Results tagged ‘ Chris Sampson ’

Astros position breakdown: relief pitching

Here it is: the eighth and final installment of the Astros’ position-by-position breakdown. Today we’ll take a look at relief pitching, which general manager Ed Wade says is one of the strengths of the team. Before we get to the bullpen, here are the links to the previous seven entries in the series (click on the desired position to view the entry): catcher, first base, second base, third base, shortstop, outfield, starting pitcher.

RELIEF PITCHING

2010 bullpen to begin season: Brian Moehler, Jeff Fulchino, Sammy Gervacio, Chris Sampson, Tim Byrdak, Matt Lindstrom and Brandon Lyon.

2010 end-of-season bullpen: Fernando Abad, Tim Byrdak, Gustavo Chacin, Enerio Del Rosario, Jeff Fulchino, Matt Lindstrom, Wilton Lopez, Brandon Lyon, Mark Melancon, Felipe Paulino, Henry Villar and Wesley Wright.

Others who made an appearance: Nelson Figueroa, Brian Moehler, Casey Daigle, Gary Majewski, Kevin Cash.

Combined 2010 stats of Astros relief pitchers: 24-23 record, 45 saves in 60 opportunities, 4.49 ERA (ranked 13th in the NL).

Free agents: None.

Arbitration eligible: LHP Tim Byrdak, LHP Gustavo Chacin, RHP Matt Lindstrom, RHP Felipe Paulino.

What happened: The Astros traded for hard-throwing Matt Lindstrom last December and plunked down $15 million on a three-year contract for Brandon Lyon to bolster the back end of the bullpen after losing both Jose Valverde and LaTroy Hawkins to free agency. Lyon developed a cyst in his shoulder and was behind all spring, opening the door for Lindstrom to win the closer’s job.

Lindstrom got off to a terrific start, posting a 1.40 ERA in his first 19 appearances and going 10-for-10 in save opportunities. He blew three saves and posted a 5.23 ERA in June and began battling back spasms that eventually cost him the closer’s job and forced him to the disabled list in August.  Lyon took over as closer in early August and finished with 20 saves in 22 chances and a 3.12 ERA.

Lindstrom, who led the team with 23 saves, and Lyon became the first set of teammates to save at least 20 games in the same season since the 1992 Cincinnati Reds.

Wilton Lopez, who the Astros acquired on a waiver claim in 2009, took on an important role in the back of the bullpen and wound up pitching in 68 games and posted a 2.96 ERA. The Astros also got good mileage out of lefty Tim Byrdak and right-hander Jeff Fulchino, who battled injuries and wasn’t as sharp as he was in 2009. Fan favorite Chris Sampson had a good first half and was eventually sent to the Minors after some struggles and designated for assignment. Alberto Arias, who was injured in Spring Training, and Sammy Gervacio were quickly shut down because of shoulder troubles.

As the year progressed, the Astros got a good look at right-handers Henry Villar and Mark Melancon, who was acquired from the Yankees in the Lance Berkman trade.

What’s next: Astros general manager Ed Wade doesn’t plan to do much to the bullpen in the offseason and sees it as one of the strengths of the club. Lyon and Lindstrom will once again compete for the closer’s job in the spring, though both could again wind up finishing off games at some point. The Astros like what Lopez brings to the back end of the bullpen and envision Melancon as a future late-game reliever.

Arias, who had surgery for rotator cuff impingement, could be in the picture next year along with Gervacio, who missed most of the year with rotator cuff inflammation. Gervacio had mixed results in the Minors but showed some good flashes with the Minor Leagues. Fernando Abad had a good Major League debut in his 22 appearances and will be a left-handed option, along with Wesley Wright.

Who’s on the farm: Left-hander Douglas Arguello, the pitcher of the year at Double-A Corpus Christi, will be in spring camp next year competing for a job. Abad and Villar, both of whom came up late in the season, could lead the next wave of youngsters in the pen. Don’t forget Chia-Jen Lo, who missed much of last year with a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament.

Sampson to DL, Daigle coming up

The Astros will today place right-hander Chris Sampson on the 15-day disabled list with biceps tendinitis and will purchase the contract of right-hander Casey Daigle from Triple-A Round Rock. Minor League right-hander Evan Englebrook will be designated for assignment ot make room on the 40-man roster for Daigle.

Sampson is 0-0 with a 6.30 ERA in 22 appearances (20 innings) for the Astros this year. He was one of the Astros’ most dependable relievers, posting a 1.50 ERA in his first 19 games this year. But he’s allowed 12 hits and 11 earned runs in two innings in his previous three outings, boosting his ERA to 6.30.

Daigle, 29, was 1-1 with a 2.96 ERA and seven saves in 20 games for the Express. In 24 1/3 innings, he allowed 23 hits, eight earned runs and struck out 23 batters.

Daigle, the 31st overall pick in the 1999 draft by Arizona, is 2-3 with a 6.46 ERA in 20 career games in the Major Leagues (10 starts), all with Arizona. He hasn’t pitched in the Majors since appearing in 10 games in relief in 2006. He started 10 games as a rookie in 2004.

 

 

Astros react to Soriano's antics

In case you missed it, Alfonso Soriano hit a walk-off grand slam in the 13th inning Monday and didn’t exactly bring to mind thoughts of Cal Ripken when he rounded the bases.

First, Soriano admired the home run for a few seconds before running, and when he did start running it was right in front of Astros pitcher Chris Sampson as he was coming off the mound. Secondly, Soriano appeared to be point at the Astros dugout on his way to first, but he was pointing to his family sitting next to the dugout.

Finally, Soriano waved his hand in front of his face as he rounded third. That was a strange move that made no sense, but after some further investigation it appears he might have been doing the opposite of Miguel Tejada‘s spotlight routine, waving his hand in front of his face like a magician as if to say, “you can’t see me.”

Whatever the case, most of the Astros players I spoke with prior to Tuesday’s game brushed off Soriano’s antics. A couple of veteran players didn’t have a problem with it, especially since it came on a game-winning home run. Jose Valverde, who himself does plenty of antics on the field, wasn’t about to call the kettle black.

“I do a lot of stuff out there, too, so there’s nothing I can say,” he said.

I can’t imagine Soriano’s routine sat too well, though, with Sampson, who had a front-row seat. Needless to say, it will be interesting to see what happens the next time Sampson faces Soriano.

Sampson almost ready to return

Right-hander Chris Sampson, who’s eligible to come off the disabled list Sunday, threw in the bullpen at Minute Maid Park prior to Wednesday’s game and says he’s on track to return to action in time for next week’s crucial road trip to Chicago and St. Louis. He’s been on the DL retroactive July 10 with right shoulder spasms.

“I felt like I hadn’t slept in two days and slept on a rock-hard bed when I did sleep,” Sampson said. “Not only was my [shoulder] a little stiff, but my body’s stiff. I cut some pitches off today, but based on the circumstances of the last couple of days I felt great.”

Sampson worked out at the ballpark before scurrying to The Methodist Hospital to pick us his wife, Heather. She gave birth Tuesday to the couple’s second child, a boy named Colt Parker Sampson.

Sampson will throw lightly during Thursday’s off day and throw a simulated game Friday.

“That will be a better judge because I’ll have had a normal life for a couple of days,” Sampson said. “I don’t think there’s anything to set me back.”

Meanwhile, second baseman Kaz Matsui, who fouled a ball off his right knee Tuesday and crumpled to the ground, was back in the lineup Wednesday and said he was fine. Lance Berkman is progressing in his battle with a Grade 2 calf strain and could return to the lineup Friday.

Astros expect quiet deadline

Astros general manager Ed Wade reiterated his stance Saturday that he doesn’t see his club making an impact trade before the July 31 deadline.

Wade said the Astros don’t want to give up prospects and aren’t in position to add salary. Also, Houston entered play Sunday three games out of first place in the NL Central.

“We’ll have conversations with clubs,” he said. “I just don’t want to raise undo expectations that we’re going to really be active at the trading deadline because that’s not going to be the case. We’re not going to be in a position to make a deal of significance.

“We’ve talked about where our payroll is at this point in time and we’re going to be very reluctant to give up a lot of young players. But we’ll continue to have conversations if there’s ways to improve.”

The kinds of things Wade anticipates doing are more along the lines of adding inexpensive pieces like Chris Coste, who was claimed off waivers July 10. Relievers Chris Sampson and Doug Brocail could also return from the disabled list soon.

“A year ago at this time we had a real pressing need for starting pitching and bullpen help and we went out and got [Randy] Wolf and [LaTroy] Hawkins,” Wade said. “The way Roy [Oswalt] and Wandy [Rodriguez] are pitching at the top of the rotation and the way the other three guys have gotten us deep enough into games, puts us in a position where we’re not in dire need to go out and add starting pitching.”

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