Results tagged ‘ Doug Brocail ’

Astros shake up coaching staff

The Astros made changes to their coaching staff Tuesday, naming pitching coach Doug Brocail as a special assistant to general manager Jeff Luhnow and senior pitching adviser while announcing first-base coach Dave Clark and bullpen coach Dennis Martinez would not have their contracts renewed.

“It was a tough year on the field this year at the Major League level, despite the significant progress in continuing to build our player pipeline,” general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “Bo and I discussed how we can improve next year and came to the conclusion that bringing in a few new and different voices would help.”

Brocail, 46, spent two full seasons as the Astros pitching coach after taking over the position on an interim basis in June of 2011. Prior to taking the Major League job, Brocail served nearly two years (2010-11) as a special assistant to the Astros general manager. Brocail had a long professional career (1986-2009), which included three stops in Houston (1995-96, 2001, 2008-09). A resident of nearby Missouri City, Texas, Brocail has been with the organization in some capacity, as a player, special assistant or coach, since 2008.

“In Doug’s new role, he will assist me in overseeing and guiding our pitchers and pitching coaches across the organization,” Luhnow said. “His experience these last three years as a Major League pitching coach combined with his many years as a player makes him ideal for this role.”

Clark, 51, spent five consecutive seasons on the Astros coaching staff, serving as the third base coach for four seasons (2009-12) and the club’s first base coach in 2013.

“The Astros thank Dave Clark for his many years of service to the organization and wish him the best going forward,” Luhnow said.

Martinez, 58, was with the Astros for the 2013 season, serving as the bullpen coach. Prior to joining the organization, Martinez worked as a pitching coach in the St. Louis Cardinals system for six seasons.

“We want our new pitching coach to be involved in selecting his bullpen coach, since they work so closely together.” Luhnow said.

Astros shake up coaching staff

The Astros shook up their coaching Tuesday, announcing pitching coach Doug Brocail would become a special assistant and the contracts of first base coach Dave Clark and bullpen coach Dennis Martinez would not be renewed.

Brocail had previously served as a special assistant following his 16-year playing career, beginning in 2010. He took over as interim pitching coach on June 14, 2011 and was later named to the position full-time.

Martinez, who won 245 games in the Major Leagues and threw a perfect game in 1991, was in his first season as the team’s bullpen coach.

Clark, who previously served as interim manager and third-base coach, moved across the diamond this year to become first-base coach when the Astros brought in Dave Trembley to be third-base coach.

Astros reveal new coaching staff

The Astros have hired former All-Star pitcher Dennis Martinez as bullpen coach and former Major League first baseman and coach Eduardo Perez as bench coach, finalizing their coaching staff.

“We wanted to make sure it was a diverse staff, a staff that covers all the disciplines and a staff that has a good mix of experiences and everybody was a good teacher,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “I think we accomplished all of the goals we had. There were a lot of moving parts.”

Here’s a look at each member of the staff:

Manager Bo Porter: Porter, 40, has 18 years of combined experience as a player, coach and manager in the Minor Leagues and Major Leagues. He spent the previous two seasons as the third base coach for Washington. Prior to joining the Nationals staff in 2011, he began the 2010 season as third base coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks before being promoted to bench coach on July 1 when Kirk Gibson was named manager. Porter also served as third base coach for the Florida Marlins for three seasons (2007-09) prior to joining the Diamondbacks.

Porter also has experience as a manager, skippering the Marlins’ Jamestown club of the New York-Penn League for the 2006 season. He made his coaching debut as hitting coach for Class A Greensboro of the South Atlantic League in 2005.

During his playing career, Porter played in parts of three seasons in the Major Leagues as an outfielder for the Cubs (1999), A’s (2000) and Rangers (2001), appearing in a total of 89 games. He appeared in two playoff games for Oakland during the 2000 season. Porter was originally selected by the Cubs in the 1993 June Draft and hit 113 home runs with 503 RBIs and 236 stolen bases in 10 Minor League seasons.

Bullpen coach Dennis Martinez: Martinez, 57, who had been a pitching coach in the St. Louis Cardinals system for the past six seasons, won 245 games in his out­standing Major League career, a total that ranks first among Latin American-born pitchers. He appeared in four All-Star Games and led the American League in wins in 1981. While pitching for the Montreal Expos on July 28,1991 at Dodger Stadium, he hurled baseball’s 13th perfect game in a 2-0 victory. Overall, Martinez pitched 23 seasons in the Majors (1976-1998).

Martinez, who is from Nicaragua, is currently serving as manager of the Nicaraguan team that will be playing in the qualifying round for the upcoming World Baseball Classic. He had been the pitching coach for the Palm Beach Cardinals (A) for the past two seasons (2011-12). He also served stints as pitching coach for the Cardinals’ Double-A affiliate in Springfield and for their Gulf Coast League club. Martinez, 57, also served as a special assistant for the Orioles prior to joining the Cardinals organiza­tion.

Bench coach Eduardo Perez: Perez, 43, has both playing and coaching experience in the Majors and has also had success as a manager in Latin America. He currently is serving as manager of the Columbian team that is preparing for the qualifying round for the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Perez previously had suc­cess as manager of the Ponce Lions in the Puerto Rico Winter League for two seasons (2008-09), earning Manager of the Year honors in 2008 and also guiding the Lions to the Caribbean Series in 2009.

Perez, who is the son of Hall of Famer Tony Perez, most recently had been the hitting coach for the Florida Marlins since June 8, 2011. Prior to that, he had served as a special assistant to the baseball operations department for the Cleveland Indians, a role which included considerable time in uniform providing instruction at the Major League and Minor League levels. Perez played parts of 13 seasons (1993-2006) in the Major Leagues with the Angels, Reds, Cardinals, Rays, Indians and Mariners. Following his playing career, he spent several seasons as a baseball analyst for ESPN, working the postseason and for Baseball Tonight.

Hitting coach John Mallee: Mallee, 43, has 17 seasons of experience in professional baseball, primarily as a hitting coach in both the Major Leagues and minor leagues. Most recently, he spent a year as the Major League hitting coach for the Marlins between 2010-11. Prior to being named the Marlins big league hitting coach, Mallee spent eight and a half seasons as the organization’s minor league hitting coordinator. While at that position, Mallee worked with Porter, who was also a coach and manager in the Marlins farm system at the time (2005-06).

Third-base coach Dave Trembley: Trembley, 60, spent the last two seasons as the Minor League field coordinator for the Atlanta Braves. Trembley brings a wealth of experience to the staff, having spent his last 28 years in professional baseball, including 19 years as a Major League manager with Pittsburgh (1987-89), San Diego (1991-93), Chicago-NL (1994-2002) and Baltimore (2003-06). In 2000 with the Cubs, Trembley managed Porter in what was his first season in the Major Leagues.

Pitching coach Doug Brocail: Brocail, 45, returns for what will be his second full season as the Astros pitching coach in 2013. He took over the position midseason in 2011 after serving nearly two years (2010-11) as a special assistant to the Astros general manager. Brocail had a long professional career (1986-2009), which included three stops in Houston (1995-96, 2001, 2008-09). Brocail has been with the organization in some capacity, as a player, special assistant or coach, since 2008.

First-base coach Dave Clark: Clark, 50, will return for his fifth consecutive season on the Astros coaching staff, serving the previous four as third-base coach. A member of the Astros organization since 2005, Clark has also spent time as a Minor League manager in the organization at the Double-A (2005-07) and Triple-A levels (2008) and also served as the Astros interim manager for the final 13 games in 2009. Clark had a 13-year Major League playing career (1986-98), which included a one-year stint with Houston in 1998, the same team that won a franchise-best 102 games.

Astros bullpen enjoying success

No one is more encouraged by how well the Astros’ bullpen has pitched in the last few weeks than interim pitching coach Doug Brocail, who took over June 14 when Brad Arnsberg was let go by the team.

Houston’s bullpen, which currently consists of five rookies, entered Saturday having posted a 0.95 ERA in its last 14 games. Astros relievers had allowed four earned runs in 38 innings pitching during that span. Still, the Astros are last in the National League with a 4.40 ERA.

“The guys are throwing well, especially from where we were,” Brocail said. “Every time we’ve called on them, they’ve done a good job. I think the important thing is they’re picking each other up. If a guy comes in and doesn’t get the job done, we’ve been really good lately about picking him up. It’s nice to see that we’re getting some things accomplished.

“When I came on, the big worry was ‘Oh my God, you inherited a bullpen that’s blown 19 saves.’ You know what? They’re all rookies. They’re going to make mistakes. They’re going to get better and hopefully learn from it and that’s where we’re at now.”

Right-handers David Carpenter, Enerio Del Rosario, Anuery Rodriguez and Fernando Rodriguez are rookies, along with left-hander Sergio Escalona. The only non-rookies in the bullpen are close Mark Melancon, who was a rookie last year, and set-up man Wilton Lopez, who’s in his second full year.

“The thing is, when you have some rookies you’ve got to make sure they’re communicating and talking to each other,” Brocail said. “We’ve tried to stress that.”

Astros news and notes from a quiet Saturday

Astros manager Cecil Cooper said infielder Jeff Keppinger was likely unavailable for Saturday’s game because of a problem with his right hip. Keppinger left Friday’s game with a back strain.

“He’s on the table and probably not available tonight,” Cooper said. “They’re gong to give him some treatment and keep him inside. Probably late in the game he’ll let me know if he’s even available to do anything, and I don’t think he is. We’re short in that area, but [Edwin] Maysonet can play all around and [Aaron] Boone play, so we’ll be OK.”

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Doug Brocail pitched in his first game in a month when he threw a scoreless inning Friday against the Phillies. He missed 24 games with a right shoulder strain.

“He threw strikes,” Cooper said. “He’s not the Brocail we’ve seen in the past. Not real crisp. He had two sharply hit balls. He did a good job and threw strikes, and that’s the main thing. He pitched down in the strike zone pretty good and you just have keep running him out there when you can.”

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Cooper believes Hunter Pence turned the corner after struggling for most of August. Pence entered Saturday on a seven-game hitting streak, during which he’s batting .391. He went 2-for-3 on Friday with a two-run homer to right field.

“When he’s at his best, he drives the ball to right-center,” Cooper said. “Hopefully we’ll see him climb and get that average back up over .400 and start climbing.”

Brocail itching to return

 After throwing 30 fastballs in the bullpen Saturday, right-hander Doug Brocail said Sunday he felt great and was looking forward to the next step in his rehab. Brocail has been on the disabled list since Aug. 5 with a strained right shoulder.

Brocail can come off the disabled list Thursday, but manager Cecil Cooper said he probably wouldn’t return until September. Cooper said he’d like Brocail to throw perhaps two more bullpen sessions and a simulated game before being activated.

“I don’t know what they’re thinking as far as a timetable,” Brocail said. “I know that our bullpen’s spent, so it’s one of those things. If need be, I can get a couple of more bullpen sessions in and if I’m feeling good I’ll just go at it. If I’m feeling good, I don’t feel the need to go out on rehab, but we’ll see.”
 

Overworked bullpen worries Cooper

The Astros were ranked 25th in baseball in the number of innings thrown by their starting pitchers prior to Friday. Astros starters had thrown 646 innings, which was just ahead of the 644 1/3 thrown by the Brewers starters.

Astros starting pitchers went exactly five innings in all four games of the series against the Marlins in Florida, putting a big strain on relief pitchers. The bullpen, which was one of the Astros’ strengths last year, has been ravaged by injuries and overuse.

Jose Valverde, Doug Brocail, LaTroy Hawkins, Chris Sampson, Geoff Geary and Wesley Wright have all spent time on the disabled list year, forcing others into roles they wouldn’t have been in otherwise. Jeff Fulchino and Alberto Arias have been called upon more, but even they haven’t pitched as well as they did earlier.

“We need two or three days in a row of seven innings [from a starting pitcher] and we’ll be in pretty good shape,” Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. “It hasn’t happened too often here lately for us.”

Cooper was undoubtedly cringing when Wandy Rodriguez gave up eight runs in the first inning Friday. He threw seven innings in his previous start Sunday before the run of four consecutive five-inning outings by the starters.

Cooper said trying to identify a pitcher to work in long relief has been difficult. The addition of Yorman Bazardo will help, but the Astros will have to keep him back in case Mike Hampton can’t make his next start.

“Last year, we had Geary and we had Sampson and they both would flip-flop every other day, and they were both strong and did a good job for us,” he said. “This year we had to press Arias into some spots we wouldn’t have used him, as well as Fulchino. Geary’s not here and Sampson was good in the first half and has struggled lately.

“It’s been a little struggle to keep it all mapped out, but that’s still not an excuse. We have to go out and get it done.”

Sampson was sent to Triple-A Round Rock following Thursday’s rough outing in Florida, and Cooper reiterated that he was told by Sampson and the training staff that the right-hander was healthy. Sampson says he hasn’t been 100 percent since coming off the disabled list.

Still, Cooper admitted that perhaps he could have not used him as much.

“I wish we could have given him more rest, maybe, early on and tried to avoid some of this,” he said.

 

Brocail feels better after tip from Oswalt

Even after more than 20 years in professional baseball, relief pitcher Doug Brocail still seeks advice. Brocail summoned teammate Roy Oswalt to play catch with him Wednesday with hopes he could find out why he was having trouble getting his arm in the proper slot.

About 10 throws into the pitch-and-catch session, Oswalt pegged it. He told Brocail he needed to get his front side (left side) and his left arm higher during his delivery, which would, in turn, cause him to get his back side and throwing arm higher.

“He got me up and out,” said Brocail, who’s been limited to 8 1/3 innings because of three different stints on the disabled list this year. “I’ve been so lost mechanically. When I came back and was sore and when I blew out my leg I have been throwing with a really low arm slot.

“About the 10th throw with me yesterday, he walked me through it and got me to a comfortable position. He got me way back on top of the ball, and the ball was coming out of my hand about seven or eight mph harder than I’ve been throwing all year.”

Oswalt could tell a difference right away.

“Pitchers go through different funks where they don’t really know what they’re doing,” he said. “You can kind of feel the ball isn’t coming out of your hand right. There’s got to be a reason a lot of times, more than just the obvious. Doug was telling me that he felt he wasn’t getting over the top of the ball because his arm wasn’t up high enough.

“Usually that stems from your front side. Everything operates from your front side. Instead of just telling somebody to get your arm up higher, which is not really the answer you’re looking for, you can correct something to allow them to get their arm up.

“I noticed his forearm, his lead arm, was down, and instead of throwing on top of the ball he was throwing around the ball. You can tell a lot of stuff by the spin of the ball, and I could tell the ball had a tilt to it instead of an over-the-top spin. That stems from not coming over the top of the ball.”

Brocail, who’s currently on the disabled list with a right shoulder strain, said he felt “phenomenal” today and wants to get on the mound and throw in the bullpen Friday or Saturday. He said he would have to go on a Minor League rehab before returning, hopefully by the start of September.

“We haven’t talked that far, but I’d like to get back out there,” he said. “I need innings. I haven’t done anything for the team all year, and hopefully this will get me over the jump and put myself in better position to throw the baseball.”

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Astros manager Cecil Cooper tried to talk shortstop Miguel Tejada into taking a day off when the two visited in the manager’s office before Thursday’s game, but Tejada convinced Cooper to keep writing his name in the lineup card. Tejada has started all but two games this year and leads the league in multi-hit games and hits.

“I’m the kind of guy, I like to play every day,” he said. “I don’t think I can help the team sitting on the bench. It doesn’t matter how tired I am, I can do the job. This time of year, everybody’s tired. As soon as I put on my uniform, I felt good to play nine innings.”

Cooper said he will have to settle for trying to give Tejada occasional innings off.

“He didn’t one, so we’re going to roll until I feel like he really needs it,” Cooper said. “He needs it, but he probably won’t get it.”

 

 

 

Recapping a wild night at Wrigley

The Astros’ 100th game of the season was anything but ordinary. They lost Roy Oswalt to a lower back strain in the second inning and watched relievers Wesley Wright and Jeff Fulchino each give up three runs in relief. Thanks to 17 hits and big games from Michael Bourn, Jeff Keppinger and Miguel Tejada, they still thumped the Cubs, 11-6.

The win moved them to within 2 1/2 games of first place, which is now occupied by St. Louis. The Cubs are one-half back and the Astros are in third place with two games remaining at Wrigley before moving onto Busch Stadium.

Here’s a quick rundown of all the things that went on Tuesday with the Astros:

– RHP LaTroy Hawkins was placed on the 15-day disabled list prior to the game with shingles, which has been causing back pain. Hawkins is a mess. He can barely stand up and can’t sit at all, which means he’s doing a lot of laying on his back.

– RHP Doug Brocail was activated from the disabled list to take Hawkins’ spot on the roster. Brocail, who hasn’t pitched since May 4 because of a right hamstring strain, made four of his six scheduled Minor League rehab starts before having his stint cut short at Double-A Corpus Christi. He will join the team in Chicago on Wednesday.

– LHP Wesley Wright was taken to the hospital following Tuesday’s game with possible appendicitis. Wright pitched 2 1/3 innings after Roy Oswalt left the game (more on that below) and had a crisp inning before walking five batters and giving up three runs in one inning. No word on his condition.

– RHP Roy Oswalt will fly home to Houston on Wednesday after leaving Tuesday’s game after 1 2/3 innings with a strained left lower back. He said the back bothered him slightly in his previous start five days earlier against St. Louis and it flared up again in the bullpen two days later. Oswalt was on the DL in 2006 with a mid-back sparin and last year with a left hip abductor strain. An MRI of Oswalt’s back taken last July showed a small disc protrusion.

– RHP Jeff Fulchino and LHP Wesley Wright each picked up their first Major League hits. Wright singled to left in his first Major League plate appearance, becoming the Astros pitcher to do that since Brad Lidge in 2002. Fulchino also got a ball stuck in his jersey on a ball hit by Kosuke Fukudome.

– 2B Jeff Keppinger started in place of Kaz Matsui and had four hits. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready so see Keppinger play more than Matsui. Money aside, Keppinger is just a better hitter. He started and succeeded Tuesday and wasn’t facing a lefty, which is how he’s been used so often.Keppinger is hitting .283 with a .362 on-base percentage, and Matsui is hitting .244 with a .300 on-base percentage.

– RHP Bud Norris, the No. 2 ranked prospect in the Astros’ system by Baseball America, was called up following Tuesday’s game and will join the team Wednesday. Norris said he was charting pitches in stands during Round Rock’s game in Memphis, Tenn., when the clubhouse attendant fetched him and told him trainer Mike Freer wanted to see him. Freer told him to pack his bags for Chicago.

Norris is a starter, but could be used as a reliever. There are questions surrounding the health of both Roy Oswalt (back) and Wesley Wright (possible appendicitis), so Norris’ role is yet to be determined. He was 4-9 with a 2.63 ERA in 19 starts for the Express.

Sitting out is tough on Berkman

Just so you know, it’s killing Lance Berkman not be in the lineup for the final two games of the St. Louis series. He admits he’s getting paid too much money to sit on the bench, the but the reality is that Berkman would hurt the Astros even more if he tried to play through his calf strain and went on the disabled list.

There’s a reason I picked Berkman as the team’s MVP at mid-season, and not just because he leads the Astros in nearly every offensive category except for batting average. One of the reasons the Astros got off to such a miserable start is Berkman got off to a bad start. Without him, their lineup isn’t nearly as good.

Berkman said the precedent sent by Astros icons Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio makes it hard for him to sit when injured. Biggio went on the disabled list once in his 20-year career, and Bagwell played through a painful shoulder condition as he career wound down.

“There’s a lot to be said for the way those guys conducted themselves,” Berkman said. “You can’t get away from Baggy and Bidge here because they were the ultimate professionals on the field and played the game hard. Other guys like AusmusBrad is the toughest pretty boy I’ve ever been around in my life — he’d catch and have all kinds of things and you’d never know about it.

“They set a standard a lot of guys have followed, and we’ve always been an organization that if we can get out on the field that’s what you should do. We have an obligation to the fans and an obligation to the organization and to your teammates most of all to all to play if at all possible.”

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Astros catcher Ivan Rodriguez believes the Astros are in the midst of something special, and he should know. He was the starting catcher for the 2003 World Series champion Florida Marlins, who overcome a slot start to make the playoffs and win it all. The Marlins were 48-45 through 93 games in 2003 (the Astros are 47-46).

“We had a bad first half and we came back and finished 20 games over .500 and were able to get to the playoffs and win the World Series,” he said. “That’s baseball. We have to go out there and play hard every day.”

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Astros general manager Ed Wade said he had good reports on Doug Brocail‘s first rehab outing Monday at Triple-A Round Rock. Brocail, who has been out since May 4 with a left hamstring strain, threw one hitless inning with one strikeout for the Express in the first of six scheduled rehab outings.

“Doug had a real good outing last night at Round Rock and threw one inning and had to cover first base on the last hitter he faced,” Wade said. “He threw 14 pitches and went to the bullpen and threw 11 more to get to 25. He came through it great. That’s a big move in the right direction to get him in there.”

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