Results tagged ‘ Clint Barmes ’

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 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.

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.

_____________________________________________________________________________

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 make tender decisions

Right-hander Sammy Gervacio, who missed most of last season with right rotator cuff inflammation, was the only unsigned player on the 40-man roster the Astros chose not to tender a contract to prior to Thursday’s deadline to do so.

The move reduces Houston’s 40-man roster to 36 and makes Gervacio a free agent and able to sign with any team, but general manager Ed Wade said the club will attempt to re-sign him at some point. The shoulder ailments limited the side-armed Gervacio to just 13 combined relief appearances last season between Triple-A Round Rock and the Astros.

“It’s really a move of economics more than anything because of the uncertainty of his status going into Spring Training,” Wade said. “Had he been injured coming into Spring Training and unable to perform, we would have had to carry him on the Major League disabled list.

“While we’re protecting ourselves with respect to the tender, we still want Sammy to be part of our picture going forward.”

Gervacio, who went 1-1 with a 2.14 ERA in 29 games in his Major League debut in 2009, is still dealing with shoulder discomfort despite not pitching in a game since May 3. He made $403,000 last season, which is slightly above the league minimum.

“We’re going to have to be cautious how we bring him along,” Wade said.

Wade said the club never entertained the possibility of non-tendering pitchers Wandy Rodriguez and Matt Lindstrom, infielders Clint Barmes and Jeff Keppinger and outfielders Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence, all of whom are arbitration eligible and figure to play a key role in 2011.

“All of those players have value and will be counted on in some fashion going forward,” Wade said.

Keppinger ($1.15 million salary in 2010), Bourn ($2.4 million), Pence ($3.5 million) and Lindstrom ($1.625 million) are in their second year of arbitration eligibility and Rodriguez ($5 million) and Barmes ($3.25 million) are in their third and final year.

Earlier this week, the Astros agreed to terms on one-year contracts with right-handed pitcher Nelson Figueroa ($900,000) and catcher Humberto Quintero ($1 million), thus avoiding arbitration with both players. Right-handed pitchers Brandon Lyon and Brett Myers and outfielders Carlos Lee and Jason Michaels are also all signed through 2011 or beyond.

Astros face arbitration decisions

UPDATE: The Astros signed Humberto Quintero to a one-year, $1 million deal Tuesday, and I’ve updated this entry accordingly…

Thursday is the deadline for teams to tender contracts to players who are eligible for arbitration. For the Astros, the list of players eligible for arbitration goes seven deep: pitchers Wandy Rodriguez, Nelson Figueroa and Matt Lindstrom, infielders Clint Barmes and Jeff Keppinger and outfielders Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence.

With Rodriguez, Bourn and Pence leading the way – they made a combined $10.9 million in 2010 – the Astros are going to have to commit a sizable amount of their 2011 payroll to arbitration-eligible players. Of course, the club could choose to non-tender some of these players and save money, and last week they outrighted left-handers Tim Byrdak and Gustavo Chacin, who were heading for arbitration.

Last year, the Astros wound up paying out $16.84 million to eight arbitration-eligible players. Rodriguez was the only player to wind up going to an arbitration hearing. He was asking for $7 million and the club won the hearing and had to pay him $5 million.

Here’s a closer look at each of the Astros’ seven arbitration-eligible players and what the chances are of the club tendering a contract:

LHP Wandy Rodriguez
2010 stats: 11-12, 3.60 ERA, 32 starts.
2010 salary: $5 million.
Can become free agent: 2012.
Tender prediction: Likely.
Analysis: I really can’t envision a scenario in which the Astros wouldn’t tender him a contract, even though he’s due another hefty raise. He was their best pitcher in 2009 and had a terrific second half in 2010. Heading into free agency, it would behoove Rodriguez to put it all together for next season and repeat what he did in 2009. Good starting pitching isn’t cheap, and the Astros hope they get what they pay for in 2011.

RHP Nelson Figueroa 
2010 stats: 7-4, 3.29 ERA in 31 games (11 starts); 5-3, 3.22 ERA in 18 games (10 starts) for Astros.
2010 salary: $416,000.
Can become free agent: 2014.
Tender prediction: Likely.
Analysis: Figueroa is 36 and just now reaching arbitration, so he’s still not making much money in the baseball world. And he had a pretty good season for the Astros in 2010 after they picked him up off waivers, which is why it would make sense to tender him. He’s a solid clubhouse citizen and could compete for a spot in the rotation or give them a steady option in long relief.

RHP Matt Lindstrom
2010 stats
: 2-5, 4.39 ERA, 23 saves, 58 games.
2010 salary: $1.62 million.
Can become free agent: 2013.
Tender prediction: Likely.
Analysis: Lindstrom had an up-and-down first season in Houston, and he really struggled in the second half when his back issues began to mess with his delivery. When he was healthy, he was a pretty solid closer. He’s still relatively inexpensive when you consider his age (30) and his stuff, and I doubt the Astros would give up on him after one rocky half of a season.

IF Clint Barmes
2010 stats
: .235/.305/.351, 8 HRs, 50 RBIs (with Colorado).
2010 salary: $3.325 million.
Can become free agent: 2012.
Tender prediction: Definitely.
Analysis: The Astros landed Barmes in a trade with the Rockies on Nov. 18 in exchange for Felipe Paulino. He’s likely going to be their starting shortstop next season and will be playing for a contract because he’s a free agent after next year. Considering the offensive shortcomings the Astros had at shortstop last season, paying around $4 million for Barmes for one year isn’t a bad deal.

2B Jeff Keppinger
2010 stats
: .288/.351/.393, 6 HRs, 59 RBIs, 34 2Bs.
2010 salary: $1.15 million.
Can become free agent: 2013.
Tender prediction: Definitely.
Analysis: Keppinger is coming off a career season in which he was the Astros’ starting second baseman for most of the season. There’s still a chance the Astros could acquire a second baseman with more pop and better range and return Keppinger to a reserve role, but he’s too much of a steady hand not to want back on the roster. He rarely strikes out or gets into prolonged slumps and had a pretty good on-base percentage a year ago.

CF Michael Bourn
2010 stats
: .265/.341/.346, 3 HRs, 25 RBIs, 52 SBs.
2010 salary: $2.4 million.
Can become free agent: 2013.
Tender prediction: Definitely.
Analysis: Bourn didn’t quite have the breakout season on offense in 2010 that he enjoyed in 2009, but he made the All-Star team, won his second Gold Glove and led the league in stolen bases. He was up and down on offense, but finished the season with a flourish at the plate before a strained oblique injury cost him the final two weeks of the season.

RF Hunter Pence
2010 stats
: .282/.325/.461, 25 HRs, 91 RBIs, 18 SBs.
2010 salary: $3.5 million.
Can become free agent: 2014.
Tender prediction: Definitely.
Analysis: He’s coming of a career season in which he was named the team’s Most Valuable Player after tying career high with 25 homers and setting career high with 91 RBIs. This is Pence’s second year in arbitration eligibility and he’ll still have two years remaining after 2011, so he’s under the Astros’ control for three more years at least. He’s going to get a nice raise in 2011, but he’s earned it.
 

Astros fill infield need, acquire Barmes

 The Astros made their first significant move of the offseason, acquiring infielder Clint Barmes from the Colorado Rockies on Thursday in exchange for right-handed pitcher Felipe Paulino.

Barmes, 31, has appeared in 665 games in his five-plus seasons in the Major Leagues, splitting time mostly between shortstop and second base. He hit .235 in 133 games in 2010 with 21 doubles, eight home runs and 50 RBIs.

Barmes started 69 games at second base and 39 games at shortstop this past season. He started 32 of 33 games at shortstop while Troy Tulowitski was on the 15-day disabled List, hitting .284 in that span with three home runs and 12 RBIs.

Barmes’ most productive season came in 2009 when he hit 23 home runs with 32 doubles and 76 RBI in 154 games as the Rockies everyday second baseman. His home run total ranked third in the NL for second basemen.

One of the goals for Astros general manager Ed Wade this offseason was adding some offensive punch in the middle infield.

“We’re excited to add Clint to our club,” Wade said. “He’s a plus defensive player at two positions, has gap and some home run power and has great makeup. It’s tough to give up a power arm like Felipe’s, but Clint fits a need that we had to address.”

Barmes has a .254 career average in 665 games with 61 home runs and 285 RBIs. He’s appeared in 333 games at shortstop and 306 games at second base. Barmes was the Rockies’ Opening Day shortstop in both 2005 and 2006. In 2009, he became one of just three middle infielders in Rockies history to tally 50-or-more extra-base hits. His 126 RBIs since 2009 rank fourth among NL second basemen.

Paulino, 27, was 1-9 in 19 appearances (14 starts) for the Astros in 2010 with a 5.11 ERA. For his Major League career, all with Houston, he posted a 6-21 mark in 47 appearances with a 5.83 ERA. Paulino had been in the Astros organization since signing as a non-drafted free agent on July 2, 2001.

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