record. We’re always going to be in a position where our fans want our top prospects to come up here sooner than we think they’re ready to come up here.

“Last year, it happened to [Jarred] Cosart. We did bring Cosart up at the right time and when he came up he contributed and helped us win ballgames. He still is showing that deserves to be at this level and is ready to help us win.

“I believe Springer, this is the right time for him. I think he’s ready defensively. He’s not going to a perfect player, but he’s going to be a darn good player and has a chance to be a very special player. We don’t feel the rest of the guys are quite there yet. We monitor it on a week to week basis and that could change.”

Grossman went 0-for-4 on Tuesday, was hitting .125 with six hits in 48 at-bats and has had a few misplays on defense. The rough start came as a surprise to Luhnow, but he hasn’t lost faith in Grossman.

“We saw what he’s capable of doing at the end of last year,” he said. “He’s capable of being a very effective two-way player and we handed him that left-field every day job and he played every game so far this year. He was given every opportunity. It was disappointing for him primarily, but also to us. I’m fully confident that Robbie will go to Triple-A and find his stroke and sort everything out and make it back here later this year and will help us win ballgames. I’m confident of that.”

When it comes to Harrell, the team was left with little choice after he went 0-3 with a 9.49 ERA to start the season. He was 11-11 with a 3.76 ERA in 32 starts in a breakout 2012 season and faltered last year and led the league in walks and losses. The Astros have 10 days to trade him, release him or send him to the Minor Leagues.

“I think the reality is we gave him all of last year and three starts this year,” Luhnow said. “He deserved all that opportunity because he was good for us in 2012, but quite frankly we feel like at this point a change of scenery may be in the best interest of both Lucas and the Astros. Whether that means with another club or Triple-A, it’s not something we feel like we can continue to do in Houston at this point.”

Luhnow said either Jerome Williams or Brad Peacock would occupy the final spot in the rotation, replacing Harrell. They both were competing for it in Spring Training before being moved to the bullpen.

“I’ll talk to Bo [Porter], but my assumption would be to give the first opportunity to both of those two guys,” he said.

Debuts of other Astros prospects

The Astros are finally calling up George Springer, who will join the team today. With the way the offense has been struggling and the way Springer has been swinging the bat at Triple-A, it certainly doesn’t come as a surprise. His debut will be the most anticipated for an Astros player since perhaps Hunter Pence. With that in mind, here’s how some other Astros players performed in their Major League debuts for the club:

Ken Caminiti

Date: July 16, 1987.

Age: 24.

Result: He started at third base and went 2-for-3 with a homer and a triple in a 2-1 win over the Phillies in the Astrodome.

Notable: Danny Darwin pitched a complete game for the Astros, allowing four hits and one run.

Aftermath: Caminti was one of the most beloved players in Astros history, playing 10 of his 15 seasons in two stints in Houston. He won the NL MVP with the Padres after hitting 40 homers in 1996 and died unexpectedly in 2001 at 38 years old.

Craig Biggio

Date: June 26, 1988.

Age: 22.

Result: He started at catcher and went 0-for-2 with a run scored, a walk and a strikeout in a 6-0 win over the Giants in the Astrodome.

Notable: Jim Deshaies started and won the game for Houston.

Aftermath: Biggio went on to play 20 seasons with the Astros and had a club-record 3,060 hits, as well as establishing franchise records in games played, runs, doubles, at-bats and total bases. He’ll likely reach the Hall of Fame next year.

Jeff Bagwell

Date: April 8, 1991.

Age: 22.

Result: He went 0-for-3 with a walk while starting at first base in the Astros’ 6-2 loss to the Reds in Cincinnati.

Notable: Darryl Kile pitched one inning of relief for the Astros.

Aftermath: Bagwell played 15 seasons with the Astros and retired following the 2005 season as the club’s all-time leader in home runs (449) and RBIs (1,529). He was the 1991 NL Rookie of the Year and 1994 NL MVP.

Lance Berkman

Date: July 16, 1999.

Age: 23.

Result: He grounded into double play as a pinch-hitter in a 2-1 win over the Tigers in the Astrodome.

Notable: Craig Biggio scored Glen Barker with a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth.

Aftermath: Berkman went on to become one of the most dominant offensive players in team history, playing 12 of 15 years in Houston and hitting 326 homers with the Astros. He was traded to the Yankees midway through the 2010 season and recently retired.

Hunter Pence

Date: April 28, 2007.

Age: 24.

Result: He started in center field and went 1-for-3 with a run scored and a strikeout in a 10-1 win over the Brewers at Minute Maid Park.

Notable: Craig Biggio, in his final season, tripled and homered in this game.

Aftermath: Pence finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in ’07, hitting .322 with 17 homers and 69 RBIs. He made the NL All-Star team in 2009 and 2011 before being traded to the Phillies midway through 2011 season for Jon Singleton, Jarred Cosart, Josh Zeid and Domingo Santana.

Jason Castro

Date: June 22, 2010.

Age: 23

Result: He started at catcher and went 1-for-4 with a run scored in a 3-1 loss to the Giants at Minute Maid Park.

Notable: Seven of the eight players in the starting lineup with Castro for his debut were traded away within two years.

Aftermath: Castro missed the entire 2011 season following ACL surgery, but he had a breakout season in 2013 and was the Astros’ first AL All-Star.

Jose Altuve

Date: July 20, 2011.

Age: 21.

Result: He started at second base and went 1-for-5 in a 3-2 win over the Nationals at Minute Maid Park.

Notable: Altuve’s first hit was a ninth-inning single off Tyler Clippard.

Aftermath: Altuve has blossomed into a cornerstone player for the Astros, with a career .284 batting average in his first 370 Major League games.

Springer on way to Houston

Outfielder George Springer, one of the team’s most anticipated prospects in years, will be called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Wednesday to infuse life into the Astros offense, a source told MLB.com. Outfielder Robbie Grossman was told following Tuesday’s game he was being sent down.

The Astros have not confirmed the roster move.

Springer, the Astros No. 3 prospect and No. 21 overall, continued his assault on Minor League pitching Tuesday. He went 3-for-4 with a grand slam, a walk and four runs in Oklahoma City’s 11-9 victory at Colorado Springs. The home run was Springer’s third of the season and second in as many nights.

Springer, who was removed from Tuesday’s game Oklahoma City game at Colorado Springs, is hitting .353 with three homers and nine RBIs.

The Astros are hitting .185 as a team through 14 games with several players struggling, including Grossman. He went 0-for-4 on Tuesday and is hitting .125 with six hits in 48 at-bats.

Game 13: Struggling bats can’t support Oberholtzer

The result: Rangers starter Martin Perez threw eight scoreless innings to send the Astros to their second 1-0 loss in a span of three games against Texas on Sunday afternoon at Globe Life Park (story and boxscore).

The analysis: The Astros’ offensive struggles were on full display Sunday afternoon. They managed just five singles and didn’t have a runner reach second base, partly because they hit into four double plays. The only starting position players who aren’t struggling are Jose Altuve and L.J. Hoes, but pretty much everyone else is in a slump.

Porter was asked if perhaps some players would be called up from Triple-A to add some life, but he said the players who are here are the ones that have to get it done.

“The players that we have here, those are players that are going to play, and it’s going to be up to them to get it done because they’re here,” he said.

It’s particularly frustrating because the team’s starting pitching has been so good lately. Dallas Keuchel, Scott Feldman, Jarred Cosart and Brett Oberholtzer have combined to post a 1.61 ERA in the team’s last four games, with each going seven innings.

“Offensively, you have to put some runs on the board to put pressure on the other team,” Porter said.

Player of the game: Easy. Oberholtzer was terrific, allowing five hits and one run while striking out a career-high seven batters in seven innings.

Stat of the game: Oberholtzer has allowed four earned runs or less in all 13 of his Major League starts, the third-longest streak in club history.

Quote of the day: “We’re not looking for moral victories,” Porter on his team losing two of three games to the Rangers by 1-0 scores.

Other stuff: The Astros were 8-for-8 on stolen base tries before getting a pair of runners thrown out Sunday, including Matt Dominguez on a botched hit-and-run. … Oberholtzer has received two runs or less of support in all three of his starts this season. … Porter successfully challenged a call at first base in the first inning. Rangers designated hitter Shin-Soo Choo was originally called safe after a throw that pulled Jesus Guzman off first base, but the call was overturned.

Links:

Astros looking forward to wearing No. 42

Astros showing efficiency on bases

Porter not panicking over offensive struggles

Tweet of the day:

 

Game 12: Astros rally to win in extra innings

The result: The Astros turned disappointment into triumph in a matter of a few minutes Saturday night, shaking off a ninth-inning blown save to win the game, 6-5, in the 10th inning when Jose Altuve drove home pinch-runner Marwin Gonzalez from third base on a sacrifice fly at Globe Life Park (story and boxscore).

The analysis: This was probably a game the Astros don’t win a year ago. After suffering their first blown save of the season when lefty Kevin Chapman gave up a homer to Michael Choice in the ninth inning, they got a one-out triple from Jason Castro and a sacrifice fly by Jose Altuve to take the lead. And then Anthony Bass strands the go-ahead run at third base for a tough save.

You want heroes? They were everywhere. How about Jarred Cosart going seven innings and striking out a career-high eight batters? Robbie Grossman, who entered the game in a 1-for-27 funk, cranked a three-run homer to cap a five-run fourth inning and give the Astros a 5-2 lead. And shortstop Jonathan Villar made a spectacular diving stop and throw in the 10th to rob Alex Rios of a hit and keep Bass out of a bigger mess.

Player of the game: Grossman. Tough one, considering the work Cosart did and how Bass closed it out. But considering his struggles and the impact his three-run homer had on the game, Grossman is the player of the game.

Stat of the game: The five runs the Astros scored in the fourth are their most in an inning since a six-run fifth on Sept. 13, 2013 against the Angels and most on the road since a five-run fourth on July 31, 2013 at Baltimore.

Quote of the day: “I was looking for one pitch that I can drive. I wasn’t thinking about, ‘Hit it in the air.’ I was thinking about, ‘Hit it hard.’ The infield was in and it’s really hard to catch the ball when it’s hit hard. That was my mindset. He left a pitch a little bit high, maybe it was a ball, but that’s a pitch I can drive so I took advantage of that,” — Astros 2B Jose Altuve on his 10th inning sacrifice fly.

Other stuff: Grossman’s homer was his sixth of his career, and his first of three or more runs. His first five career homers were each two-run shots. … Grossman has five hits this year — two homers, a double, a triple and a single. … Altuve’s go-ahead RBI was his second in extra innings in his career. The other was a walk-off fielder’s choice in the 10th inning on Aug. 1, 2011.

Links:

Clemens joins club as Feldman goes on bereavement list

Porter cool with Altuve playing in 162 games if he’s healthy

Carter still waiting on that first home run

Tweets of the day:

Game 11: Astros can’t outlast Rangers

The result: Robinson Chirinos smacked a two-out single into center field to score Kevin Kouzamanoff from second base with the winning run to send the Rangers to a 1-0 walk-off win in 12 innings over the Astros on Friday night at Globe Life Park (story and boxscore).

The analysis: It was a tough night offensively for the Astros, who managed just two hits — both by Matt Dominguez — in 12 innings against the Rangers. Yu Darvish did what he usually does against the Astros — dominate. He retired the first 15 batters he faced for the third time in his career and had it all working, allowing one hit in eight innings.

“You never have much margin for error going against a guy like that,” Astros starter Scott Feldman said. “Really no matter who you’re facing, try to go out there and limit the damage and get as deep into the game as I could. Obviously, he’s one of the best doing it right now. Pretty typical game for him. He does this all the time.”

Feldman certainly didn’t need to hang his head. He held the Rangers to two hits in seven scoreless innings and lowered his ERA to 0.44 in three starts as an Astros. And extra kudos for him for taking the mound two days after the death of his father. That took some serious guts, focus and heart.

Player of the game: RHP Scott Feldman. You can’t say enough about his effort.

Stat of the game: Feldman has gone at least seven innings scoreless innings with two hits allowed in two of his three career starts against the Rangers. In eight seasons with the Rangers, he never had a start of at least seven scoreless innings and two or fewer hits.

Quote of the day: “I knew that he would want me to. He was a big baseball fan,” Feldman on his father’s desire for him to pitch Friday. His father died Wednesday.

Other stuff: The Astros are  hitting .188 as a team through 11 games. … The Rangers have won 12 games in a row against the Astros. … The top six  hitters in the Astros’ lineup were 0-for-25.

Links:

New dad Albers rejoins team

Luhnow knew Abreu would make an impact

Astros’ bullpen reliable holding leads

Tweets of the day:

 

 

 

Game 7: Astros, Cosart can’t overcome mistakes

The result: The Astros dropped the finale of a four-game series against the Angels, losing 9-1 on Monday afternoon at beautifully sunny Minute Maid Park. Jarred Cosart walked four batters and gave up a career-high five runs, including three in the first inning, and the Astros simply were shut down by C.J. Wilson (story and boxscore).

The analysis: This one was ugly. We’ll begin with Cosart, who got himself in trouble early with walks. If you remember, Cosart walked 38 batters in 60 innings last year and came into 2014 looking to cut down on free passes. He didn’t walk any batters in his first outing Wednesday but walked the first batter he faced Monday and three more.

Cosart righted the ship after the three-run first and managed to work six innings and allow five earned runs and three hits.

“It’s not just the walks,” manager Bo Porter said. “When you start to look at the number of pitches per at-bat and the ability to command the strike zone, I feel like we also aided in that with some poor decisions with the baseball that allowed their big innings to kind of open up.”

When Cosart left the game, Porter met him at the dugout steps and had a little talk with the young right-hander.

“I told him I was proud of him,” he said. “After what happened in the first inning and him being a highly talented young pitcher, there’s going to be some growing pains at the Major League level, and I challenged him after that first inning to go out and put up zeroes. I was proud of the job he was able to do to get us through six innings.

“I told him, ‘You want to be a front-of-the-rotation guy in the Major Leagues, you’re not going to have your A stuff all the time. It’s not going to go right all the time. The reason you’re in the front of the rotation is you’re going toc hew up innings, even when you don’t have your good stuff.’”

Now let’s get to the mistakes. The Astros made three mental errors that won’t show up in the boxscore, but sure had an impact on the game.

  • In the first inning, Angels leadoff hitter Kole Calhoun was at first base with one out when Albert Pujols hit a grounder to shortstop Jonathan Villar, who unsuccessfully tried to beat Calhoun to the bag at second instead of trying to throw out Pujols. As a result, Pujols reached first.

“Now, you have two guys on base and it opens up an opportunity for a big inning,” Porter said. “Again, that’s understanding the speed of the ball, the speed of the runners, the men on base, the batter, runner. We had way too man mental mistakes from a standpoint of execution.”

  • In the seventh inning, with Calhoun on second and Mike Trout on first, Pujols hit a fly ball to center fielder Robbie Grossman, who went back and still tried to throw out Calhoun at second, which allowed Trout to take second. He eventually scored.

“He threw the ball to the wrong base,” Porter said. “It doesn’t go into the column of an error. Obviously, you have Mike Trout, who’s arguably one of the fastest guys in the league, and you go back on the baseball and it’s first and second and you have no chance of throwing out the guy third base. Throw the ball to second and he stops. He continued on because the ball went to third base and we had to try to redirect the ball.”

  • In the eighth inning, outfielder L.J. Hoes was on first base when Villar hit a grounder to Angels shortstop Eric, Aybar. He faked a throw to first, and then caught Hoes off second base for an easy out. The Astros were down 8-1 at the time.

“Not smart,” Porter said. “It’s basically fundamental baseball. The scoreboard is the most important object on the baseball field. Your run doesn’t mean anything as it relates to the number of batters we need to get to the plate. Like I explained to L.J., even if he throws the ball to first base you still should have tried to go to third base. The ball is on the field and that’s not when you take a chance or you risk an out when you’re down by seven runs. It’s just not smart.”

Player of the game: C Carlos Corporan kept the Astros from being shutout with an eighth-inning homer off C.J. Wilson.

Stat of the game: The Astros have 41 hits this year, and 10 have been home runs. This is the first time since 2006 the Astros have double-digit homers through seven games.

Quote of the day: “At the end of the day, we go 3-4. That’s not the goal. The goal is to win every series. I feel like we played with a lot of energy. We came out the gate and have played good baseball for the most part, but at the same time this one here hurts because I don’t feel like we played good baseball today,” Astros manager Bo Porter on team’s 9-1 loss to Angels.

Other stuff: Wilson, who started for the Angels, is 3-1 with a 1.99 ERA in 11 career games (five starts) at Minute Maid Park. … Corporan’s homer was only his second of 12 in his career off a lefty. … Some Astros hitters are in slumps: Robbie Grossman (0-for-19), Marc Krauss (0-for-13) and Jose Altuve (0-for-9).

Links:

Astros to activate Zeid as Albers goes on paternity leave

Fowler back with Astros, but not in lineup

Krauss still waiting for his first hit

Dominguez has two hits, and both are homers

Tweets of the day:

Zeid on his way up to replace Albers

Astros relief pitcher Matt Albers will be placed on paternity leave Tuesday and will be replaced on the roster by right-hander Josh Zeid, who began the season at Triple-A Oklahoma City, a source told MLB.com. Zeid is expected to be in Toronto for Tuesday’s game against the Blue Jays.

Albers and his wife, Tara, are expecting their first child Tuesday in Houston.

Albers, signed to a one-year, $2.45-million contract in December to pitch for his hometown Astros, pitched in three games during the first week of the season, allowing four hits in 4 1/3 scoreless innings. Players are allowed to take up to three days of paternity leave for the birth of their child.

Zeid was optioned to Triple-A late in spring camp after posting a 4.15 ERA in seven games. He appeared in 25 games in relief for the Astros last year in his Major League debut and was 0-1 with a 3.90 ERA, stranding 15 of the 17 runners he inherited.

Albers, who attended Clements High School in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land, appeared in 56 games last season for Cleveland and was 3-1 with a 3.14 ERA. He’s pitched eight years in the Majors, including his first two with Houston (2006-07) and three with Baltimore (2008-10).

Fowler rejoins team, not in lineup

Astros outfielder Dexter Fowler rejoined the team Monday following a bout with a stomach virus that had kept him at home for a few days and even put him in the hospital for a night. He told reporters feeling better, but was still unavailable to play.

Fowler, who has lost eight pounds during the ordeal, hasn’t played since Thursday, when he went 2-for -4 for the third game in a row. He was set to travel with the team to Toronto for a three-game series against the Blue Jays beginning Tuesday.

“I’m pretty weak right now,” Fowler said. “I’m going to see if I can eat some food now. I haven’t eaten in three days. It’s all been liquids and rice and stuff. I’m getting better and just happy everything has slowed down a little bit and I can go out there and be with the team.”

Fowler was in good spirits as he joked around with teammates prior to Monday’s game.

“I’m just happy to be around the guys,” he said. “I was happy for them [for Sunday’s win]. I missed them a lot.”

The Astros haven’t definitely missed Fowler at the top of the lineup, but manager Bo Porter understands Fowler needs to build up his strength. Fowler went 6-for-12 in the team’s first three games with two doubles, a triple and a homer.

“One of the best decisions the doctor made was allowing him to rest the last few days instead of trying to rush him back,” Porter said. “He showed up today in better condition than he would have shown up yesterday, so that’s promising.”

Fowler said he hasn’t been told what caused the virus and said doctors are still doing tests.

“It happens,” he said. “It’s part of life. Like I said, it’s a blessing that it wasn’t worse than it was. It was pretty bad, but luckily I’m still not hospitalized.”

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