Results tagged ‘ Astros ’
Astros center fielder Jake Marisnick has flourished hitting in front of Jose Altuve for much of this season, but after entering Saturday in a mini-slump (1-for-15 over his previous five games), manager A.J. Hinch was hoping moving him to the top of the order would do the trick.
Marisnick will still be hitting in front of Altuve, who was moved down to second against the Angels. Marisnick hit ninth the first two weeks of the season, with Altuve in the leadoff spot. Marisnick was hitting a scorching .382 through Sunday, but has one hit since.
“His results haven’t been great, but I don’t call it struggling,” Hinch said. “He’s had a couple of games he hasn’t recorded as many hits as he did at the beginning of the season, but I wouldn’t say struggling is fair. He plays with a ton of energy, plays a terrific defense.”
With Marisnick hitting leadoff, he figures to get at least one more at-bat per game, which could help him. Also, Marisnick has plenty of speed and Altuve has a great bat control, so the Astros will be able to embark on more hit and runs and push the tempo more. It also gives the Astros some team speed at the top.
“I’m not married to it,” Hinch said. “Things change quickly, but I like Marisnick and Altuve hitting back to back. When Marisnick was hot early, it was very tempting to move him in the order.”
Altuve hit second in the order much of last year.
“I feel really comfortable in that position,” he said. “We’re also going to have Jake Marisnick getting one more at-bat, and for me he’s the best hitter right now on the team. That’s going to give your team one more chance to score a run.”
Marisnick was a leadoff hitter coming through the Minor Leagues with the Marlins.
“Hopefully we feed off of each other and get rolling and get this offense going a little bit,” he said. “We’ve been struggling here the last couple of games. It would be nice to get rolling.”
The Astros’ player development department has named April’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 Fresno, RHP Richard Rodriguez was named April Pitcher of the Month after going 1-0 with a 2.65 ERA in seven games during the month. The right-hander closed out April with three straight scoreless outings, spanning eight innings. Fresno’s Player of the Month award went to OF Preston Tucker, who led all of Minor League baseball in home runs (nine) and RBIs (29) during the month of April. The left-handed hitter batted .329 with a .371 on-base percentage and a .683 slugging percentage (1.054 OPS) during the month.
RHP Chris Devenski fired 19 1/3 scoreless innings across four games (two starts) en route to getting named Double-A Corpus Christi’s Pitcher of the Month for April. Acquired by the Astros in the Brett Myers trade with the White Sox in 2012, Devenski was named the Texas League Pitcher of the Week for the week of April 20-26. He went 2-0 with 16 strikeouts and a .121 opponents’ batting average in April while leading the Texas League in ERA. SS Carlos Correa was named the Hooks’ Player of the Month for April after hitting .385 with 11 doubles, one triple, five homers, 22 RBIs, five steals and a 1.198 OPS in 19 April games. Ranked by MLB.com as the No. 3 prospect in baseball, Correa was named the Texas League Player of the Week for the week of April 20-26. During the month of April, he ranked among the top five Double A players in extra-base hits (first), doubles (first), slugging (first), OPS (first), hits (T-first), runs (19, T-first), RBIs (second), batting average (third) and homers (T-third).
At Class A Lancaster, RHP Tyler Brunnemann earned Pitcher of the Month honors after giving up just one run in 15 2/3 relief innings in April. Last year’s California League Championship Series MVP fanned 18 batters in his eight games during the month. The Astros 2014 Minor League Player of the Year, OF Brett Phillips, picked up right where he left off by claiming JetHawks’ Player of the Month honors this April. The left-handed hitter posted a .341 batting average with 13 extra-base hits (six doubles, three triples, four homers) and a 1.013 OPS in 20 games in April. Phillips ranked second in the California League in total bases (52) and fourth in OPS in April.
Class A Quad Cities Pitcher of the Month honors went to RHP Joe Musgrove, who went 3-1 with a 0.87 ERA and 20 strikeouts in four games (two starts) in April. Musgrove walked just one batter in his 20 2/3 innings, posting the fifth-lowest ERA in the Midwest League during the month. A 2014 draftee (13th round), C Jamie Ritchie received Quad Cities Player of the Month honors after hitting .344 with two doubles, one homer, seven RBIs and a .467 on-base percentage in 17 games in April. Ritchie finished second in the Midwest League in on-base percentage, fourth in OPS (.926) and sixth in batting average during the month.
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 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.
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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.
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— Story and video: Lowrie looking forward to being part of Astros’ bright future.
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The facts: Gregorio Petit’s single to right field in the bottom of the 10th inning scored Joe Sclafani from third base with the winning run and lifted the Astros to a 4-3 victory over Brad Ausmus’ Tigers at Osceola County Stadium (boxscore).
Analysis: Jose Altuve is probably ready for the season. He went 3-for-3 on Thursday, including a double and an RBI single, and he stole a base. He and Jake Marisnick (2-for-2) accounted for half of the Astros’ 10 hits. Marisnick and Altuve are both hitting .417 after one week of spring games.
On the mound, Dan Straily turned up the intensity a notch and worked three innings, allowing three hits and one run.
“We’ve challenged him to throw strike one and pitch ahead,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “He struggled with that in the third inning, but for the most part he’s mixing his pitches. When he’s right, he’s getting ahead of hitters and expanding with his secondary pitches. I know he felt better today. He told me that. He was a little more synched up with his delivery and his pitches. That’s progress.”
Pat Neshek, who two days ago thought he might have to wear a protective boot on his right foot, threw a scoreless inning, and Joe Thatcher’s strong spring continued when he retired all four batters he faced, even a few lefties, as Hinch tried to use him in a spot that simulated a regular season situation for the lefty.
Will Harris also threw a scoreless inning to keep his scorecard clean, but Alex White allowed three hits and two runs and walked two batters in 1 2/3 innings.
Player of the game: 2B Jose Altuve (3-for-3, double, RBI).
Notable: Hinch said RHP Asher Wojciechowski will start Sunday’s game against the Nationals. “He’s earned a longer look,” he said. It’s Brett Oberholtzer’s day to pitch, and he’ll work in a Minor League game.
“I can sort of tear up like a proud parent when we work on it for 10 straight days and we get one in the game,” — manager A.J. Hinch on RHP Alex White picking off a runner at second base.
“When I first got called up in 2010, Brandon Lyon called me over and asked where I went to school and I told him [Stanford], and he said, ‘Alright, you’re our new player rep.’ I didn’t even know what that meant. I had to find out later what he was even talking about. I welcomed it with open arms,” — catcher Jason Castro on his role as team representative to the MLBPA.
Up next: Right-hander Scott Feldman, who started on Opening Day for the Astros last year, will make his second start of the spring when the Astros travel to Viera, Fla., to face the Nationals at Space Coast Stadium at 12:05 p.m. CT Friday. Feldman will be followed by Roberto Hernandez, a candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation who’s scheduled to throw three innings. Luke Gregerson, Josh Fields and Jake Buchanan are also scheduled to throw.
Injury report: RHP Mark Appel (mild right forearm strain) could return to the mound by the weekend. … OF Preston Tucker (bruised right hand) will take batting practice on the field Friday and could return to action Saturday. … RHP Brad Peacock (hip surgery) has progressed to throwing live bullpens. … RHP Vincent Velasquez (strained right lat) began his throwing program and will begin the day on the DL.
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