Results tagged ‘ Bud Norris ’

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.

Game 11: Crisp win over Mets

The Astros split a pair of games Tuesday afternoon, beating the New York Mets, 5-4, in Kissimmee, and losing, 3-2 , to the Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers.

The race for the fifth starter’s spot was front and center Tuesday afternoon, with three of the five candidates for the job – Nelson Figueroa, Aneury Rodriguez and Lance Pendleton – all in action in two different games.

Figueroa started the split-squad game against the Mets, his former team, and gave up three hits and one run in one inning. He allowed the Mets to load the bases with one out in the first inning, but allowed just one run on a sacrifice fly.

Rodriguez started the Astros’ other split-squad game against the Red Sox in Fort Myers and gave up four hits and one walk in three scoreless innings. He was followed on the mound by Pendleton, who allowed two hits, two walks, one run and hit one batter in two innings.

Here’s the breakdown of the win over the Mets:

What went right: Plenty, beginning on the mound, where Figueroa, Mark Melancon, Wilton Lopez, Casey Fien and Sergio Escalona all pitched well.

The Astros banged out nine hits, including doubles by Carlos Lee, Hunter Pence, Clint Barmes and Oswaldo Navarro and a home run by J.R. Towles. It was Towles’ first home run of the spring.

“I just want to see the ball and put a good swing on it and I can’t do anything other than that,” said Towles, who went 1-for-3 to raise his average to .273. “That’s all I’m really looking to do.”

Barmes, having scrapped the leg kick he worked on all winter, went 2-for-3 to raise his average to .167, and Pence went 2-for-2 with a double and is hitting .524 this spring.

What went wrong: The only pitcher to get roughed up was Cesar Carrillo, who allowed two hits and two runs in one inning. Matt Downs and Brett Wallace, both of whom have had good springs, each went 0-for-3. The Astros were 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

What they said: “When I first got to spring I was looking at some video and some pictures [of the 2007 and 2008 seasons], and my hands were lower than they had been [recently], so I just got my hands a little lower and am sitting back on that back leg a little bit and not going out to get it. I’m feeling good and seeing the ball well. I’ts working for me, so I don’t need to change anything right now.” – Astros catcher J.R. Towles.

What’s next: The Astros meet the Mets for the second day in a row, traveling to Port St. Lucie for Wednesday’s 12:10 p.m. CT game. Ryan Rowland-Smith, one of five men competing for the fifth starter’s job, will make his second start and his third outing of the spring. He allowed three runs in his first spring start Friday against the Cardinals. Jordan Lyles, also battling for the final spot in the rotation, will follow Rowland-Smith.

Injury update: Jason Michaels, who was originally in the lineup in the outfield against the Red Sox, was scratched because of back spasms. … Bud Norris, who strained his hamstring on Monday, said Tuesday he felt fine.

Now to the photos:

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Above: Catcher J.R. Towles cover the plate during some drills early Tuesday.

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Above: That’s Telvin Nash, a burly outfielder brought over from Minor League camp to play in Tuesday’s game, taking a swing during batting practice.

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Above: Carlos Lee practices tagging up from third base.

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Above: Ryan Rowland-Smith practices fielding a ground ball during drills. Bud Norris awaits the throw at third base.

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Above: Hall of Fame announcer Milo Hamilton convinces Hall of Fame guy Clint Barmes to be his guest on Astroline on Wednesday night. He said yes.

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Above: That’s former Astros pitcher Tim Byrdak, now trying to win a job with the Mets.

Game 10: Things get ugly late for Astros

The Astros blew their second large lead in as many days Monday, watching the Washington Nationals score nine runs in the eighth inning – when all of the regular players were out of the game – and rally for a 14-9 win over the Astros at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla.

The biggest news of the game came in the seventh inning when Bud Norris, who pitched in relief, had to leave with a mild right hamstring strain. Norris said after the game it was just a tweak and that he wasn’t too worried about it.

Here’s the breakdown:

What went right: The Astros had another big day at the plate, getting 15 hits one day after they had 17 hits against the Yankees. Among the starters, Michael Bourn, Clint Barmes and Brian Bogusevic were 1-for-4, and Chris Johnson was 2-for-3 with a three-run homer. Bourn homered to right field in the first at-bat of the game.

We’ll put J.A. Happ in the good category, even though he gave up three runs in the second inning.  All three runs were unearned – Johnson made a two-out error at third base in the inning – and he gave up three hits and two walks.  Norris threw two good innings before giving up a double and then leaving with a hamstring strain.

Happ looked terrific in striking out former teammate Jayson Werth with a 3-2 cutter in the first inning, but walked a pair of batters in the second, including one with the bases loaded. Happ said pitching with some traffic on the bases early in Spring Training isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“I don’t want to get used to having to do that, but it is good,” he said. “It’s a good situational refresher how to pitch. It’s a little reminder that I rush myself when guys are on base sometimes, and I probably need to try to get ahead with the fastball a little bit more than I did today. All in all, I thought it went OK.”

Henry Villar pitched between Happ and Norris and threw two scoreless innings.

What went wrong: In addition to Johnson’s two-out error that helped the Nationals along in the second inning and the injury to Norris, relievers Patrick Urckfitz and Jorge De Leon combined to give up nine runs in the eighth. Urckfitz allowed four hits and five runs in 1 2/3 innings, and De Leon gave up five hits and four runs while getting just one out. Neither of these guys are going to make the club, but they need to take advantage of these situations.

What they said: “He was a little inconsistent and he’s going to have those, but he was able to come back to an extent. That inconsistency is something he’ll work through and there’s no reason to think he won’t.” - Astros manager Brad Mills said of J.A. Happ.

What’s next: It’s another split-squad date for the Astros, who will play the Mets at home in Kissimmee and the Red Sox in Fort Myers on Tuesday. Astros manager Brad Mills, who spent six years as the bench coach of the Red Sox, will travel to his old stomping grounds in Fort  Myers, where Rule 5 pick Aneury Rodriguez will make his first start of the spring and will be followed by fellow Rule 5 pick Lance Pendleton. Nelson Figueroa will start in Kissimmee against the Mets, his former team.

Injury update: Bud Norris left Monday’s game with a mild hamstring strain, but he’s expected to be fine. … Jason Michaels is expected to play left field on Tuesday in Boston. He hasn’t played in the outfield this season because of some arm discomfort.

And now to the pictures, which are a little on the light side today because the lighting in Viera played tricks with my fancy camera:

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Above: Hunter Pence stretches his legs before he hits on field Monday.

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Above: Brett Wallace stretches his legs on the field.

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Above: Michael Bourn does a promotional voiceover for MLB.com

Astros earn split, lose Castro for a few days

The Astros earned their first win of the Grapefruit League season on Wednesday, beating the Detroit Tigers 6-3 in Lakeland, Fla. Meanwhile, the split-squad Astros dropped a 6-5 decision to the New York Yankees in Tampa, giving up five runs in the ninth.

More on the Yankees game below, but here’s the breakdown on the Astros-Tigers game:

What went right: The Astros got some sharp pitching performances, led by J.A. Happ throwing two scoreless innings in his spring debut. Happ looked effortless as always and stayed ahead in the count, which enabled him to use all his pitches.

Ross Wolf followed Happ with two scoreless innings, allowing one hit, and drew the praise of manager Brad Mills. Wilton Lopez did his usual thing, throwing a scoreless fifth, and David Carpenter – the right-hander acquired in the Pedro Feliz trade with the Cardinals – tossed two perfect innings.

“How about Wolf mixing the pitches in and out and throwing only 17 pitches, and Lopez and Carpenter threw the ball real well,” Mills said. “To see those kids come in and contribute this early in camp is outstanding.”

At the plate, T.J. Steele went 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored and made a pair of nice defensive plays in center field. Hunter Pence went 2-for-3, and Tommy Manzella was 2-for-3 and made a terrific barehanded defensive play behind second base and threw out Victor Martinez.

Oswaldo Navarro hit a three-run home run in the eighth inning in his only at-bat to break the game open.

After getting just one extra-base hit in their first two games, the Astros had four of them against the Tigers – Navarro’s homer, Steele’s double, a triple by Pence and a double by Manzella.

What went wrong: The biggest negative development was the injury to Jason Castro, who sprained his right knee trying to beat out a ground ball in the seventh inning. He was removed from the game and will undergo an MRI on Thursday. He’s listed as day-to-day.

Sergio Escalona allowed two hits and one earned run in one inning, and Jorge De Leon gave up one hit, one walk and two earned runs in one inning.

What they said: “Steele in center, how good was that? He made two absolutely outstanding catches. We got some extra-base hits today, besides the home run. We had a triple and a couple of doubles and it was nice to throw those in there. We were able to execute. [Brian] Dopirak had trouble getting some guys in from third, but at the same time the wind didn’t help him out, either. Those little things, Steele bunting a guy over and Austin Wates bunting a guy over, that keeps an inning going. That was huge.” - manager Brad Mills.

What’s next: Nelson Figueroa, one of five candidates for the fifth spot in the starting rotation, makes his first start of the spring when the Astros play host to the Florida Marlins on Thursday afternoon at Osceola County Stadium. He’s expected to pitch two innings. Henry Villar, Enerio Del Rosario, Fernando Rodriguez, Aneury Rodriguez, Lance Pendleton and Wesley Wright are also scheduled to throw.

Injury update: Catcher Jason Castro sprained his right knee in the seventh inning and will undergo an MRI on Thursday. … Right-hander Alberto Arias, who’s had a setback in his comeback from last year’s surgery, was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Wednesday.

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The Astros lost a tough game, 6-5, to the Yankees in Tampa, but pthey layed eight solid innings before imploding in the ninth. The Astros had 12 hits in the game – two by Jason Michaels, J.B. Shuck and Bill Hall. Bud Norris started and gave up one run in two innings, and Casey Fien, Arcenio Leon, Jose Valdez and Cesar Carrilloo each threw a scoreless inning in relief. Jordan Lyles pitched two innings and gave up one hit and two walks, but no runs.

Douglas Arguello gave up the five runs, but only two were earned because of errors by Jiovanni Mier and Mike Kvasnicka, who was pulled over from Minor League camp. Lance Pendleton threw four consecutive balls to walk in the winning run, but was put in an impossible position.

Astros general manager Ed Wade said he saw plenty to be happy about. He liked the situational hitting and was pleased to see Michael Bourn get a bunt base hit and Shuck register two bunt hits.

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Astros left fielder Carlos Lee will make his annual voyage to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo on Wednesday and will miss workouts on Thursday and Friday. Lee is a cattle rancher and shows livestock each year at the rodeo.

And finally, a few photos taken prior to Wednesday’s game in Lakeland:

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Above: Astros players await batting practice Wednesday in Lakeland.

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Above: Non-roster first baseman Brian Dopirak warms up. He has 156 career homers in the Minor Leagues — including 39 in Class A in 2004 — and is trying to reach Majors for first time.

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Above: Drew Locke takes a swing in the cage during batting practice.

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Above: Jeff Bagwell and Hunter Pence watching batting practice (Bagwell is standing on a platform). 

Astros arms race chugging along

The Astros have 30 healthy pitchers in camp, many of whom have a chance to make the team. There will be only 12 spots on the active Major League roster on Opening Day, and the battles for the final spots in the rotation and in the bullpen figure to go down the final days of camp. Considering that Thursday was only the second day, we have miles to go.

The pitchers who didn’t throw off the bullpen mounds Wednesday were able to get on the bump Thursday, including Mark Melancon, Bud Norris, Nelson Figueroa and Ryan Rowland-Smith. Astros manager Brad Mills stood behind the pack of 10 mounds and watched this group of pitchers throw for the first time this spring.

“Bud threw the ball really well,” Mills said. “I thought the command Rowland-Smitih showed down in the zone was really good. We’ve seen some good arms the last few days.”

Mills said he didn’t get a chance to see Alberto Arias throw in a controlled setting for the first time since he underwent right shoulder surgery April 22, but he made it a point to ask the right-hander how he felt.

“He said his arm felt fine,” Mills said.

The pitching groups will alternate throwing in the bullpen the next two days before taking Sunday off. Position players work out for the first time Sunday, and they will get thrown right into the fire. Mills said the pitchers will throw live batting practice to the hitters on Monday.

Meanwhile, the position players continue to trickle into the facility. Matt Downs arrived Thursday morning, and Jason Bourgeois checked in the afternoon.

Earlier today, I posted a photo of Sergio Escalona wearing Roy Oswalt’s No. 44 jersey. It was an unusual sight, to say the least, so I’m capping today’s coverage with another unusual sight — the great beard of relief pitcher Jeff Fulchino. At least, I think that’s Fulchino behind that hair.

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Rotation stability important to Astros

The Astros rotation certainly isn’t among the deepest in baseball and they don’t have the horses at the top you’d expect to contend in the Cy Young race, but they do have stability. And that could go a long way in determining the club’s chances to compete in the National League Central the next few years.

After announcing they had locked up left-hander Wandy Rodriguez with a three-year, $34-million contract extension on Tuesday, the top four pitchers in the team’s rotation heading into Spring Training are under club control for at least the next two years and possibly longer, depending on vesting options.

“We’re very pleased to get this done,” general manager Ed Wade. “Wandy is one of the top left-handed starters in the game. With pending free agency and its uncertainty, it made all the sense in the world for us. Wandy made it clear he wants to be a part of the Astros. Now, he’ll be here for at least the next three years and hopefully beyond that.”

Here’s a glance at the top four starters in the Astros rotation:

RHP Brett Myers
Age
: 30.
Contract status: Signed through 2012. The contract is guaranteed for the 2011 and 2012 seasons and carries a 2013 club option that could become vested through Myers’ 2012 performance. The two-year guaranteed value, including a buyout on the option year, guarantees Myers $21 million. If the contract carries through 2013, it will guarantee Myers $28 million. The pact also contains additional performance bonus potential that could raise the total value to $29.5 million.
2010 record: 14-8, 3.14 ERA.
Career record: 87-71, 4.20 ERA in nine seasons.
Comment: Myers is coming off a career year that he parlayed into a lucrative contract extension midseason last year. He’s become the leader of the staff following the departure of Roy Oswalt and is a terrific competitor who wants the ball.

LHP Wandy Rodriguez
Age
: 32.
Contract status: Signed through 2013. The Astros on Tuesday agreed to deal with Rodriguez that will pay him a three-year deal with a guaranteed $34 million. He has a 2014 vesting option that would push the total value of the deal to $44.5 million.
2010 record: 11-12, 3.60 ERA.
Career record: 62-64, 4.18 ERA in six seasons.
Comment: Rodriguez, the only remaining member from the 2005 World Series team, pitched like an All-Star in 2009 and in the second half of last year. That’s the pitcher the Astros threw $34 million at on Tuesday, and not the one who struggled mightily in the first half of the 2010 season.

LHP J.A. Happ
Age
: 28.
Contract status: Signed through 2014. Will be arbitration eligible for the first time in 2012. He made $470,000 last year, and his 2012 salary has yet to be determined.
2010 record: 6-4, 3.40 ERA (with Phillies and Astros).
Career record: 19-9, 3.27 ERA in four seasons.
Comment: The Astros were thrilled to get Happ from the Phillies in the Oswalt trade. He’s still relatively young, doesn’t make much money and heretofore has been a dependable Major League pitcher.

RHP Bud Norris
Age
: 25.
Contract status: Signed through 2015. Will be arbitration eligible in 2013 and is scheduled to hit free agency in 2016.
2010 record: 9-10, 4.92 ERA.
Career record: 15-13, 4.82 ERA in 1 1/2 seasons.
Comment: Has the kind of stuff to have a long Major League career. Norris could be poised for a breakout season in 2011.

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.

 

Astros position breakdown: starting pitcher

Here is the second-to-last installment of our Astros’ position-by-position breakdown. The Astros had a decent starting rotation last year, with the ability to be pretty good next season. Here’s a look at the starting staff:

STARTING PITCHING

2010 rotation to begin season: Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers, Bud Norris, Felipe Paulino.

2010 end-of-season rotation: Brett Myers, Bud Norris, J.A. Happ, Wandy Rodriguez, Nelson Figueroa.

Others who made a start: Felipe Paulino, Brian Moehler, Wesley Wright, Josh Banks.

Combined 2010 stats of Astros starting pitchers: 52-63, 3.90 ERA (seventh-best in NL), 4 complete games, 2 shutouts, 857 strikeouts (second in NL), 380 walks (most in NL).

Free agents: Brian Moehler.

Arbitration eligible: Wandy Rodriguez, Nelson Figueroa, Felipe Paulino.

What happened: The Astros signed Brett Myers late last winter to help legitimize a rotation that included Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez, Bud Norris and Felipe Paulino. Oswalt got off to a strong start, but once again suffered poor run support and began grumbling about wanting to be traded, which he eventually was. Rodriguez, coming off a breakout season, stumbled badly out of the gate as the losses piled up for the Astros. Norris got better as the season progressed and finished strong, and Paulino had a brief stretch of dominance before an injury ended his season.

Oswalt made 20 starts with the Astros before being traded and was 6-12, but had a respectable 3.42 ERA. With the team slipping out of contention, he told the Astros in May he wanted to be traded. The club granted his wish in July and sent him to the Phillies in a blockbuster deal in which the team got J.A. Happ in return. Oswalt, who finished one win shy of tying Joe Niekro’s club record, was terrific in Philadelphia, going 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA in 12 starts.

Rodriguez, the team’s Pitcher of the Year in 2009, was terrible to begin the season. He went 3-10 with a 6.09 ERA in his first 14 starts (the team was 4-10 in those starts) before rallying in the second half. He went 8-2 in his final 18 starts and posted a 2.03 ERA, which was the second-best NL in the ERA in that span. He finished the season with 13 consecutive quality starts, the fourth-longest such streak in franchise history, to finish 11-13 with a 3.60 ERA.

Myers, who signed for a one-year deal worth a guaranteed $5.1 million, proved to be one of the best free-agent signings of the season. He went 14-8 with a 3.14 ERA and pitched a career-high 223 2/3 innings, leading the team in wins and ERA by a starter. Myers threw at least six innings in his first 32 starts of the season before coming up one out shy of being able to make it 33-for-33 in his final start of the year. He parlayed the strong season into a three-year contract extension.

Norris, who had only 10 starts under his belt beginning the year, stayed in the rotation all season, missing about a month in June with bursitis and biceps tendinitis. He was 2-7 with a 6.08 ERA in his first 14 starts of the year. He was 7-3 with a 3.84 ERA in his final 14 starts to finish 9-10 with a 4.92 ERA and 158 strikeouts in 153 2/3 innings pitched. He struck out a Minute Maid Park-record 14 against the Pirates on Aug. 14.

Paulino didn’t win a game until his 11th start of the season. He was 0-7 with a 4.40 ERA in his first 10 starts and was the victim of poor run support. He finally broke through June 4 against the Cubs, allowing one run in eight innings. In a five-start stretch from May 19-June 9, he was 1-1 with a 1.75 ERA. Paulino went on the DL on June 21 and missed nearly three months with right shoulder tendinitis. He made five relief appearances in September and wound up finishing 1-9 with a 5.11 ERA in 19 games (14 starts).

Happ, acquired in the Oswalt trade, made 13 starts for the Astros and was 5-4 with a 3.75 ERA. He was winless in his final five starts, going 0-2 with a 4.81 ERA.

The Astros claimed Nelson Figueroa off waivers in the middle of the season and he wound up in the rotation, going 5-3 with a 5.22 ERA in 18 games, including 4-3 with a 3.23 ERA in 10 starts. Veteran Brian Moehler made eight starts for the Astros (and 12 relief appearances) before his season ended in early July with a left groin strain that eventually required surgery. Left-hander Wesley Wright made four starts, and Josh Banks came up from the Minor Leagues to make one start.

What’s next: The Astros are content with the top of their rotation, especially if Myers pitches like he did last season and Rodriguez continues his second-half dominance. Happ is a steady left-hander who should be able to eat up innings and keep the Astros in games if he remains healthy. The Astros were pleased with the progress of Norris and are content with him opening next season as their No. 4 starter.

The biggest question is who’s going to be the fifth starter? Paulino and Figueroa will be given a look, unless the Astros are able to acquire another pitcher in the offseason. The Astros will try to sign a low-cost veteran like they did last offseason with Myers and hope they have similar results. If not, Paulino, Figueroa and prospect Jordan Lyles will battle for a spot in the rotation next spring.

Who’s on the farm: Lyles, the team’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year last season, is only 19 and has a world of potential. He posted a 7-12 record and a 3.57 ERA in 27 games, 26 starts, between the Double-A and Triple-A levels. Lyles spent the majority of his season with Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 7-9 record and a 3.12 ERA in 21 games, 20 starts. Douglas Arguello (7-5, 2.55 ERA) had a solid season at Double-A Corpus Christi. Kyle Greenwalt (8-7, 5.93 ERA), Brad Dydalewicz (1-6, 11.39 ERA), Dallas Keuchel (5-8, 3.36 ERA) and Ross Seaton (6-13, 6.64 ERA) had varying degrees of success at Double-A. Mike Foltynewicz, a first-round pick this year, and right-hander Tanner Bushue have world of potential, but aren’t quite ready yet.

 

Astros try to finish off good road trip Sunday

No matter what happens in Sunday’s finale against the Mets, the Astros have had a very good road trip. They entered Sunday’s game at Citi Field with a 6-3 record on the trip, ensuring them their first winning road trip of the season

Bud Norris (6-7, 5.03 ERA) starts for the Astros on Sunday against knuckle baller R.A. Dickey (8-5, 2.64 ERA), who threw so well against the Astros a couple of weeks ago.

Shortstop Tommy Manzella, who had a career-high three hits Saturday, is hitting second in the lineup. Carlos Lee is starting at first base for the second game in a row, as manager Brad Mills has Jason Michaels in the spacious left field at Citi Field. And Geoff Blum returns to the starting lineup, starting at second base.

Here are the lineups:

ASTROS

CF Michael Bourn — Has a seven-game hitting streak (.400)

SS Tommy Manzella — Hitting .273 in August

RF Hunter Pence — Has 30 RBIs since the All-Star break

1B Carlos Lee — Leads the Majors in RBIs since July 28 (28)

2B Geoff Blum — Hitting .296 on the road this year

LF Jason Michaels — Hitting .310 with five homers, 18 RBIs in last 42 games with an AB

3B Chris Johnson — Second in the NL in batting (.362) since All-Star break

C Jason Castro — Has thrown out 10 of 36 runners trying to steal

RHP Bud Norris — Is 4-0 with a 3.03 ERA in his last six starts, with the Astros going 6-0

METS

RF Angel Pagan

2B Luis Castillo

CF Carlos Beltran

LF Chris Carter

3B David Wright

1B Ike Davis

C Josh Thole

SS Luis Hernandez

RHP R.A. Dickey

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