|Houston Astros vs. Seattle Mariners
Monday, April 20, 2015 – Safeco Field (9:10 pm)
|Houston Astros (6-6)||Seattle Mariners (5-7)|
|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)|
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.”
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.
* – denotes left-hander
# – denotes switch-hitter
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
STARTING PITCHERS (5)
RELIEF PITCHERS (7)
Luke Gregerson (closer)
DESIGNATED HITTER (1)
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):
Breakdown: Catchers are set.
STARTING PITCHERS (7)
Roberto Hernandez (non-roster)
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)
Joe Thatcher (non-roster)
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.
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.
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)
The Astros trimmed their active spring roster by eight players Sunday morning, including top prospect Carlos Correa, a shortstop, and Matt Dominguez, who was the team’s starting third baseman the past two years.
Correa, the former No. 1 overall Draft pick who is a budding star, was reassigned to the Minor Leagues and will begin the season at Double-A Corpus Christi. The Astros also informed relievers Darin Downs and James Hoyt, infielder Gregorio Petit and catcher Tyler Heineman they wouldn’t make the team, but would remain on the big league roster through the end of camp.
The Astros also informed reliever Sam Deduno he had made the club as a long reliever, leaving one spot open in the bullpen. Dominguez, along with pitcher Jake Buchanan and catcher Max Stassi, were optioned to the Minor Leagues.
“This is a challenging time because we’ve got a lot of players that have stepped up and played well and we have tough decision to make,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “These aren’t the last ones. We feel good about the squad we’re going to be able to take to Houston to start the season with and we feel good about the protection and the players that we’re going to have to Triple-A that are going to be available to us should an injury occur or a need arise.”
Dominguez started 309 games for the Astros the past two years, mostly at third base. He hit .241 with 21 homers and 77 RBIs in his first full season in 2013 and last year slumped to .215 with 16 homers and 57 RBIs, which is why the Astros traded for Luis Valbuena to play third this year.
Dominguez came to camp competing for a backup role, which including playing some first base, and hit .250 with two RBIs in 36 at-bats, but was behind Jonathan Villar.
“One of our goals this offseason was to give ourselves more options and out infield production last year, with the exception of [Jose] Altuve, was below what we really needed to compete in this division, so we went out and addressed upgrades at shortstop and options at third base and first base,” Luhnow said. “We’re seeing the results of that. Valbuena had an amazing spring so far and is basically going to be our third baseman and that leaves Matt in competition with some of the other guys for an extra spot on the roster, a spot off the bench, and right now we feel like there’s a couple of other guys ahead of him and he needs to play every day. Right now he’ll go down to Fresno and play third and play some first and be ready when the need arises.”
Correa has done nothing but impress in his second big league camp. He hit .341 with two homers and five RBIs this spring and was terrific on defense. He has yet to play above Class A, so getting him some reps at Double-A is the goal.
“Carlos is going to be a star player in the big leagues. It’s just a matter of time,” Luhnow said. “Having never had an at-bat in Double-A, he needs to go get some regular work in the high Minors. He did a great job for us on the field as well as off the field and I think he’s got a lot of fans in the organization and he impressed the big league staff, which is what you want as a young player.”
Deduno, claimed off waivers in August, will be the team’s long relief man. He’s appeared in 74 big league games (42) starts and is 16-19 with a 4.20 ERA, including a 3.12 ERA in five games (one start) with Houston last year.
“A.J. talked to him and he was excited because when he came in the office he was a little nervous,” Luhnow said. “He had a big smile on his face when he left the office this morning.”
The battle for the fifth spot in the Astros’ starting rotation is a three-man race after right-hander Dan Straily, brought to Houston in a trade with the Cubs in January, was among three players cut from Major League camp on Monday morning.
Straily was optioned to the Minor Leagues, and right-hander Mark Appel and outfielder Andrew Aplin were reassigned, leaving the Astros with 41 players in camp two weeks shy of Opening Day.
Straily, who was competing with Roberto Hernandez, Asher Wojciechowski and Sam Deduno for the fifth spot in the rotation, will begin the season in the rotation at Triple-A Fresno. He appeared in four games this spring, making two starts, and allowed 12 hits, seven runs and five walks in 10 2/3 innings.
“He was behind a couple of other guys,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “It’s always tough to send a guy out after he pitched well [Sunday], but we looked at the set of circumstances that would lead to him being that fifth starter, and we really feel like he’s a starter so we want him to go to Triple-A and be prepared.”
Straily, 26, was acquired along with third baseman Luis Valbuena from the Cubs in exchange for outfielder Dexter Fowler in January. He had a subpar year with the A’s and Cubs last year while battling shoulder weakness that changed his arm slot following a bang-up rookie season in which he went 10-8 with a 3.96 ERA in 27 starts for Oakland in 2013.
“He’s a Major League pitcher, he’s had time in the big leagues, he’s had success in the big leagues and I think he will for us as well,” Luhnow said. “We’re going to need more than five starters this year more than likely and he’s going to be one of the guys we rely on.”
Hernandez, a nine year veteran, is 3-0 with a 4.50 ERA in four outings (two starts) this year and could have a leg up on the competition considering his experience.
“You look at what’s going on with other clubs around baseball, and there’s a lot of injuries and having extra pitchers that are Major League caliber is something we value,” Luhnow said. “That’s definitely a consideration.”
Appel, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, appeared in three games this spring and gave up five hits and two earned runs in seven innings. He’s likely headed to the rotation at Double-A Corpus Christi, which is where ended last year.
“He’s on a good trajectory right now after a down season last year,” Luhnow said. “He ended the season strong and had a good fall league and a good camp and he’s exactly where we need him to be. He’s one of the top Major League starting prospects in the game, and I expect he’s going to be in Houston and be close to or at the top of our rotation for many years to come.”
Considering Appel appeared in only one game last spring, his experience in big league camp this year was invaluable.
“I’m very blessed to be able to be here,” he said. “It was a great experience for me. I learned a lot about what it takes to be able to get here and stay here, and I’m going to definitely work hard to get back.”
The facts: The Astros got superb pitching from starter Dallas Keuchel, reliever Darin Downs and Mark Appel, who pitched in relief, and then blew the game and lost, 3-2, when the Yankees scored three in the ninth (two earned) against Will Harris (boxscore).
Analysis: In his first start since being named Opening Day starter, Keuchel cruised through 4 1/3 scoreless innings, throwing 41 of his 58 pitches for strikes. He allowed a pair of runners in the first, but got Brian McCann to ground out to end the inning, and he coaxed Chris Young into an inning-ending double play in the fourth.
“I just felt like I had a few mechanical issues last start and I was all over the place, but today I was just focused on making as many quality pitches as I could,” Keuchel said. “I think I said I took a step back last start, but I think I took two steps forward this one and was really able to establish the fastball early. I was making those guys conscious inside with the two-seam and then kind of set up some breaking balls and change-ups away.”
Downs allowed a hit, but quickly got a double play to get out of the inning. Appel looked polished by allowing one hit in three scoreless innings.
The Astros were held to five hits, including a two-run blast by Chris Carter in the first inning off Michael Pineda. The Astros nearly hit for the cycle in the first with George Springer hitting a triple and Matt Dominguez stroking a single to join Carter’s first homer of the spring.
“He can leave any area of the ballpark,” Hinch said of Carter, who was second in the AL with 37 homers last year. “He’s been working on staying towards the middle and hitting the ball back where it’s pitched. It’s a big man that can hit it out to a big area.”
Player of the game: Dallas Keuchel.
Notable: Yankees pitchers struck out 14 batters.
“You want to play quality baseball, which is key, heading into the season. To me, handling the ball cleanly and playing clean baseball is the No. 1 priorty,” — Astros manager A.J. Hinch when asked about having a winning record in the spring.
Up next: Veteran Roberto Hernandez, who gave up three earned runs and four hits in three innings Tuesday, will continue his audition for the fifth spot in the rotation when he starts Sunday’s game against the Pirates at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee. Dan Straily, who walked four and allowed three runs in two innings Tuesday, will also pitch against Pittsburgh while he also competes for a spot in the rotation. The game will be televised on MLB Network and ROOT Sports.
Injury report: LF/DH Evan Gattis (right wrist discomfort) is playing in Minor League games. … LHP Brett Oberholtzer (mild left lat strain) is able to throw in the bullpen and could return to game action soon. … RHP Brad Peacock (hip surgery) will pitch in a Minor League game on Monday.
Pictures of the day can be found at my Instagram page: https://instagram.com/brianmctaggartmlb/
Links of the day:
Tweet of the day:
The facts: Astros starter Collin McHugh gave up five runs in 2 1/3 innings as the Braves held off the Astros, 6-5, on Saturday night at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (boxscore)
Analysis: Take away McHugh’s performance and this was a good night for the Astros. The rest of the pitching staff combined to hold the Braves to one hit — a solo homer off Tony Sipp — over the final 5 2/3 innings, with James Hoyt (two-thirds of an inning), Luke Gregerson (one inning), Chad Qualls (one inning), Michael Feliz (one inning) and Kevin Chapman (one inning) working efficiently.
“I thought Kevin Chapman was fantastic coming in and taking some things he was working on with [pitching coach Brent Strom] in the bullpen into the game,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “Gregerson looked good, Qualls looked really sharp. Tony Sipp gave up the solo homer, but was fine. Michael Feliz was bringing heat tonight. He’s got a good arm. For a young kid who hasn’t got to pitch a ton this spring, it’s good to see him let it loose.”
McHugh also hit a batter, threw a wild pitch, made a throwing error on a pick-off attempt and allowed six hits in his outing. He said he’s still trying to get the feel for his curveball.
“We did a couple of good things, but overall obviously not super pleased with the way it turned out,” McHugh said. “It’s Spring Training so people are going to say, ‘You’re here to work on things, you’re here to get better or ready for the season to start,’ which is true. Every time I get on the mound, I’m ready to fight and I’m ready to battle. Nobody likes results like this today.”
Said Hinch:”He pitched in a lot of duress tonight, which was a little taxing for him. He had a tough time getting into counts, had a tough time putting hitters away, so he worked through a little bit. As I told him when I took him out of the game, it was a volume day when he got his pitches up past 60 and pitched in duress. That’s all you can take away from this one.”
Offensively, the Astros had 11 hits, with Robbie Grossman (2-for-3) staying hot. Nine other players had one hit, including a triple by Jonathan Villar and homers by Colby Rasmus — his first of the spring — and Minor League Player of the Year Brett Phillips.
Player of the game: RHP Michael Feliz struck out two of the three batters he faced in relief.
Notable: IF Jonathan Villar, who started at third base, left the game after he was hit above the right knee with a pitch, but Hinch said he was fine.
“I’m floating on a cloud right now. It was a great feeling, for sure,” Astros’ Minor League Player of the Year Brett Phillips on his ninth-inning homer Saturday.
“I kind of got singled to death out there, which sometimes is worse because it’s a carousel on the bases,” — Collin McHugh on his outing against the Braves
Up next: Asher Wojciechowski, who’s competing for the final spot in the rotation, makes his first start of the Grapefruit League season when the Astros face the Nationals at 12:05 p.m. CT Sunday at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee. Wojciechowski, who missed all of spring camp last year with a strained lat and missed a month later in the season with a strained forearm flexor, is finally healthy. He appeared in 15 games (14 starts) at Oklahoma City and was 4-4 with a 4.74 ERA, including 3-1 with a 3.11 ERA in his final six starts.
Injury report: RHP Mark Appel (mild right forearm strain) will start Monday’s split-squad game in Viera against the Nationals. … RHP Brad Peacock (hip surgery) threw his second live bullpen session Saturday. … RHP Vincent Velasquez (strained right lat) began his throwing program and will begin the day on the DL.
Pictures of the day can be found at my Instagram page: https://instagram.com/brianmctaggartmlb/
Links of the day:
— Story and video: Lowrie looking forward to being part of Astros’ bright future.
Tweet of the day