Results tagged ‘ Alberto Arias ’

Options a factor a decision time

As the Astros debate their remaining roster decisions in the next few days, one of the factors that will come into play is which players are out of options. Players who are out of options and don’t make the 25-man roster must clear waivers before being sent to the Minor Leagues, so the Astros would risk losing them.

The Astros have seven players who are out of options for 2011 – right-handers Nelson Figueroa and Alberto Arias, infielders Clint Barmes, Angel Sanchez and Jeff Keppinger, catcher Humberto Quintero and left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith. Of those, only Sanchez and Rowland-Smith are battling for roster spots at this point.

“It’s certainly something we talk about,” general manager Ed Wade said. “We try to weigh all factors, including out-of-options status. Whether it’s one of the out-of-options guys or the Rule 5 players, we try to factor in everything before we make a decision.”

Sanchez, who returned to the lineup Wednesday after missing a few days with an upper back strain, is among five players competing for two backup spots on the infield. Rowland-Smith is in the hunt for a slot in the bullpen. Keppinger will start the year on the disabled list, and Arias is likely to be disabled, as well. Barmes, Figueroa and Quintero are locks to make the club.

Pitchers Lance Pendleton and Aneury Rodriguez were both taken in the Rule 5 Draft, which means they must remain on the 25-man roster all season or be offered back to their former clubs. That’s assuming, the Astros can’t work out a trade to keep them. Pendleton came from the Yankees, and Rodriguez from the Rays.

Game 14: Good performances abound in walk-off win

The Astros rallied for a run in the ninth-inning for a walk-off win over the Nationals, 6-5, on Thursday night at Osceola County Stadium. Bryce Harper, the top pick in the draft last year, made an errant throw from right field to allow the winning run to cross the plate.

Tied at 5 in the ninth with Jimmy Paredes on first base, Brian Dopirak sent a laser into the right field corner. Paredes was originally given the stop sign at third base, but Harper’s poor throw allowed him to score the winning run.

What went right: There were solid pitching performances up and down the boxscore, beginning with starter Wandy Rodriguez. The left-hander was pretty good in his third start of the spring, allowing four hits and one run in four innings. He threw 71 pitches (25 in the first inning) and retired eight of the final nine batters he faced.

Brandon Lyon threw a crisp 1-2-3 inning and benefitted from a terrific diving stop by second baseman Bill Hall, and Jeff Fulchino allowed a lead-off hit in the sixth, but quickly got a double play and finished the inning in quick fashion. Ross Wolf and Sergio Escalona also pitched scoreless innings and struck out one batter.

At the plate, the Astros had 13 hits, with Jason Bourgeois (2-for-4) and Chris Johnson (2-for-3) leading the charge. Johnson ripped a two-run single in the third inning and is now hitting .304. Matt Downs continues to make a push to make the club, going 1-for-3 with an RBI double while starting at first base. Tommy Manzella had two plate appearances and put down a sacrifice bunt and drew a walk to start out the ninth.

What went wrong: Wesley Wright had a rough night on the mound, allowing three hits, two walks and four runs in one inning, raising his ERA to 13.50. Hunter Pence finally cooled down and went 0-for-4, but no one is worried about him.

There wasn’t much else manager Brad Mills could feel badly about. The Astros squandered a bases-loaded situation in the first inning when Bill Hall hit into a double play, but Hall came back with a double in the third. 

What’s they said: “Last year, I got hurt and didn’t get to finish up the season, and then Houston came in and to be part of this team and organization, it’s a great feeling alone by itself. My first at-bat [in the seventh], I came up looking to drive the ball and missed that pitch and got a little under it [and popped out]. I tried to make the adjustment to my next at-bat and stayed through it a little bit longer and was looking for a pitch up in the zone and jumped on it. I felt good. My swing’s been feeling pretty good. It felt good to help the team win and come up in that situation and do that.” — Astros outfielder Brian Dopirak on his ninth-inning heroics. 

What’s next: Manager Brad Mills and his coaching staff will have the opportunity to watch two games on Friday, with the Astros playing a split-squad game against the Red Sox in Kissimmee in the afternoon and playing another game against the Nationals in Viera at night. This will be the Astros’ fourth split-squad date of the spring. Brett Myers will start against the Red Sox and is scheduled to throw about 75 pitches, and Rule 5 pick Lance Pendleton will start against the Nationals.

Injury update: Outfielder Jason Michaels, who was scratched from Tuesday’s game in Fort Myers due to back spasms, has made progress and returned to the lineup Thursday at designated hitter. … Right-hander Alberto Arias played catch on Thursday and said his shoulder felt fine. He will throw from 90 feet on Friday and take Saturday off as he continues to battle back from inflammation and tries to get into a game for the first time this spring. … Right-hander Sammy Gervacio (shoulder) could begin throwing soon. … Right-hander Bud Norris, who left his start Monday with a mild hamstring strain, said he feels good and will start Sunday against the Braves.

Here are the pictures of the day:

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Above: Manager Brad Mills watches cut-offs and rundowns on Thursday.

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Above: Matt Downs reaches for a ball being thrown from the outfield.

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Above: Wilton Lopez concentrates while trying to make a play during rag ball drills.

 

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Above: Michael Bourn and bullpen coach Jamie Quirk give each other a fist bump during BP. They were probably agreeing on how great UH is going to be in football this year.

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Above: Bill Hall swings away in batting practice. I’m glad he didn’t foul it back into my face.

Taking a shot at the Astros 25-man roster

We are roughly halfway through Spring Training and the roster picture is pretty much as cloudy as it was when camp opened a month ago, and perhaps even more so with the injury to catcher Jason Castro. With so many bodies still in camp, it’s been difficult to determine which players might have the leg up, but that will not deter me.

Here’s my guess on what the Opening Day roster will look like:

CATCHERS (2)

Humberto Quintero

J.R. Towles

Comment: The Astros could still bring in another catcher in time for Opening Day, but for now I’m going to limit my prediction to the players that are still in camp.

INFIELDERS (6)

Brett Wallace (L)

Bill Hall

Clint Barmes

Chris Johnson

Matt Downs

Tommy Manzella

Comment: I still believe Wallace is going to win the first base job. Downs has looked good in camp and could bring some pop and versatility off the bench. Manzella has broadened his defensive scope and has looked good at the plate so far this spring. Angel Sanchez could still play his way into the mix, but his defense is an issue. Anderson Hernandez has played well, too.

OUTFIELDERS (5)

Carlos Lee

Michael Bourn (L)

Hunter Pence

Jason Michaels

Brian Bogusevic (L)

Comment: The only spot up for grabs is the fifth outfield spot. Bogusevic probably has a leg up on Jason Bourgeois because he hits left-handed. He runs pretty well too, but not as well as Bourgeois, who could also play second base.

STARTING PITCHERS (5)

Brett Myers

Wandy Rodriguez (L)

J.A. Happ (L)

Bud Norris

Ryan Rowland-Smith (L)

Comment: The fifth spot in the rotation remains completely up for grabs. Right now, I go with Rowland-Smith over Jordan Lyles, who has looked good but is still 20 years old and has barely had his feet wet at Triple-A. Nelson Figueroa makes the club as the long reliever.

RELIEF PITCHERS (7)

Brandon Lyon

Wilton Lopez

Fernando Abad (L)

Jeff Fulchino

Nelson Figueroa

Mark Melancon

Henry Villar

Comment: At this point, I see Lyon, Lopez, Abad and Figueroa as locks. Fulchino is healthy and pitching well, and Melancon appears to have a good chance. The last spot? Completely up for grabs. The injury to Alberto Arias may give some other guys a chance, and Villar as pitched well. Don’t count out Sergio Escalona or Enerio Del Rosario.

Day 35: Injuries mount in final week of camp

Remember how we all joked about Camp Quiet? That was in February, when one of the coldest winters in Florida history forced everyone to wear jackets for workouts. That was back when the Astros weren’t making any news, except for mild ankle sprains by Casey Daigle and Jeff Fulchino.

Things sure have changed.

Lance Berkman, Brett Myers, Roy Oswalt, Michael Bourn, Tommy Manzella, Jason Bourgeois, Alberto Arias and Yorman Bazardo have all gone down with injuries. Suddenly, Kaz Matsui is the healthiest guy on the team. Most of the injuries are strains and not serious, though Arias could be headed for the DL and Berkman had minor knee surgery.

Oswalt joined the M*A*S*H unit Friday when he left his start against the Pirates after four innings with a mild left hamstring strain. Oswalt isn’t concerned, but GM Ed Wade showed enough concern to send Oswalt to Houston to be examined.

The Astros did have some good news Friday, rallying for four runs in the eighth and two in the ninth to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-4. Chris Johnson’s two-out, two-run walk-off home run that struck the batters eye in center field a few feet from the top, won the game.

Here’s the breakdown:

The good: Before his hamstring started to bother him, Oswalt looked terrific. He retired 10 of the first 11 batters he faced, striking out six batters in that span. He threw 60 pitches (41 strikes) and gave up three hits and one run in four innings. Brandon Lyon threw one scoreless innings and appears to have put his shoulder troubles in the past.

How about Drew Locke and T.J. Steele? These two guys continue to impress with how they’re swinging the bat in Grapefruit League play when they’re pulled over from Minor League camp. Steele started in center field and went 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI, and Locke had a three-run triple in the eighth inning in his only at-bat.

Johnson and non-roster first baseman Chris Shelton are making things interesting. Johnson, who has been pretty much pegged for Triple-A Round Rock since the spring started, is hitting .326 and leads the team with five homers and is second with 14 RBIs.

“I’ve got to remember, though, it’s just spring,” he said. “These don’t count yet.”

When asked if he feels he has opened some eyes, he said: “We’ve got a new group of guys coming in and a whole new coaching staff, and that’s all I’m trying to do is show them what I can do if they’ve never seen me play before.”

Shelton, whose double in the ninth set up Johnson’s homer, is hitting .333 with two homers and 11 RBIs in 36 at-bats. He could be making a push to make the team, considering Berkman could begin the year on the DL and they could carry an extra infielder by going with a four-man rotation.

Competition at the end of camp is a good thing.

“That’s the way you want to do it,” Mills said. “You hope you have to make those types of decisions. You hope they come down to the end like this, and that’s exactly what’s happened.”

The not-so-good: The only regulars the Astros had in the starting lineup Friday were third baseman Pedro Feliz and left fielder Carlos Lee, so perhaps that helps explain why Pirates starter Zach Duke shut them out on two hits for 6 2/3 innings. When the benches emptied in the eighth, the bats came alive.

Bud Norris, who was originally scheduled to pitch in a Minor League game, followed Oswalt and Lyon and threw four innings, giving up four hits and three earned runs. Norris struggled in the ninth against some Pirates hitters that aren’t going to make the team, but Mills was glad he was able to get up and down four times after missing a start with the flu.

What did Norris take from the 58-pitch outing?

“It was a whirlwind because I thought I was on the Minor League side, but I’m glad [pitching coach Brad Arnsberg] moved it around so I could pitch out there,” he said. “I felt good, my body felt good and arm felt good, and I’m glad I pitched as long as I did. I had only had 7 1/3 innings coming in and that was the biggest part. I completely understood the reason for it and I’m glad they go me out there.”

What they said: “This late in camp, there’s always concern, no doubt about it. The one positive on that note is he wanted to go back out. He said he felt the strain in his left hamstring. He’s concerned about it, but he’s not so scared that he wasn’t willing to go out there and pitch.” – Mills on the health of Oswalt.

What’s next: Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez will make his penultimate start of the spring when he faces the Tampa Bay Rays at 12:05 p.m. CT on Saturday at Osceola County Stadium. Rodriguez, who threw 90 pitches in his previous start Monday, has gotten knocked around this spring. He’s given up 20 hits and 16 earned runs in 13 innings in his four starts. Matt Lindstrom, Jeff Fulchino, Tim Byrdak and Yorman Bazardo are also scheduled to pitch.

Astro-notes: Michael Bourn, who’s been out a week with a strained oblique, went 1-for-4 with a stolen base in a Minor League game Friday and said he’s ready to return to action. Mills said Bourn could be in the lineup Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays. … The Astros trimmed their roster to 38 players on Friday, optioning left-handed pitcher Wesley Wright to Triple-A Round Rock and reassigning right-hander Shane Loux and infielder Oswaldo Navarro to Minor League camp.

Monday morning Astros update

Astros manager Brad Mills said Monday morning his group of injured players were improving: Lance Berkman (knee surgery), Michael Bourn (strained oblique), Jason Bourgeois (strained hamstring), Tommy Manzella (strained quadriceps) and Yorman Bazardo (shoulder strain). Right-hander Alberto Arias (shoulder strain) was scheduled to get an MRI on Monday morning.

“Lance came into the office and said he felt better today and that’s always good to hear from him,” Mills said. “We’re trying to keep his range of motion where it needs to be and keep the swelling down. Bourgeois felt better when he came in today, and Manzella is feeling and looking better. Those things are good. Arias is getting an MRI this morning and we’ll looking forward to hearing back from him. Bazardo is getting stronger every day and playing catch and doing all his things.”

Arias, Bazardo and Bourgeois are fighting for spots on the club, and Mills admitted their inability to get on the field isn’t helping their chances.

“We’re not looking at this as a detriment to them because we want them healthy, but at the same time if they can’t go out and perform they can’t show us,” he said. “Jason has been able to show us quite a bit. Bazardo hasn’t been able to show us very much and it’s more of a situation with him than Jason because of that.”

Bourgeois strained his left hamstring Sunday, a few weeks after he strained his right hamstring early in camp. Considering Bourgeois’ speed is his biggest asset, the injury is frustrating.

“That’s my game,” Bourgeois said. “It’s unfortunate but these things happen.”

Bourgeois was able to play catch and take batting practice, but he’s not going to do any quick movements. Manzella is still at least a week away from returning.

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Because of rainouts, split-squad games and Monday’s off day, the starting rotation has been thrown a little off. Wandy Rodriguez will start Monday against the Cardinals, with Felipe Paulino to pitch Tuesday in Bradenton against the Pirates. Reliever Casey Daigle will make a spot start Wednesday at the New York Mets.

Oswalt, who threw one inning Sunday in Kissimmee before rain washed out the game against the Mets, will take his turn Friday. Bud Norris and Brian Moehler, both of whom pitched against Boston in Sunday’s split-squad game, will be worked in. Norris said he might pitch in a Minor League game.

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With starting shortstop Tommy Manzella out for at least another week with a strained quadriceps, veteran Geoff Blum was scheduled to see his first action of the spring at shortstop on Monday. Blum plays primarily first base and third base at this point in his career, but he has played 190 games at shortstop in his career.

“We have to look at all of our options,” Mills said. “With Tommy being down for a few days we want to make sure we see [Edwin] Maysonet over there and [Jeff] Keppinger and Blummer. We’ll keep all options open. This is the first time we put him out there this year. I’ve got to see him play out there. I do know he’s got good hands, a good arm and his experience and being able to position himself where he needs to be should help his range.”

Sunday morning Astros update

I’m back from a respite in Houston and am in Kissimmee for the rest of the spring, so expect frequent updates. Anyway, I’ll have a story later today on the rash of injuries that’s taken over the club the last few days, but here’s a quick rundown:

  • 1B Lance Berkman had fluid drained from his knee Saturday, one week after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to clean out some loose cartilage. Berkman is walking with a limp and is still sore, but he’s not ruling out returning by Opening Day.
  • RHP Alberto Arias will undergo a precautionary MRI on Monday. Arias has been diagnosed with a shoulder strain and has lost some velocity on his fastball. The Astros want to get a better look at the shoulder to find out what’s going on.
  • SS Tommy Manzella, who was diagnosed with a strained quad, is out of baseball drills again today. Manzella said he’s going to take it slow and will be out a few days. General manager Ed Wade told him Sunday morning he didn’t want him to be “Braveheart.”
  • CF Michael Bourn was held out of Sunday’s game because of a strained oblique. Bourn said he was sore, and he did do some bunting in the batting cage. He’s listed as day-to-day, but Wade said he won’t play until he’s 100 percent.
  • RF Yorman Bazardo, who strained his shoulder a week ago, has been throwing on the side while the training staff works to improve his range of motion.

 

Day 20: Rain dampens everything; injury updates

This is my seventh year covering the Astros and coming to Kissimmee for Spring Training, and I’ve never seen it rain like it did the last two days. The Astros were rained out Thursday in Viera, Fla., where they were supposed to play the Nationals. The team got on the bus for Dunedin, Fla., and was going to try to play the Blue Jays on Friday. Not sure if they will be able to do that.

I stayed in Kissimmee today to check on first baseman Lance Berkman and pitcher Alberto Arias, both of whom were examined by team medical director Dr. David Lintner. Berkman said the results of the exam of his bruised left knee were “inconclusive” and that further assessment was needed. At this point, it’s nothing that’s going to keep him out of games.

Arias said he was diagnosed with inflammation in his right shoulder. He’s going to take a couple of more days off from throwing and could get a cortisone shot soon. Arias was relieved, though, that Lintner didn’t diagnosis him with anything major.

Also, right-hander Brandon Lyon took another step towards returning when he faced live hitters for the first time Friday morning. Lyon threw 25 pitches in the batting cage to hitters from Minor League camp and said he felt good. He’ll likely throw to hitters again on Sunday, this time on the field.

Because I’m not with the team in Dunedin today, I won’t have my post-game analysis blog entry. If there is more news on Berkman’s knee, I’ll be sure to pass it along.

By the way, if you didn’t already know you can follow me on twitter @brianmctaggart for all the latest news and updates.

Lindstrom shines; other Astros news from early Wednesday

Right-hander Matt Lindstrom was thrilled with easily his best outing of the spring in Tuesday’s win over the Mets. He threw two innings and didn’t allow anyone to reach base while striking out one batter, and manager Brad Mills said the extra work with pitching coach Brad Arnsberg is paying off.

“I thought that was just outstanding,” he said. “He threw six pitches in the first inning and that’s why we wanted to send him out for the second inning to get him some pitches. Arnie is working with him on some things, and the progress he made yesterday was leaps and bounds over his last outing. If we can keep him progressing in right direction, that’s going to build some confidence with him as well.”

Lindstrom has been working with Arnsberg on changing the grip on his slider. The new grip is more tailored to his arm angle so the ball doesn’t pop out of his hands as much. That will allow him to throw the fastball more in the zone.

“I felt like a had a lit better command of my slider and that makes a big difference when I’m throwing it for strikes and using it the way I know,” Lindstrom said. “The new grip with Arnsberg is something I feel comfortable with. It worked out good and you have to continue to build on it and feel more comfortable with it.”

Here are some other tidbits from this camp this morning:

  • Right-hander Brandon Lyon is scheduled to throw another 30-pitch side session Wednesday. Lyon, who hasn’t faced a batter this spring after having a cyst on his throwing shoulder drained, could throw live batting practice Friday if all goes well. Stay tuned for updates.
  • Catcher Jason Castro was sent home with a case of the stomach flu. He wasn’t scheduled to start on Wednesday, and Mills said he hoped he would be able to make his start Thursday against Washington: “He’s got the stomach thing a couple of guys had in the bullpen the past week,” he said. “We sent him home, and hopefully it’s a one-day thing, which we think it is.” Castro is 6-for-12 this spring.
  • Right-handed reliever Alberto Arias, who left Tuesday’s game with a mild strain in his upper back/neck/shoulder area, won’t throw for a couple of days. The plan is for Arias to get checked out Friday when the team doctors come to town. “We’re going to back him off and he’ll see a doctor on Friday and then we’ll go from there,” Mills said. “If it is something that needs to be calmed down, it will have a day to calm down before the doctors get here.”

Astros injury updates

Roy Oswalt was unavailable to the media Monday morning because the Astros sent him to the doctor have an upper-respiratory infection checked out. Oswalt, who left Saturday’s game with tightness in his lower back, said he had flu-like aches during the game.

As far as his back is concerned, Oswalt gave manager Cecil Cooper a thumbs-up Monday, leading Cooper to believe that Oswalt would be available to pitch Thursday against Atlanta. And general manager Ed Wade concurred.

“All indications I’ve gotten from [pitching coach] Dewey [Robinson] and from [head athletic trainer] Nate [Lucero] are that he should be ready to go in his next start,” Wade said.

Meanwhile, infielder Jeff Keppinger was unavailable Monday because of a stiff back and remains day-to-day. Reliever Alberto Arias, on the disabled list with a right hamstring strain, received a pain-killing injection in his right knee over the weekend is feeling better.

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