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Astros, Gause agree to terms

The Astros have agreed to terms with 10th-round pick Jay Gause, a right-handed pitcher from Faulkner University in Alabama. He told MLB.com he planned to sign his deal on Saturday and will be in the rotation at short-season Tri-City.

“I’m excited, man,” Gause said. “I plan on being in the rotation sometime in the next week or so. I’ve been waiting on this opportunity for two or three years now. I got drafted out of high school (25th round by Indians in 2010) and turned it down and went to college, so I’ve been waiting for this.”

Gause, 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, is coming off a season in which he threw 58 innings and had a 2.17 ERA along with 83 strikeouts and 24 walks. He is from Shallotte, N.C., and previously attended Walters State Community College.

The pick, the 286th overall, comes with an assigned slot value of $142,100.

Astros, Boyd agree to terms

The Astros have agreed to terms with eighth-round pick Bobby Boyd, a speedy center fielder from West Virginia University. Boyd told MLB.com on Saturday he expected to sign his contract within the next day or so and report to Tri-City.

“I’m really excited about it,” he said. “It’s definitely a dream come true. I really didn’t expect this day to come. It was amazing.”

The pick, which is 226 overall, comes has an assigned slot bonus of $162,800.

Boyd, a 5-foot-9, 180-pounder, was a junior for the Mountaineers this year and led the team with a batting average of .356. He also tallied 24 RBIs and 18 stolen bases. He garnered All-Big 12 Honorable Mention honors for a sophomore season in which he hit .314 and stole 17 bases.

Boyd started that season on a tear, batting .427 in his first 18 games, and was held hitless just once over that stretch. He’s from Silver Spring, Md., and played for St. John’s College High.

Luhnow gives Draft update

With about two hours to go before they made their first pick in the First-Year Player Draft, general manager Jeff Luhnow on Thursday provided a brief update for the media.

“It’s a lot easier for me than it is for [scouting director] Mike [Elias] and the gang upstairs,” Luhnow said. “They’re still working through a lot of details. We’re touching base with a lot of players and their advisors and families and trying to get a sense for well beyond tonight, really, where everybody is. We’re getting medical updates on all our players, and we’ll still talking through our board. The work will continue up until 6:07 when we make our pick.”

Luhnow wouldn’t say if they’ve narrowed the list down from the six they were at a few days ago.

“We working on it,” he said. “As you get closer, you start to focus on fewer and fewer players, and we’ll have it down to one in a couple of hours.”

Click here for more information on the players the Astros are considering with the first pick.

 

 

Appel has tendinitis in his thumb

Mark Appel, the top overall pick by the Astros in last year’s First-Year Player Draft, was scratched from his scheduled start Thursday for Class A Lancaster after developing tendinitis in his right thumb, general manager Jeff Luhnow said.

Luhnow said Appel had the thumb examined in Los Angeles on Tuesday and was scheduled to resuming throwing again Friday.

“I talked to him this morning and he feels good,” Luhnow said. “He feels like he could throw today, but he’s going to follow the plan, which is one more day off from throwing. He’ll start throwing again tomorrow, and we expect he’ll be ready to make his next start, which is penciled in for June 12.”

Appel returned to the rotation at Lancaster on Saturday after spending a month at extended spring training and gave up 10 runs and 10 hits, including three home runs, in 1 1/3 innings. Luhnow speculated the thumb was a factor.

“If you ask Mark he’s not going to blame anything on the thumb, but certainly it’s something he felt the day after,” he said. “You would have to assume it may have had some impact. I’m not worried about the control. The ball’s were all in the strike zone for the most part. He threw close to 80-percent strikes. But when you talk about command, which is picking a spot in the zone and throwing it there, I think that’s what was probably not ideal for him.

“Anything you have in your hand is going to affect your ability to have command. I’m not concerned medically. I think he’ll be fine, and hopefully he’ll go out there on the 12th and do what we think he’s capable of doing.

Appel’s struggled to adapt to the tandem starter schedule at Lancaster earlier in the season. The Astros began the season using eight starters at each level of the Minor Leagues, though they recently went to a six-man rotation at Triple-A. Under the tandem system, each starter throws every fourth day and is followed in that game by another starter.

In four starts for Lancaster last month, Appel allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 17 hits in 13 innings. He walked four batters and struck out 13. Last year, he went 3-1 with a 3.79 ERA in 10 starts between short-season Tri-City and Class A Quad Cities.

 

Astros announce Minor League Players of the Month

The Astros’ player development department has named May’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 Oklahoma City, RHP Jake Buchanan was named Pitcher of the Month after going 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA in five May starts, striking out 22 and walking just five. Buchanan, an eighth-round selection by the Astros in the 2010 Draft, started the month of May with 23 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings across three starts, including his second career complete game shutout on May 20 at New Orleans. OF Domingo Santana was named the club’s Player of the Month after hitting .297 with six doubles, six homers, 16 RBIs and an .899 OPS in 30 games during the month. The 21-year-old ranks tied for seventh in the Pacific Coast League in total bases (109) and has spent the season as the second-youngest player in the league.

LHP Tommy Shirley picked up his second consecutive Double-A Corpus Christi Pitcher of the Month award after going 3-0 with a 1.85 ERA and 18 strikeouts in five May outings. Shirley’s 1.54 ERA this season ranks second in all of Double-A while his 52 strikeouts rank third in the Texas League. The club’s May Player of the Month award went to IF Matt Duffy, who hit .365 with three doubles, four homers, 20 RBI and a .941 OPS across 25 games in May. During the month, he ranked second in the Texas League in batting average, tied for first in hits and fourth in OPS.

LHP Josh Hader earned Class A Advanced Lancaster Pitcher of the Month honors after compiling a 4-0 record with a 1.95 ERA and 33 strikeouts in five May outings. Acquired by the Astros from Baltimore last season in the Bud Norris trade, Hader has been one of the California League’s top pitchers. He currently ranks second in the league in ERA and strikeouts (69), and third in WHIP (0.99). IF Carlos Correa hit .330 with eight doubles, three homers, 31 RBIs and an .885 OPS in 27 May games en route to Lancaster Player of the Month honors. The first overall pick in the 2012 draft is hitting .320 this season, and leads all California League shortstops in fielding percentage (.977) despite being the youngest position player in the league (19 years old).

At Class A Quad Cities, hard-throwing RHP Jandel Gustave was named the River Bandits May Pitcher of the Month after going 4-0 with a 2.74 ERA and 20 strikeouts in five outings in May. Gustave, 21, is a product of the Astros Dominican Academy and has posted a 3.70 ERA with 40 strikeouts and 12 walks in his first year with a full-season club. C Brian Holberton, a ninth round selection in last year’s draft, was named the club’s Player of the Month after hitting .388 with nine doubles, three homers, 15 RBI and a 1.063 OPS in 21 games in May. Holberton hit for the cycle in a 5-for-5 performance on May 18 at Kane County, and ranks second in the Midwest League with a .344 batting average (minimum 100 plate appearances).

 

Fastball command big issue in Appel’s return

The good news for the Astros is right-hander Mark Appel, the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s First-Year Player Draft, was throwing with good velocity, averaging 95 mph, in his return to the rotation Saturday at Class A Lancaster.

But giving up 10 runs on hit 10 hits, including three homers, in only 1 1/3 innings of work was certainly not what the Astros anticipated seeing from the 22-year-old. Appel walked a batter and struck out two as the JetHawks lost, 16-13, to Rancho Cucamonga.

“Clearly, not the result we wanted in his first outing back, but we’re optimistic that he’s going to put this behind him and go there and execute,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “There’s things he needs to learn from this outing and he will. I get much more concerned when guys have trouble finding the strike zone.

“For him, it’s about getting better command inside the strike zone, getting the ball down and maybe coming in a little bit and doing some of the other things he needs to do to be more effective, especially there in that [hitter-friendly] environment. Things tend to be amplified there. What could be a fly ball in another environment ends up being a home run there.”

Luhnow said Appel’s arm strength was there, so that’s not an issue. Eight of his 10 runs came on three home runs, and all three of those were fastballs up in the zone.

“It’s one of those things that’s unfortunate, but in Lancaster that happens,” Luhnow said. “And I’m not making excuses for him, but it’s an environment where there’s a pretty brisk blowing and you’ve got to learn how to keep the ball down. That was his big challenge last night.

“He did some throw good changeups for strikes and he threw a couple of sliders, but in general it was a matter that he couldn’t get his fastball down.”

In four starts for Lancaster last month, Appel allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 17 hits in 13 innings. He walked four batters and struck out 13. Last year, he went 3-1 with a 3.79 ERA in 10 starts between short-season Tri-City and Class A Quad Cities.

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

 

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