Results tagged ‘ Astros ’
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Tuesday the club has opened up a lot more conversations about adding a hitter to their lineup, in addition to the quest to find a starting pitcher and perhaps even a reliever via trade.
The Astros could get infielder Jed Lowrie back from his thumb injury as soon as next week. He’s scheduled to begin a rehab assignment Wednesday at Double-A Corpus Christi. Right-fielder George Springer (fractured wrist) is still about a month away from returning.
Without Springer, the Astros’ offense has scuffled, with the exception of Sunday’s 10-run outburst against the Rangers.
“We’re looking at every avenue,” Luhnow said. “Our priority so far has been on pitching, but I think we’ve opened up a lot more conversations regarding position players, and right now we’re having conversations about starters, relievers and bats.”
Luhnow said he’s not going to trade for a pitcher who will be a free agent at the end of the year with the expectation they’re going to sign him long term. But he said that once they play in the air-conditioned comfort of Minute Maid Park and reap the benefit from no state income tax, he’s hoping Houston becomes a place they want to stay.
“Those sorts of things all sell themselves, but we wouldn’t make a move assuming that we’re going to get long-term deals done,” he said. “Having said that, would we be OK giving up some future value to acquire a player we think could help us this year that we know is probably not going to sign here? Yeah, we probably wouldn’t. It all depends on what the cost is.”
Luhnow said he’s surprised there haven’t been any major deals yet, but he said there’s a lot of chatter in advance of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. He said he’s been in contract with every club for the most part, talking about what pieces they might be willing to move and what they’re looking for.
“Those discussions are time-consuming and they’re in conversations with other clubs as well, so it takes a while to sort through it,” he said. “We’re doing our work and we’re hopeful that we can figure out a situation to improve this team and give us a better chance to both reach the playoffs and do some damage in the playoffs this year.”
Luhnow said he’s confident that with the way the roster is constructed now, including the players on the disabled list and those in Triple-A who have helped at various points this year, that could be enough for the Astros to make the playoffs. But the Astros, like all teams in contention, place a premium on winning the division and not having to play the Wild Card game if possible, so he’s going go be aggressive.
“Timing is certainly part of how you play this whole thing,” he said. “You can strike early and you might be able to get a deal that’s not available later and get the guy you want and take him off the market, or you wait until a couple of more guys become available later on. You read the tea leaves with a lot of discussion out there and listen to the chatter and reporting back to us, and we’re having a lot of conversations ourselves. We’re doing what we can. When the time is right, we’ll strike if a deal looks good.”
Astros prospect Mark Appel has seen fellow pitchers Lance McCullers Jr. and Vince Velasquez and shortstop Carlos Correa – three guys he began the season with in Double-A Corpus Christi – reach the Majors and have an impact on the big league club this year.
Appel, who got off to a slow start for the Hooks while others were being sent straight to Houston, didn’t get discouraged or stop working, and now he’s poised to perhaps join them with the Astros in the near future. Appel, the former No. 1 draft pick, threw a seven-inning complete game Sunday in the latest in a stretch of strong outings.
In his last five starts, Appel (5-1) has allowed seven earned runs, eight walks and struck out 24 in 29 innings, going 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA. Overall, he’s lowered his ERA to 4.26 from 6.02 following his May 22 start against Midland.
“I think just the circumstance the whole organization is in with a lot of success all the way through, especially at the big league level, shows that the Astros are not scared to bring up their best players,” Appel told MLB.com. “And so, Lance and Vince were pitching great. I’m very close friends with both of them and text them all the time and just so excited to see them do their thing. I want to be alongside with them. I believe I can. I know I will at some point.
“It’s funny. That team was pretty special here in Corpus at the beginning of the season and now three of those guys are having an impact on the big league team, and we would all go out to dinner and talk about what it would be like to all play together in Houston. That dream is becoming a reality pretty quickly. I’m excited to join them whenever that may be, but until then I’m going to keep working hard and having fun and trusting the process.”
The Astros have been trying to get Appel be more aggressive early in counts and get ahead of hitters more and establish his fastball, which he’s been able to do recently.
“I think just everything has kind of been going off my fastball, so getting my fastball right and getting it down in the zone and throwing it early in the count, that really opens up a lot of doors for my off-speed stuff or maybe elevating my fastball by design and so on and so forth,” he said. “Being able to get ahead of hitters, it puts you in a pitcher’s count and also you end up not really walking too many guys.”
Appel also said he’s gained confidence and trusts his stuff more, which he credits to the work he put in with pitching coach Doug Brocail between starts.
Confidence in the work and really trusting, it’s the best thing for me to prepare for each game,” he said.
Appel still believes he can pitch in Houston this year, and whether the Astros would promote him at some point straight from Double-A like they did with McCullers and Velasquez or move him up to Triple-A first remains to be seen. The Astros could be getting veteran Scott Feldman back into the rotation within the next month, so there might not be a spot for Appel just yet, especially if they make a trade to add another arm.
My goal is to get to Houston to help the big league team out, and I have confidence that I can get big league hitters and go deep into games and help the team win,” he said. “Whenever the Astros feel that time is correct, I want to be ready. That’s really the best answer I can give.
“I’m working hard here in Double-A and I’ll continue working hard and having fun and competing all the way up until they decide to send me somewhere else, and then I’ll work hard there. The process stays the same wherever I am. The work I put in stays the same wherever I am. I believe I can really help the team out. That’s really what the goal is for this season and long term.”
Asking Thomas Eshelman to choose between getting the last out to secure a berth in the College World Series for Cal State Fullerton or the joy of being drafted No. 46 overall by the Astros on Monday in the First-Year Player Draft is as an unfair as asking a parent to pick his favorite kid.
The fact they both happened pretty much simultaneously for Eshelman makes for a heck of a story, and one the 6-foot-3, 210-pound right-hander will never forget. Though he’s a starter, Eshelman closed out the Titans’ win over Louisville in the NCAA Super Regional on Monday and was in the post-game meeting when he got another thrill.
“My strength and conditioning coach came up to me and said, ‘Hey, you just became an Astro,’” he said. “That kind of poured over me a little bit. I didn’t really tell anyone and then everyone went into the locker room and found out and came back out and gave me a huge hug. It was fun to kind of be a part of and experience that.”
Astros scouting director Mike Elias sees Eshelman as someone who could move quickly through the system. He throws in the low 90s mph range, but has shown impeccable control throughout his college career with 18 walks in 370 2/3 innings to go along with 313 strikeouts. This year, he’s 8-5 with a 1.58 ERA in 17 starts heading to Omaha.
Once he signs, he’ll join a growing group of impressive pitching depth in the Houston organization, including two that recently graduated two to the Major Leagues from Double-A – Lance McCullers Jr. and Vincent Velasquez.
“I know the Astros are an up-and-coming organization,” Eshelman said. “I know they have a lot of young talent. One of my teammates from a couple of years ago, [2014 Astros draft pick] J.D. Davis is in [Class A] Lancaster with the Astros, and I’m sure I’ll get the lowdown from him. I know they like to move players up pretty quickly and I’m looking forward to getting out there and putting my nose to the grind and working hard for whatever team I’m on at that moment in time.”
So, Thomas, which experience was greater? Clinching a spot in the World Series or getting drafted?
“They’re both equal,” he said. “I wasn’t really a top recruit coming out of high school, whether it be the draft or college. Cal State Fullerton gave me the opportunity to come here and for me to do well and the Astros gave me an opportunity with the organization. I hope to do the same thing I did in college and continue to get better and make the big league roster one day.”ore out of him than what he’s given us.”
Right-handed pitcher Vincent Velasquez, who went 3-0 with a 1.37 ERA in five starts at Double-A Corpus Christi, will be called up and join the Astros in Chicago on Monday, general manager Jeff Luhnow said. Velasquez, ranked as the Astros’ No. 4-ranked prospect by MLB.com, will start Wednesday’s game against the White Sox.
Shortstop Carlos Correa, one of the top prospects in baseball, will make his Major League debut on Monday for the Astros, who announced Sunday they were calling him up at 20 years old.
Velasquez, 23, becomes the second pitcher the Astros have called up within a month from Double-A without even throwing a pitch at Triple-A. Lance McCullers Jr., who will start Monday’s game, was called up from Fresno shortly after being promoted from Double-A.
Roberto Hernandez, who’s 2-5 with a 5.18 ERA in 11 starts, has been told he’s being moved to the bullpen. He’s currently the scheduled starter for Wednesday.
Velasquez, a second-round pick in 2010, missed the first month of this season after suffering a strained right lat on Nov. 4 while playing in the Arizona Fall League. He missed two months last season with a strained groin and all of the 2011 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. When healthy, he had a nice 2014 at Class A Advanced Lancaster, going 7-4 with a 3.74 ERA in 15 games (10 starts).
Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel won his second consecutive American League Pitcher of the Month award, joining Andy Pettitte and Randy Johnson as the only pitchers in club history to win the award twice in a single season.
Keuchel went 4-1 in his six starts in May, posting a 2.62 ERA and 38 strikeouts while allowing a .223 opponents’ average. The southpaw closed the month with back-to-back complete games, including a four-hit, 11-strikeout, shutout against the White Sox on Saturday at Minute Maid Park.
Keuchel and Johnson are the only pitchers in Astros history to win consecutive pitcher of the month awards.
During the month, Keuchel led the AL in innings pitched, ranked tied for first in complete games, tied for fourth in wins, eighth in strikeouts and ninth in ERA. He currently leads all Major League pitchers in innings pitched (81 2/3), ERA (1.76), opponents’ average (.183) and groundball-to-fly ball ratio (4.68), while ranking tied for second in the AL in wins (7).
The 1979 season was the only other year when the Astros took home multiple pitcher of the month awards, as RHP Ken Forsch (April), RHP Joe Niekro (May), RHP Joaquin Andujar (June) and RHP J.R. Richard (September) all received National League Pitcher of the Month honors that year.
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