Astros to interview Listach for manager’s job

Astros third base coach Pat Listach will interview with general manager Jeff Luhnow on Saturday at Citi Field for the full-time managerial position, a source told MLB.com.

Houston interim manager Tom Lawless was also scheduled to interview with Luhnow on Saturday as it searches to find a full-time replacement for Bo Porter, who was dismissed Sept. 1. The Astros have also talked to Triple-A Reno manager Phil Nevin, while A.J. Hinch, Dino Ebel, Torey Lovullo, Don Wakamatsu and Dave Martinez have been mentioned as candidates.

The Pittsburgh Tribune Review reported Saturday that Pirates bench coach Jeff Banister had completed two interviews with the Astros. Banister played at the University of Houston and grew up in the area.

Listach, 47, joined the Astros a year ago from the Dodgers, where he served as the organization’s Minor League infield coordinator in 2013. Prior to that, Listach coached on the Major League staffs for the Cubs (2011-12) and Nationals (2009-10) for two years apiece. He also has nine years of Minor League coaching experience in the Cubs system from ’00-08.

Listach played in six Major League seasons, which included time with the Brewers (1992-96) and the Astros (’97), and was named the ’92 American League Rookie of the Year. He hit .182 in 52 games on the Astros’ division-winning team in ’97, a veteran team that included Jeff Bagwell, Brad Ausmus, Craig Biggio, Sean Berry, Ricky Gutierrez, Tim Bogar, Luis Gonzalez, Darryl Kile and Mike Hampton.

Astros get permission to interview Nevin

The Astros have received permission to interview former big leaguer Phil Nevin to be their manager, a baseball source confirmed for MLB.com. Nevin, the former No. 1 overall draft pick by the Astros, is managing in the D-backs system at Triple-A Reno.

Nevin, 43, played 12 years in the Major Leagues after being taken by the Astros with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1992 First-Year Player Draft. He was a bust with the Astros, but wound up having a solid career by hitting .270 with 208 homers and 743 RBIs with the Astros, Tigers, Angels, Padres, Rangers, Cubs and Twins.

Nevin managed three seasons at Triple-A Toledo in the Tigers system before the D-backs hired him to managed this year at Reno.

Astros interim manager Tom Lawless will interview with general manager Jeff Luhnow on Saturday in New York for the full-time managerial position. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported earlier the Astros have interviewed at least five candidates by phone: A.J. Hinch, Dino Ebel, Torey Lovullo, Don Wakamatsu and Dave Martinez.

Lawless lauds Everett

Whether interim manager Tom Lawless gets a chance to have the job permanently remains to be seen, but he’s worked well so far with interim bench coach Adam Everett. Lawless has been coaching in baseball for years, but for Everett it’s pretty much on-the-job training.

“He’s only been coaching for a couple of years,” Lawless said. He’s learned how to do it. His demeanor is like mine, except he’s a little bit more forceful than I am, which is good. We talk with each other. He can say some things I probably can’t say in the dugout and that’s how it’s worked, and it’s worked out pretty well.

“We have a really good relationship with everybody in the dugout and on the team, and when the atmosphere is that comfortable you can get your point across in different ways. Adam has learned that and Adam can do it, and I think Adam is going to be a very good coach for a long time. He’s knowledgeable, he knows the game, knows how to play the game, knows what to do in the game. To have him a part of what we’re trying to do here, it’s a great thing.”

Altuve memorabilia headed to Venezuelan Baseball HOF

The batting gloves worn by Jose Altuve when he passed Magglio Ordonez last week to set the record for most hits in a single season by a Venezuelan-born player are on their way to the Venezuelan Baseball Hall of Fame.

Juan Pablo Galavis, a former professional soccer player who was recently featured on the reality show “The Bachelor,” is an ambassador for the Venezuelan Baseball Hall of Fame and is traveling the country to collect donates to improve the facility, as well as gathering memorabilia from Venezuelan-born players.

Galavis, who born was in Ithaca, N.Y., but lived in Venezuela as a child, said Altuve is well-known in his native country.“With baseball being the first sport in Venezuela, every player that gets to the big leagues becomes a name,” he said. “Not only here and what he has done here, but also when he goes back home and he played last year and the year before, [reaching] the finals. They become super stars.”

The Venezuelan Baseball Hall of Fame, which opened in 2002, was the brainchild of the Cardenas family, which included a young son stricken with Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was such a huge baseball fan he wound up writing some books on the sports before passing away in 1994, and his family decided to open the Hall of Fame in his honor.

Galavis saw the Cardenas family story on a documentary and he started traveling to the United States to spread the word about the museum to Venezuelan-born players. He recently designation from the IRS as a charitable organizations, called the Cardenas Sports Foundation Baseball Hall of Fame Inc.

“I found out many of the players didn’t know the museum was there,” he said. “That’s what I stayed with them. It’s easier for me to travel to the United States, getting collectibles for the museum, just like Cooperstown does, than waiting for them to get to Venezuela, because maybe they won’t come, the teams won’t let them play. That’s pretty much what I like to do. It’s my passion.”

Galavis said being a TV celebrity has helped him make more inroads.

“I’ll say it’s helped a lot,” he said. “Obviously, I could so the same thing I did three years, two years ago, but now they see me a little differently.”

Appel throws bullpen at Minute Maid Park

Mark Appel, one of the Astros’ top prospects and the No. 1 overall pick of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, threw in the bullpen at Minute Maid Park on Thursday afternoon in front of senior pitcher advisor/special assistant to the general manager Doug Brocail and Astros pitching coach Brent Strom.

The Astros wanted to get Appel in front of Brocail, who served as the interim pitching coach at Double-A Corpus Christi, before the right-hander headed out next week for the instructional league in Florida and ultimately the Arizona Fall League.

“He’s still trying to get cleaned up,” Brocail said. “Personally, I think there’s a lot he needs to do. We’ve talked about it and it’s a matter of trying to clean him up as much as we can until he gets down the instructional league and out of the fall league. I just want to make sure he’s staying on the right path and doing the same things that led him to success at Double-A and he can keep marching up the ladder, versus taking one step back and two steps forward.”

Appel overcame a sluggish start to his first full season in the pro ball this year. He went 1-2 with a 3.69 ERA in seven games (six starts) at Corpus Christi after beginning the season with a 2-5 record and a 9.74 ERA in 12 games at hitter-friendly Lancaster in Class A.

“We got some really good work done in terms of trying to time some things up,” Strom said. “His fastball was extremely explosive, good changeup. There’s some work that needs to be done on the slider, which we did.

“He’s very open to ideas, so it was an excellent session and there’s definitely thunder coming out of his arm, from what I saw in the bullpen. It was firm, and it was four-seam firm with power. I was very excited for him and he did a good job. I loved what I saw, to be honest with you.”

When asked how close he was in the Majors, Strom said: “I saw some fastballs today that could have played last night.”

Brocail said his theory when he got Appel in July was to prepare him to pitch in the big leagues, which meant cleaning up his rhythm and delivery and helping him hold runners better.

“We got him in a five-man rotation and moved forward and didn’t look back,” he said. “Not taking anything away from the other coaches, I told him, I said, ‘Listen, everything that you think worked, keep it. And everything that didn’t, get rid of it. Erase it completely off the slate.’ And he responded very well. He’s intelligent, he has desire to win. I wish I would have had him longer.”

Astros’ Triple-A to be in Fresno in 2015

The Astros will have their Triple-A affiliate in Fresno, Calif., next season, the Grizzlies announced via Twitter.

Fresno, which had been partnered with the San Francisco Giants, will replace Oklahoma City, which had served as the Astros’ Triple-A affiliate the previous four years. The Dodgers bought a stake in Oklahoma City and will move their Triple-A operations there.

The Grizzlies play at Chukchansi Park in downtown Fresno. The park, which opened in 2002, seats 12,500 fans and features a semi-irregular field shape with dimensions measuring 324 feet down the left field line, 385 in left center, 400 in center field and 335 to the right field foul pole.

Fresno is in the PCL Northern division with Reno, Sacramento and Tacoma.

DeFrancesco hopes to get interview with Astros

Triple-A manager Tony DeFrancesco, who served as interim manager of the Astros for the final 41 games of the 2012 season, said Wednesday he hopes to get an opportunity to interview for the Major League managerial position once again

DeFrancesco, who led the Astros to a 16-25 record after Brad Mills was dismissed in 2012, was among the pool of candidates to interview with general manager Jeff Luhnow two years ago. The job eventually went to Bo Porter, who was dismissed Sept. 1.

“I talked to Jeff and I hope I have the opportunity,” DeFrancesco said. “That was one of the best times in my career [managing the Astros]. I hope to get another opportunity to go it again.”

DeFrancesco just finished his 20th season as a Minor League manager and fourth with Oklahoma City, which next year becomes the Triple-A affiliate of the Dodgers. He missed the first six weeks of the season while undergoing cancer treatments. Oklahoma City went 74-70 this year and finished in second place in the American North division of the Pacific Coast League.

Last season, DeFrancesco guided the RedHawks to a Pacific Coast League leading 82-62 record and an American Southern Division title.

Springer: “Goal is to just get healthy”

With less than two weeks remaining in the regular season and George Springer’s strained left quad not 100 percent healthy, the Astros announced on Tuesday the rookie outfielder would sit out the remainder of the regular season.

The decision certainly comes as no surprise, considering Springer hasn’t played for the Astros since July 19 against the White Sox in Chicago. He went on a Minor League rehab assignment in August, but he suffered a setback and hasn’t been able to completely heal the injury.

“It’s tough, but at this point the goal is to just get through the year healthy and get to 2015 and just be as healthy as I can,” Springer said.

Astros interim manager Tom Lawless said general manager Jeff Luhnow and the team trainers sat down with Springer on Monday to map out his future, and the decision was made with the blessing of Springer.

We felt the best thing for the organization is that George doesn’t play anymore the rest of the year,” Lawless said. “In reality, it would have to be a rehab stint when you play him and get an at-bat here and at-bat there. Will eight, nine at-bats make a difference as opposed to the other alternative when he goes out there and tweaks it again, and now we’re set back again?

“We’re going to shut him down and he’s going to take batting practice and rehab when the season’s over, and he’s going to leave here healthy. And when he comes to Spring Training, he’s going to be ready to go.”

Springer’s competitive nature made it that much more difficult for him to miss so much time.

“It’s brutal,” he said. “The goal is to play and it’s tough for me to sit here every day and to know what I can’t play.”

Springer, the Astros’ Minor League Most Valuable Player a year ago, made his much-anticipated Major League debut in April and appeared in 78 games, hitting .231 with 20 homers and 51 RBIs and showing the flash and potential that has the Astros believing he’ll be a cornerstone player for years to come.

The 24-year-old was named the American League Rookie of the Month for May, hitting .294 (30-for-102) with four doubles, one triple, 10 homers, 25 RBIs, 22 runs scored and 13 walks in 26 games to claim his first monthly award. He was the first Astros player to win Rookie of the Month honors since Hunter Pence in May 2007, when the club was still competing in the National League.

“It’s been a great experience so far, and obviously have a lot more to learn and obviously think I could have done better overall,” he said. “In my 300 at-bats, I’ve learned and I’ve grown and I go off of that into 2015.”

Springer has been working out with the club for the past month in an effort to get healthy, but the team wasn’t going to take any chances if he wasn’t 100 percent.

“He wanted to play, and really we left the decision a lot up to him and what is the best for George Springer,” Lawless said. “We’re looking at is as an organization in the long run, and the importance of eight or 10 at-bats in the big picture doesn’t make any sense taking that chance. That’s what he decided, and everyone was on board with that.”

Springer said the bigger picture is more important.

“The goal is for me to play 162 games and for me it’s tough,” he said. “Being a player and a competitor, I want to play, but at the same time you have to protect yourself and sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do.”

Astros-Mariners lineups

Astros vs. Mariners
Tuesday, September 9, 2014 – Safeco Field (9:10 p.m. CT)

Houston Astros (63-81)

 

Seattle Mariners (79-64)

No.

Player

Pos.

 

No.

Player

Pos.

19

Robbie Grossman (S)

LF

 

16

Austin Jackson

CF

27

Jose Altuve

2B

 

9

Endy Chavez (L)

LF

21

Dexter Fowler (S)

CF

 

22

Robinson Cano (L)

2B

23

Chris Carter

DH

 

15

Kyle Seager (L)

3B

15

Jason Castro (L)

C

 

21

Kendrys Morales (S)

DH

6

Jake Marisnick

RF

 

20

Logan Morrison (L)

1B

28

Jon Singleton (L)

1B

 

3

Mike Zunino

C

30

Matt Dominguez

3B

 

55

Michael Saunders (L)

RF

2

Jonathan Villar (S)

SS

 

5

Brad Miller (L)

SS

Starting Pitcher

 

Starting Pitcher

31

Collin McHugh (8-9, 2.89)

RHP

 

29

Roenis Elias (10-12, 3.90)

LHP

Astros showing bunt under Lawless

You eyes aren’t deceiving you. The Astros have been bunting much more since Tom Lawless took over as interim manager, just as he promised he would. In fact, bunts were instrumental in the Astros scoring runs late in the the past two games, especially since they didn’t homer on either Saturday or Sunday in Oakland.

In the sixth inning Saturday, Robbie Grossman had a sacrifice bunt and Jonathan Villar had a bunt single to help the Astros score a pair of runs. Jake Marisnick had a sacrifice bunt in the second inning Saturday as well.

In the seventh inning Sunday, Marwin Gonzalez had a sacrifice bunt that helped the Astros score a pair of runs. Lawless grew up playing that style of baseball under legendary Cardinals manager Whitey Ford and firmly believes in bunting and hitting and running.

“I watch the game and see how it’s going,” he said. “If the right guys comes up and the situation come ups and the last couple of games we really didn’t get a lot of hits, so for us to score runs we get two guys on and nobody out, what’s the better option? Bunting here or letting the guys swing away and if we hit into a double play we get nothing?

“If the right situation comes up and the right guys that can handle the bat and can drop the bunt, I take my chances in giving away an out. That’s the way I grew up. I grew up watching Whitey.”

Of course, bunting and giving away outs flies in the face of the analytical world, which preaches every out is precious. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, though, is letting Lawless manage how he sees fit.

“Nobody’s yelled at me yet,” Lawless joked. “It’s an idea you have to buy into. It’s nine guys playing team baseball. Whatever you have to do to push runs across, that’s what you have to do. We’re not taking the bat out of anybody’s hands. We’re getting a feel for what the game is telling us to do.”

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