Results tagged ‘ Cardinals ’

Astros to reach out to Berkman

Lance Berkman, one of the most accomplished and most popular players in team history, could be returning to the Astros next year in free agency. Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow said Friday he plans to reach out to the Big Puma to gauge his interest in returning.

“Lance can still produce at the Major League level,” said Luhnow, who was with St. Louis when Berkman played a huge role in the Cardinals’ run to the 2011 World Series. “He’s a guy a lot of clubs are going to be interested in. We’ll have a conversation with him and see where it goes.”

Berkman, who’s been hobbled by bad knees the past few years, could get extended time at designated hitter for the Astros, who are moving to the American League next year. He lives in Houston year round and could opt to finish his career in his hometown.

“He is an offensive weapon and has been his entire career,” Luhnow said. “No matter how you get that bat in the lineup – and obviously in the AL you have an opportunity to use him as a DH – he’s an offensive force, no question about it.”

Berkman, 36, played the first 12 years of his career with the Astros, hitting 360 home runs with 1,200 RBIs. He was traded to the Yankees midway through the 2010 season before signing a pair of one-year deals with the Cardinals.

He hit .301 with 31 homers and 94 RBIs in 2011, but was limited to 81 at-bats last season because of knee injuries. The Cardinals have said they’re not interest in bringing him back, and Berkman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last week he’ll wait until December to decide if he wants to keep playing.

“Clearly, Lance has a great history here and was a key part of a great franchise at a great time,” Luhnow said. “If we feel there’s a fit in terms of what we need and what he can provide, we won’t hesitate to pursue it. We have a lot of different options out there and we’re not going to leave any stone unturned.”

Astros’ lineup Thursday vs. Cards

The Astros, who have lost seven consecutive rubber games of a series, will try to snap that streak tonight against the Cardinals at Minute Maid Park.

Here is Houston’s lineup:

CF Jordan Schafer

2B Jose Altuve

SS Jed Lowrie

LF J.D. Martinez

1B Brett Wallace

3B Chris Johnson

RF Brian Bogusevic

C Chris Snyder

P J.A. Happ

 

Luhnow, others receive championship rings

Former Cardinals front-office employees Mike Elias, Sig Mejdal and Jeff Luhnow receive their 2011 World Series championship rings on Wednesday.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, director of decision sciences Sig Mejdal and special assistant to the GM/scouting Mike Elias each received their 2011 St. Louis Cardinals World Series rings prior to Wednesday’s game at Minute Maid Park.

Astros bench coach Joe Pettini, who was former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa’s right-hand man for 10 years, received his in the clubhouse a few moments earlier.

The rings were presented by Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. and general manager John Mozielak in Luhnow’s booth. For Luhnow, it’s 10th ring in either the Minors or the Majors while with the Cardinals.

“We work hard in this industry, we work long hours and the reward is when you get win a championship,” said Luhnow, who was hired from the Cardinals in December and quickly brought Mejdal and Elias to Houston. “The celebration and being able to get hardware like this is why we do this, why we’re in this industry. I was glad to be a part of it, and I can’t wait until we do the same thing here in Houston. That’s my ultimate goal.”

DeWitt, who hired Luhnow into the industry in 2003, was pleased to be able to present his former employees with the hardware.

“We’re really pleased to be herd and these guys did such a great job for us,” Dewitt said. “We’re happy to come up here and personally present it. It’s a great honor for us to come do it, and they deserve it.”

Dewitt expects Luhnow to be successful in Houston.

“He’s had a great start with the Draft,” Dewitt said. “We’re all very impressed with that. We hated to lose all of them, but that will speak well for Houston over the years. I’m sure [the Astros] will have a good team before long.”

Elias worked under Luhnow from 2007-11 and as area scout and later as manager of amateur scouting with crosschecking responsibilities. Mejdal worked with the Cardinals from 2005-11, most recently as director of amateur draft analytics.

“It’s a great reminder of the five years with the Cardinals and everything we exprerineced there,” Elias said. “They gave me my first opportunity in baseball – Jeff, Sig, Mo and Mr. DeWitt – and this is probably the best keepsake you could have from something like that. There’s a lot of pride in wearing it.”

Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr, GM John Mozielak present Astros GM Jeff Luhnow with his 2011 World Series championship ring.

Astros GM Jeff Luhnow shows off his 2011 World Series championship ring.

Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr, GM John Mozielak present Astros director of decision sciences Sig Mejdal with his 2011 World Series championship ring.

Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr, GM John Mozielak presented Astros assistant to the GM/scouting Mike Elias with his 2011 World Series championship ring.

Astros-Cards lineups for Wednesday

Here are the lineup for Wednesday’s game between the Astrso and Cardinals:

ASTROS

2B Jose Altuve

SS Jed Lowrie

RF Fernando Martinez

LF J.D. Martinez

3B Chris Johnson

1B Brett Wallace

CF Justin Maxwell

C Jason Castro

P Bud Norris

CARDINALS

SS Rafael Furcal

2B Daniel Descalso

RF Carlos Beltran

LF Allen Craig

3B David Freese

C Yadier Molina

1B Matt Adams

CF Adron Chambers

P Adam Wainwright

Astros lineup Saturday vs. Cards

The Astros will try to go for five in a row with this lineup tonight vs. the Cardinals:

2B Jose Altuve

RF Brian Bogusevic

LF J.D. Martinez

1B Carlos Lee

SS Jed Lowrie

3B Chris Johnson

CF Justin Maxwell

C Jason Castro

RHP Bud Norris

 

Astros try to keep it going against Cards

The Astros try to extend their winning streak to four games when they face the defending World Series champion Cardinals in a three-game series beginning tonight at Minute Maid Park. The Astros and Cards rank 1-2 in the NL in batting average and OBP, but the Cards are also near the top in pitching and will present a good test for the young Astros.

The series will be the first Astros GM Jeff Luhnow against his former team.

Here are the pitching match-ups:

Friday: Lucas Harrell (1-2, 4.71) vs. RHP Kyle Lohse (4-0, 1.62)

Saturday: Bud Norris (1-1, 5.46) vs. LHP Jaime Garcia (2-1, 2.78)

Sunday: LHP J.A. Happ (2-1, 4.60) vs. RHP Adam Wainwright (1-3, 6.75)

Here are some pre-series notes:

  • Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie is hitting .429 (15-for-35) with six multi-hit games, three homers, eight RBIs and a 1.243 OPS in his last nine games. That’s a stark contrast to his first nine games when he hit .229 with a .614 OPS and no homers.
  • Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, who turns 22 on Sunday, has 13 multi-hit games, which is second in the Majors behind Derek Jeter (14).
  • With Lowrie and Altuve, the Astros have the highest combined batting average by a second baseman and shortstop this year at .332. The Yankees’ middle infielders are hitting .325.
  • The Astros are 8-5 this season when Jordan Schafer scores at least one run, compared to 2-9 when he plays but does not score. Schafer’s 17 runs scored rank second among NL lead-off batters (Rafael Furcal has 19).
  • Lucas Harrell’s five starts this season equal the number he made in his first two Major League seasons combined. He is 0-2 with a 8.18 ERA in two starts against NL Central opponents in 2012.
  • All but one of the Cardinals’ 25 games this season has been against NL Central opponents (they beat the Marlins 4-1 in their season opener). Six different Cardinals players have at least 22 hits vs NL Central pitching this season. No player on any other club has more than 20 hits against any division this season.
  • St. Louis’ 16-9 record through 25 games is one-game behind their 17-8 starts of 2000, 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2010. They won the division in four of those five years (finishing second in 2010).
  • Cardinals starting pitcher Kyle Lohse is 7-0 since Aug. 28, 2011, which is tied with Clayton Kershaw for the best mark in the Majors in that span (minimum six starts).
  • The Cardinals have two of the most improved hitters in their lineup in Jon Jay and Rafael Furcal. Jay is hitting .415, which is a .118 improvement over his average from last season. Furcal is hitting .330, which is a 0.99 improvement over his .231 in 2011.
  • Twelve of Rafael Furcal’s hits have been for extra bases, which ranks second in the Major Leagues among lead-off hitters (Ian Kinsler of Texas has 15).

Meet new Astros bench coach Joe Pettini

Joe Pettini will be the guy standing alongside manager Brad Mills on a daily basis this season, talking, discussing and dissecting every aspect of the game and the opponent. Pettini is the Astros’ new bench coach, and he brings with him a wealth of experience after working the previous 10 years under one of the game’s all-time great managers in Tony La Russa.

Pettini won two World Series titles as La Russa’s right-hand man, including last year’s scintillating run that culminated with a victory over the Texas Rangers. While he thoroughly enjoyed working for La Russa, who retired after last season, Pettini is ready for a change of pace with the Astros and third-year manager Mills.

“Tony is a Hall of Fame manager and he was great to work for, but as the bench coach for Tony, sometimes you’re limited in what you have to do,” Pettini said. “It’s not like you can ask questions or ask for his input throughout the game, but Brad’s made it known to me he wants an ongoing conversation during the game. For me, I will love that. Just being part of the game and helping him out as the game progresses, I’m looking forward to that and I’m very excited about that.”

Pettini, 57, chose to leave the Cardinals after more than 25 years as a player and coach in the organization for a chance to reunite with general manager Jeff Luhnow, who spent the previous eight years with the Cardinals.

“I’m very excited and really appreciate the opportunity Jeff gave me to come down here and work with Brad,” Pettini said. “I know the situation that’s going on in Houston and that we’re kind of in a rebuilding mode. I spent a lot of years in the Minor Leagues with St. Louis before I got a chance to go to the big leagues with Tony and spent a lot of time with younger players, and I think that experience will come into play and hopefully I will be of help.”

Pettini’s playing career was similar to Mills. Pettini played parts of four seasons with the Giants from 1980-83, appearing in 188 games with one homer and 20 RBIs. Mills played in a reserve role for the Expos from 1980-83, appearing in 106 games and hitting one home run with 12 RBIs.

Pettini will be in charge of organization and running Spring Training this year, which is what he did for years with the Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla.

“He has a lot of experience,” Mills said. “He brings a different way of doing things, which I think is good. I think the message is going to be my message, but in a different format with him and his experience. We’re looking forward to working together. We’ve talked a lot and I feel very comfortable with him.”

Said Pettini: “I’m going to be in charge of outlining the schedule. It’s still Brad’s program and his way he wants things to be done, and my job will be to help outline it and make sure the schedules go up and the meetings run smoothly and everybody knows what’s going on and everybody is on the same page. It’s still Brad’s program.”

The first week to 10 days of Spring Training will be rather hectic for Pettini, as he learns new names and faces and tries to get acclimated to a new complex in Central Florida.

“If you’re outlining the schedule every day, that’s probably the most busy time of the year,” he said. “You have a lot of players when you first get in. It’s not so bad with the pitchers and catchers, but when you have pitchers and catchers and position players report, thank God you have the support of the Minor League staff to come and help with all the players you have. It’s probably the most difficult time. You want to try to outline the program so the guys can go out and get to work. You don’t want guys standing around doing nothing because there’s things they need to do to get off the field.”

Pettini joined the Cardinals organization as a Minor League player in 1984 and went into managing after his playing career ended in 1988. Pettini managed eight seasons in the system. His last stop was at Triple-A Louisville, where he guided the Redbirds to the 1995 American Association championship. Overall, he was 475-569 at the helm of the Cardinals’ farm affiliates.

He was the organization’s minor league field coordinator from 1997-2001 before he began working with the Major League club.

“No matter how long you’ve been in the game or how good you think you are, you have to be able to keep up with the game and understand the game and understand the people and teams you play against,” Pettini said. “I know what it’s like to be a manager. I managed eight years in the Minor Leagues, and when you’re the bench coach, you have to actually follow the game as if you are the manager.

“When the manager has a question, you have to be able to answer it and you have to be able to give input as far as how the game’s going and what could benefit your club, as well as what the other clubs are doing against you.”

Pettini was born Jan. 26, 1955, in Wheeling, W.V., and graduated from Brooke High School in Wellsburg, W.V., in 1973. He received a bachelor’s degree in education from Mercer University in Macon, Ga. Pettini and his wife, Barbara, have been married 30 years and reside in Bethany, W.V. They have two children: Amy and Joseph, and a granddaughter, Marlee Joe.

Berkman a happy man

I had a chance to catch up with former Astros slugger Lance Berkman in the visiting clubhouse at Minute Maid Park, trying to dodge the champagne and beer as best as possible. Berkman was beaming after the Cardinals had just clinched the National League Wild Card.

“It’s just great,” he said. “It’s exciting. Any time you get a chance to play for a championship, that’s all you can ask for as a player.”

What a week it’s been for Berkman. He signed a one-year, $12-million contract extension with the Cardinals only a few days ago and then came to his hometown of Houston and helped the Cardinals take two of three games from the Astros to run down the Braves.

“This year has been pretty special in a lot of ways, and certainly this is a great way to cap it off,” he said.

Now the Cardinals and Berkman will get to face the Phillies in the National League Division Series beginning Saturday in Philadelphia. The Phillies, of course, feature three of Berkman’s former teammates – Hunter Pence, Brad Lidge and Roy Oswalt.

“If you could round up all the ex-Astros you’d have a pretty good team,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough challenge to play those guys. They have a great team, the best team in baseball this year. So we’ll see what happens.”

Astros-Cardinals lineups

Here are the lineups for Tuesday’s Astros-Cardinals game:

HOUSTON

CF J.B. Shuck

2B Jose Altuve

RF Brian Bogusevic

LF Carlos Lee

1B Brett Wallace

3B Jimmy Paredes

SS Clint Barmes

C J.R. Towles

RHP Henry Sosa

ST. LOUIS

CF Jon Jay

3B David Freese

1B Albert Pujols

RF Lance Berkman

LF Matt Holliday

C Yadier Molina

2B Skip Schumaker

SS Nick Punto

RHP Jake Westbrook

Astros-Cards preview

The Astros open their final series of the season Monday night at Minute Maid Park against the Cardinals, who come to town one game behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL Wild Card chase. The Braves are at the Phillies, which is who the Cards would play in the first round of the playoffs if they can edge the Braves for the final playoff spot. The Cardinals have 21 of their last 29 games.

Before we get to the lineup, here are some things you my find interesting:

  • The Astros currently have the youngest team in the NL at 27 years, 131 days old. Only the Royals are younger (26-4).
  • If you’re looking for a positive sign from the Astros, take note of this. The previous three times the club has lost at least 90 games, it came back and improved by at least 15 games the next season. They went from 64-97 in 1975 to 80-82 in 1976; 65-97 in 1991 to 81-81 in 1992; and 72-90 in 2000 to 93-69 and a division title in 2001. I’m just saying.
  • Carlos Lee, who enters Monday’s game with 94 RBIs, has the third-most RBIs in the NL since 2005. He trails only Ryan Howard (858) and Albert Pujuols (824).
  • Tonight’s pitching matchup features two pretty good left-handers in Jaime Garcia and Wandy Rodriguez. Of the lefties who will qualitfy for the ERA title, Garcia is fifth in the NL with a 3.45 ERA and Rodriguez is sixth at 3.51.

Here is the Astros’ lineup:

CF Jason Bourgeois

2B Angel Sanchez

LF J.D. Martinez

1B Carlos Lee

RF Matt Downs

3B Chris Johnson

SS Clint Barmes

C J.R. Towles

LHP Wandy Rodriguez

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