Results tagged ‘ Chad Qualls ’

Qualls recalls mentorship from Ausmus

When Astros pitcher Chad Qualls made his big league debut nearly 10 years ago, he leaned heavily on veteran reliever Russ Springer to learn how to carry himself and veteran catcher Brad Ausmus to learn about the nuances of pitching in the Majors.

Qualls, who returned to Houston this year on a two-year deal, took some time this week to catch up with Ausmus, who’s in his first year as manager of the Tigers. As a young pitcher, Qualls learned quickly to put his compete trust in Ausmus.

“Brad was really good,” Qualls said. “I was open-minded about pitching, so there was numerous times when I had two strikes or something on a guy and he would signal for a sinker and I would shake him off. I wanted to throw a slider in the dirt. He’d put down for a sinker, and I would shake. He’d put down sinker again and I would shake, and he would put down sinker down and stare at me. I was ‘OK, I have to throw that pitch.’”

Qualls would then take the opportunity to talk to Ausmus in the dugout and ask him about the pitch sequence.

“I would just ask, ‘Why would you want me to throw a sinker there?’ Because I didn’t know,” he said. “He said the guy had no chance on my fastball. Sure enough, it worked. He’s really in tune with the game and just taught me that sometimes you don’t always have to throw sliders. I can get guys out with my fastball with two strikes.”

Even back then, Qualls could tell Ausmus was managerial material.

“Everybody knows he’s a Dartmouth guy and a smart guy,” he said. “Not only is he smart, but he understands that there’s different individuals in the clubhouse. Everyone is different. He really was a great catcher. You don’t hit .200 every year – OK, I’ll give him .225 – and play for like 15 years. He definitely knows the game of baseball and knows what to do and how it’s supposed to be played.

“He’s a well-respected guy. When he retired and when I would read he wanted to manage, I knew it would come along. He just had to wait for the right opportunity, and he inherited a team that had 90-something wins last year and some great players. He deserves it.”

Finding a closer is top job for Astros

Astros manager Bo Porter said Monday morning the task of finding a pitcher or a combination of pitchers to successfully handle the role of closer will be job one this spring. That’s no shocker considering the Astros have blown 48 saves in 111 chances the last two years, which is a Major League-low 56.8 save percentage in that span.

“When you look at the woes in which we had in our bullpen last year, it’s something we set out as an organization to make sure we rectified,” Porter said. “We brought in some guys that have the ability to rectify that portion of our ballclub, and I’m anxious to see how it plays out.”

Porter said newcomers Jesse Crain, Chad Qualls and Matt Albers will all be considered for closer, along with Josh Fields, who handled the duties for part of last season as a rookie after Jose Veras was traded. Qualls spent parts of three seasons as a closer with the D-backs.

“We’ll figure out as the course of spring goes on and the season goes on who’s best suited for that role, but it will be collectively a group effort to get those late outs in the back end of the game,” Porter said. “I think it’s totally open because I think competition brings out the best in all of us. And it’s something that we’re going to let these guys compete and let the competition tell us who should actually have that role.”

Ideally, the Astros would like to have one identified closer, but Porter knows that might not be the case for the start of the season.

“When you have that guy, that’s the ninth-inning guy, you know when it’s a save situation he’s going to get the ball every time,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’re not at that point, as far as our team would go. I’m glad we have a multitude of guys capable of manning that role. Again, we’ll let that competition play itself out, and I believe one of these guys, if not two or three of these guys, are going to step up. It’s a good problem to have if you have everyone throw well and now you look and you feel like you have a closer in the seventh, eighth and ninth.”

In addition to experience, which could give Qualls a leg up, the ability to induce weak ground balls is what Porter is looking for in a closer.

“If they do get in trouble, they have something that can get them out of trouble,” he said. “They have to be able to get righties and lefties out because when you bring in a closer, you don’t want to feel like you need to match him up against the opposite hitter. I also think experience plays a huge role in doing that job. It’s a guy that’s been there and understands the moment. The moment is never going to get too big for him. That’s important for well.”

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Players gather for morning instruction

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Catching instructor Jeff Murphy and new first base coach Tarrick Brock talk

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Pitching coach Brent Strom

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Josh Fields talks to Dallas Keuchel

Veteran leadership key as workouts begin

Prior to Astros pitchers and catchers taking the field for the first time Sunday morning on the back fields at Osceola County Stadium, manager Bo Porter met with a group of veteran pitchers he identified as being the leaders of the staff.

Porter sat down with Lucas Harrell, Scott Feldman, Chad Qualls, Matt Albers, Jesse Crain, Jerome Williams and Peter Moylan and told them he wants them to set a good example for the youngsters. They’ll also be involved in some of the morning meetings.

“You look at that group, and it’s guys that had success at the Major League level, they’re veteran guys,” Porter said. “I explained to them, ‘We’re not looking for one leader. We’re looking for a group of leaders.’ This is an unusual situation. A lot of those guys have come here from other organizations. Chad and Albers are a little bit different because they were here at one time and came back. Lucas has been here.

“I wanted to stress to them that this organization and where we’re at right now, it’s not like we have the [Craig] Biggios, the [Jeff] Bagwells, the guys that have been here for many years and you can say, ‘Hey, follow these guys. They know the Astros way.’ We are in the process of creating the Astros way, and our younger guys, I want to make sure they’re following the right people.

“I stressed that to our veteran guys. When you are a young players – and we’ve all been there before – you look around the clubhouse and say, ‘Wow, this guy’s been here 10 years. I wonder how he’s been able to accomplish that?’ Because you’re young, you’re impressionable and you’re going to watch that guy and watch that every move. I told those guys, ‘You will do more by whatever it is you do than you do than by whatever it is that you say.’ So make sure that your actions match what it is you’re saying each and every day.”

While the pitchers did their morning stretch work, Porter emphasized how happy he was that camp was finally underway following an offseason full of roster moves.

“I probably looked at the roster 1,000 times,” he said. “That’s what you do each and every day. You go to the ballpark and sit up at night and you think about the players. It’s good to have the group of talented guys we have here, but more importantly it’s good to be out here and getting started with the 2014 season.”

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Clemens and Moylan emerge

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Harrell heads to field

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Wojciechowski walks to field

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Castro gets in gear

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Rhiner Cruz

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Qualls is back in Kissimmee

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Porter talks with Appel and Stassi

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Corporan mugs for the camera

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Pitchers do morning exercises

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