Results tagged ‘ Bill Hall ’

Game 2: Arms shine for the Astros

The Astros (0-2) lost to the Braves in Grapefruit League action for the second time in as many days, dropping a 3-0 decision in their home opener at Osceola County Stadium.

Before I get into the breakdown of the day’s events, do yourself a favor and read this feature on Astros Minor League outfielders T.J. Steele, Jon Gaston and J.B. Shuck. They are the future, and they have a cool story to tell.

What went right: Pitching, pitching and more pitching. After giving up 15 hits and eight walks in eight innings Monday, eight Astros pitchers scattered eight hits, allowed one walk and gave up three earned runs. Starting pitcher Brett Myers threw two scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out one batter.

“My arsenal is not as full as hopefully it would be at the end of the spring, but I was going out there and working a couple of pitches and just tried to locate my fastball more than anything and throw some changeups,” Myers said. “Hopefully, I’ll get some swings and misses and get some quick outs.”

Ryan Rowland-Smith, Mark Melancon, Jeff Fulchino and Gustavo Chacin each enjoyed 1-2-3 innings. Wesley Wright also threw a scoreless inning, allowing one hit.

“I was just trying to work down in the zone,” Rowland-Smith said. “A couple of pitches I was down and a couple of pitches I was up, and I wasn’t too happy about it. You know, as long as I’m throwing strikes and pounding the zone, the more I do that the quicker I get a feel out there for what I’m doing and get ready to go.”

What went wrong: The Astros were held to just three hits, including two singles, by the Braves. The only extra-base hit came on a triple by Hunter Pence in his first at-bat of the spring. Jason Bourgeois and Clint Barmes went 0-for-3 at the top two spots in the order.

“I felt like I saw the ball really well the first day,” Barmes said. “I just missed some balls. My timing was a little off, but for the most part I was happy with the way I saw the ball. I barreled a foul ball, but trying to break it in against three different pitchers, I was pretty happy with the way I felt today. I didn’t get the results I wanted, but I’m not necessarily worried about that right now. It’s still early. All in all, I felt like today was a good day.”

The Braves scored on a bloop hit in the third against Brandon Lyon, and Patrick Urckfitz gave up two runs and three hits in one inning.

What they said: “It’s always good to get back out on the field and see where you’re at with your swing and definitely get back into game action. I’m not looking for too much results on the first day. If you’re expecting a lot of your first day, you’re going to be in trouble. I was looking for something and I feel I got that in the latter part of my at-bats and I feel good going forward.” – Astros second baseman Bill Hall, who was 0-for-2 in his spring debut.

What’s next: The Astros will play their first of six split-squad games Wednesday with games in Lakeland, Fla., against the Tigers and Tampa, Fla., against the Yankees, both at 12:05 p.m. CT. Left-hander J.A. Happ (Detroit) and right-hander Bud Norris (Yankees) will make their first springs starts for the Astros.

Injury update: Astros left-hander Fernando Abad, who’s competing for a spot in the bullpen, was sent home from the team’s Spring Training complex Tuesday morning after showing up with a body temperature of 101 degrees. Infielder Anderson Hernandez (back) and outfielder T.J. Steele (elbow) were cleared to play Tuesday, though neither did. The Astros are holding back outfielder J.D. Martinez (quadriceps strain) until they can reevaluate him Thursday.

Sorry, no pictures today. Rain kept the Astros from working out in the morning and kept me inside. But my trusty camera will be in Lakeland, Fla., tomorrow for the game against the Detroit Tigers.

Meet Bill Hall, plus photos of Wednesday workout

Veteran second baseman Bill Hall arrived at Astros camp Wednesday morning and spoke to the media shortly after finishing working out for the day. Here are a few of the questions Hall addressed:

Q: How does if feel to finally get down here?

A: “I’ve been anticipating this for a long time. Once that new year turns over, everybody starts thinking baseball. I’ve been watching [MLB] Network for the past month and half, getting mentally ready with anticipation. I’m excited, obviously, being around a group of guys with so much talent and a lot of youth. I kind of had this clubhouse in Milwaukee, so I fit in just fine. I’m excited about what this team can do.”

Q: Were you able to work much today with shortstop Clint Barmes?

A: “I didn’t get to get as much work in on the infield as a normal day. I had a red eye last night, so my body doesn’t feel too great. I made it through and got a little work in. Obviously, I’m going to get out there tomorrow. We have to get to work fast. We have a month to get on the same page because once April starts, there are no excuses. I can’t be looking to him wondering what he’s going to do. We have to know by eye contact on what we’re going to do, and that’s going to take a lot of work and I think both of us are up to the task.”

Q: You’ve said it’s nice to come in an be an everyday player, but what about playing the same position?

A: “Definitely. It’s something I’ve learned not to take for granted. You have to go out and get the job done and that’s the most important part. I feel like in the past, I wasn’t given full opportunity to become a guy [who plays one position]. I’ve been blessed with some athletic ability, and it’s easy to say, ‘Hey, can you go out there and do this for us now?’ I’m the type of team guy that said yes all the time and as I look back on it I might have said, ‘Maybe not this time’ after it happened a few times, but I’m excited about this opportunity. I played a lot of second in Boston last year when Dustin [Pedroia] got hurt. That’s a position I’m comfortable with, especially playing as much as I did last year. For my body type right now, it’s a good position and it fits well for me.”

Q: What is your first opinion about this clubhouse?

A: “This team is what you would say is in a transition period with Roy [Oswalt] being gone and [Lance] Berkman being gone, and they have some younger guys who are expected to go out and produce and help this team win. In Milwaukee, I was one of the first guys to come – prospects – and I was in the clubhouse first and got to be with all those other guys who are turning into superstars now, with Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Rickie [Weeks] and J.J. [Hardy], when he was there. All of us came up at the same time as a group and had to learn how to win together and know the meaning of going out and competing every day. That’s the knowledge I can give to these guys, being that I was through it before and I know what they’re feeling.

Here are some photos of Wednesday’s workout:
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Above: Enos Cabell gets acquainted with newcomer Bill Hall.

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Above: New middle infielders Bill Hall and Clint Barmes take some strategy.

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Above: Get a look at Jimmy Paredes, a switch-hitting infielder acquired in Berkman deal from the Yankees. He looks very impressive.

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Above: Hunter Pence waits to hit on one of the back fields.

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Above: Shoe-less pitchers work on sliding under the direction of third-base coach Dave Clark.

Hall arrives at Astros camp

Astros second baseman Bill Hall arrived at camp Wednesday morning. He had missed the first three full-squad workouts to be with his fiance, who gave birth to a child last week. Hall greeted manager Brad Mills and then hit the field about 45 minutes after his teammates.

The arrival of Hall gives Mills all 63 players in camp, though infielder Jeff Keppinger (foot) and right-hander Sammy Gervacio (shoulder) are injured.

“We’ve got the full squad and it’s nice having just about everybody healthy and playing and having the good weather enables everybody to get in shape and do the training part of spring, which is real good,” Mills said.

Mills said Hall will work out exclusively at second base, even though he has extensive experience in the outfield. If the Astros have to put Hall in the outfield, that means something has gone wrong. Mills is looking forward to seeing more of Hall defensively.

“I know he has such a strong arm and his ability to turn the double play is pretty good,” he said. “I know he’s quick and covers a lot of ground defensively.”

Here are a few quick photos of Hall taking the field:

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Young players hold key for Astros

Perhaps it’s foolish to assume Carlos Lee, Michael Bourn and Wandy Rodriguez will each have rebound seasons, and perhaps it’s too much to ask Hunter Pence and Bud Norris to keep improving. Can Brett Myers and Chris Johnson possibly duplicate their success of a year ago? That, too, is a question the Astros will ponder.

For the Astros to make any kind of noise in an improved National League Central in 2011, they will certainly everyone to be at their best. They’ll need Lee and Wandy to perform like they did in the second half, and Pence and Norris to continue to blossom. They’ll need Myers and Johnson to prove last year wasn’t a fluke, and newcomers Bill Hall and Clint Barmes to make an immediate impact.

These are not unreasonable expectations, though it’s likely there are going to be road bumps. But more than anything else, the Astros’ need to get more from their youngsters, specifically catcher Jason Castro and first baseman Brett Wallace. The Astros are committed to these two left-handed bats in the lineup, both of whom were taken high in the first round in the 2008 Draft.

Wallace, traded from the Blue Jays last July, and Castro both got their feet wet in 2010 with varing degrees of success/disappointment. But now it’s time for them to jump right in. Imagine how the whole lineup would change if Wallace slugs like he did in the Minor Leagues and Castro blossoms into a solid hitter? That would suddenly give the Astros a deep batting order to go along with a pretty good rotation.

The Astros dealt with and certainly expected both to struggle a year ago, but now they’re fully invested in Wallace and Castro. The Astros have some good catching prospects on the farm, but none on the immediate horizon. Castro is the guy. The team toyed with bringing in a left-fielder as an insurance policy if Lee had to move to first to replace Wallace, but general manager Ed Wade said at the Winter Meetings they wanted to remain fully committed to Wallace.

Hopefully, for the Astros’s sake, Wallace and Castro can reward that confidence this season and come into their own.

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I hope everyone had a great holiday season, and, like most of you, I’m back to work this week. We’ll find out Wednesday if Astros icon Jeff Bagwell made it into the Hall of Fame, and the more I hear and see feedback from those with a vote, the less likely I think it is that he’ll make it on the first ballot. Colleague Peter Gammons thinks he should make it eventually, for what it’s worth.

Wednesday also begins the salary arbitration filing period, a list that is now down to five players following the trade of Matt Lindstrom: Wandy Rodriguez, Clint Barmes, Jeff Keppinger, Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence.

 

Addition of Hall makes Astros better

The Astros have gotten better this offseason with the additions of Clint Barmes and Bill Hall, whose signing has yet to be made official. But the Astros have a one-year agreement in place with Hall, who will likely play second base with Barmes starting at shortstop.

Of course, the rest of the National League Central appears to have gotten significantly better, too. The Brewers are close to completing a trade for Zach Greinke and adding him to a rotation that has already been bolstered by the addition of Shaun Marcum, a 13-game winner last season. The Pirates have been extremely active adding players, and the Reds and Cardinals are going to be in the mix once again.

Back to the Astros. With the moves to acquire Barmes and Hall, the Astros have completed their top offseason task, which was to add some run production to the middle of the infield. The Astros got a combined nine homers last season from the second base and shortstop positions, and Barmes and Hall could wind up hitting 20 apiece if things go right.

Suddenly, the lineup seems more legitimate. Michael Bourn isn’t a great leadoff hitter, but he has terrific tools and can take over games with his speed. Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence could drive in 100 runs apiece, and Chris Johnson will be trying to duplicate his rookie success. Then there’s Jason Castro and Brett Wallace, the young left-handed hitters the Astros need to take big strides at the plate this year.

Hall likely pushes Jeff Keppinger out the door. The Astros have been shopping him despite his strong 2010 season. Keppinger hit .288 with six homers and 59 RBIs and led the team with 34 doubles. His on-base percentage of .351 is much better than Hall’s .316 in 2010, but Hall slugged .456 to Keppinger’s .393 and had a higher OPS. And right now what the Astros need in their lineup is some punch, and Hall can provide it. Basically, the Astros are sacrificing some on-base percentage for some pop.

Hall hit 18 homers last season in 344 at-bats with Boston, which is a homer every 19.1 at-bats. If Hall gets, say, 550 at-bats, he would hit 28 homers at that pace. Barmes should feast on left field at Minute Maid Park and could hit at least 20 homers, giving the Astros the punch they sorely missed last year when they were last in the NL with only 108 homers. Alas, Hall is a career .219 hitter in 164 at-bats at Minute Maid Park.

So with Hall and Barmes on board, here’s how the lineup could shake out:

CF Michael Bourn – Has tremendous speed, but needs to get on base at a better clip.

SS Clint Barmes — Hall could hit here as well, but Barmes has more plate appearances here than any other spot.

RF Hunter Pence — Became entrenched in No. 3 hole after Berkman was traded.

LF Carlos Lee — Still has the ability to drive in 100 runs in the order.

3B Chris Johnson — The fifth spot in the order was a revolving door last year, with Johnson getting most of the at-bats late in the year.

1B Brett Wallace – Astros are waiting on his power to show itself at Major League level.

2B Bill Hall — Astros had only 10 homers from the seventh spot last year.

C Jason Castro – Maybe the Astros rushed him a bit, but they had to find out if he could play. This season should be telling. 

 

  

 

 

 

 

Astros to sign Bill Hall

The Astros on Friday reached a contract agreement with free agent Bill Hall, a Major League source confirmed for MLB.com. Hall drove in 18 home runs and drove in 46 runs for the Boston Red Sox last season and would likely play second base.

Astros general manager Ed Wade had no comment.

Wade had several conversations with the agent for Hall during the Winter Meetings last week, and his addition completes Wade’s desire to upgrade the middle of the infield offensively. The Astros traded for Clint Barmes last month to play shortstop, and the addition of Hall certainly gives the middle of the infield the pop it lacked last year.

The move means Jeff Keppinger could be traded.

Hall, 30, is a career .250 hitter with 122 homers and 425 RBIs since he broke in with Milwaukee in 2002. He can play pretty much anywhere in the infield and can even handle some limited outfield duties, but he has extensive experience at second.

Astros update from Winter Meetings

With Day 3 of the Winter Meetings getting underway Wednesday, here are few interesting Astros items:

This is what we know on Wednesday morning: the Astros clearly are ready to improve their second base situation, which is why they’ve made contact with Bill Hall. The scuttlebutt is manager Brad Mills is a fan of Hall and would like to add him to the mix next year. The Astros like Jeff Keppinger, but see him more of a utility-type player.

If the Astros add a player like Hall to a lineup that already includes newcomer Clint Barmes, the Astros are suddenly more interesting. They already have enough pitching to compete in the NL Central next year if things fall into place, but adding a pair of bats to the lineup – even if they’re not Pete Rose or Manny Ramirez – will be significant.

But general manager Ed Wade said adding one or two players is not going to be key for next year, and he’s right. The key pieces that are already in place, specifically Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence, will have to perform from wire to wire.

“For us to move to the next level, it’s not going to be the addition of one guy at a position,” Wade said. “It gets repetitive, but it’s got to be Lee. If Carlos and Hunter get off to the type of start they’re capable of getting off to and [Chris] Johnson continues to do what he did last year, you’ve got three guys in the lineup right here all capable of hitting 25 or more home runs in knocking in a bunch of runs.

“It’s not like we’re in a position where we have to look at ourselves as necessarily a small-ball club. But we have to be more consistent from the standpoint of performance over the next six months, more consistent game-to-game, inning-to-inning. We have to be more selective at the plate and get more guys on base.

“Adding one particular player could help because that does have a domino effect on the lineup, but at the same time everybody needs to hit their mark. It can’t be, ‘We’ll ride this guy, we’ll ride that guy.’ It has to be collective.”

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Here’s what Wade said about the pursuit of a second baseman: “Even at second base, Kepp did a good job for us last year and we knew [Angel] Sanchez can go over and play second and Millsie likes Anderson Hernandez and we re-signed him. We have alternatives. If you look at our club, we’re committed to [Jason] Castro behind the plate. The first base situation will resolve in some fashion, hopefully with [Brett] Wallace being the guy.

“At shortstop, [Clint] Barmes is our guy. C.J. is our guy [at third]. If Carlos is in left, Carlos is our guy. And [Michael] Bourn and Pence [are established]. We started talking about where do you upgrade this thing? We have to look at a couple of the infield positions and say, ‘Is there something that incrementally gives us better run production and gives us that need? That’s sort of what we’re doing right now.”

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Wade expects his team to try to make a pick in the Rule 5 Draft, which is Thursday morning in the final event of the Winter Meetings. Houston’s 40-man roster stands at 36, so there’s room to add a player.

“We’ve gone through some preliminary discussions on the Rule 5 and we’ll have more substantive conversations,” Wade said. “There’s a possibility we could take somebody in the Rule 5 Draft. Unless things change, we’re at 36 and we should have room to make a pick if the right player or players is available.”

During the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft, players left unprotected may be selected for $50,000. The selection rules provide that a player must remain on the drafting team’s active Major League roster during the following season or be offered back to the original club at half the original price. The Astros pick ninth this year.

Internally, team officials aren’t too concerned about losing any players in the Draft.

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Wade told MLB.com last month the team was going to consider putting left-hander Fernando Abad and right-hander Henry Villar in the starting rotation. Villar’s stock has risen so much that he’s considered one of the club’s top three prospects.

Jordan Lyles, another one of the team’s top prospects, is likely to come to Spring Training to compete for the fifth starter job, perhaps along with Villar and Abad. Nelson Figueroa was signed to a $900,000 contract and will be in the mix for that spot.

“I’m always willing to listen and can be persuaded, but philosophically I’m of the mind that if a guy’s got a chance to be a good starting pitcher, you exhaust that opportunity before you decide to make him a bullpen guy,” Wade said. “I’d like to run the string out with the guys we have until we know they can’t. With the way we set up right now, Abad, if healthy, and he’s healthy right now – I always says that with pitchers – that’s a pretty significant left-handed arm in our bullpen. But if he can win 11 games in our starting rotation, we’ll figure out the left-handed, right-handed stuff to deal with.”

The Astros are still on the hunt for a low-cost starting pitcher, and despite recent reports don’t have “quiet interest” in not-very-low-cost Cliff Lee. That’s just not going to happen.

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Astros president of baseball operations Tal Smith has been to nearly every Winter Meetings for the past 54 years and has seen incredible changes in the event. Smith missed a Winter Meetings in the early  1960s when he was involved in the building of the Astros.

“I can’t think of any others that I may have missed,” he said.

The biggest change Smith has seen has been a lack of personal touch. General managers aren’t on the floor of the lobby as much as they used to be. Many GMs now stay in their suites and send members of their staff out to poke around about potential deals.

And technology has changed things as well.

“So much is done by cell phone or email or text message, and a lot of the personal contact has been lost,” Smith said.

 

Astros show interest in Bill Hall

The Astros had a couple of conversations Tuesday with the agent for free agent Bill Hall, a versatile player who hit 18 homers and drove in 46 runs for the Boston Red Sox last season. Hall has extensive experience at second base, which is an area the Astros are trying to upgrade.

“We’ve had a couple of conversations, but it was nothing very substantial,” said Terry Bross, the agent for Hall.

Astros general manager Ed Wade told reporters during a media briefing Tuesday afternoon the club is looking at options at second base. Jeff Keppinger won the starting job last season and led to the release of Kaz Matsui, but the club envisions second as a place where it can get better offensive production.

Hall, 30, is a career .250 hitter with 122 homers and 425 RBIs since he broke in with Milwaukee in 2002. He can play pretty much anywhere in the infield and can even handle some limited outfield duties, but he has extensive experience at second.

The Astros have already signed Clint Barmes to add some punch to the offense at shortstop, and Wade said second base is the one area on the field they could still upgrade.

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