Results tagged ‘ Hunter Pence ’

Pence reacts to being honored in Houston

Despite playing for the Phillies for the final two months of the regular season, right fielder Hunter Pence was still voted as the Astros’ Most Valuable Player for 2011 by the Houston chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Pence, who was traded to the Phillies on July 29, hit .308 with 11 homers and 62 RBIs in 100 games for the Astros. It’s the second consecutive year Pence has been named the team’s MVP, but this one caught him off-guard.

“Yes, that surprises me,” he said Friday after the Phillies finished working out in preparation for their National League Division Series against the Cardinals.

“Honestly, I’m very honored and humbled that they would select me for that,” he said. “It’s tough to explain. I know there’s a lot of guys that played the whole season there that had good seasons. I don’t really know what to think about that other than it makes me feel better about my accomplishments there and they recognize how I played the game. That’s cool, I guess.”

Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez was named the team’s Pitcher of the Year after going 11-11 with a 3.49 ERA in 30 starts. Outfielder J.D. Martinez was named Rookie of the Year and outfielder Jason Bourgeois was named the winner of the Darryl Kile “Good Guy” Award for his community efforts and good relationship with the media.

Also winning awards as voted on by the BBWAA were Cardinals outfielder Lance Berkman (Houston area Player of the Year) and long-time Astros broadcaster Bill Brown (Fred Hartman Long & Meritorious Service). All award-winners will be recognized at the Houston Baseball Dinner in January.

 

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.”

Oswalt, Pence return. Will you cheer or boo?

For the first time since they were traded to the Phillies, pitcher Roy Oswalt and right fielder Hunter Pence return to Minute Maid Park for tonight’s game against the Astros. Oswalt has been with the Phillies for more than a year, but this will be his first trip to Houston in those red shoes. Pence was traded just a few weeks ago and is flourishing with the best team in baseball.

Oswalt, who left in Houston one win shy of tying the franchise record for wins, asked Astros management for a trade last year when he didn’t like the direction the club was headed. Pence certainly didn’t ask for a trade, but the Astros were in payroll-trimming mode and were able to land some of the Phillies top prospects in exchange for the high-flying outfielder.

Earlier this year when Lance Berkman made his return to Minute Maid Park with the Cardinals, he received a nice ovation. Not surprising, since he’s one of the most popular players in franchise history. Pence and Oswalt are in the same category. But Astros fans haven’t always been so kind to those who have returned in different uniforms.

Carlos Beltran, who spent only four months in Houston and had a legendary performance in the 2004 playoffs, still gets booed six years after he shunned the Astros and signed a big-money deal with the Mets. Brad Lidge, the closer during the terrific playoff seasons in 2004 and 2005, still gets booed as well, which is a little strange. I’m guessing it has to do with giving up his homer to Albert Pujols in Game 5 of the 2005 NLCS than it does anything else. Lidge was a model citizen and good player in Houston.

So, what will be it be, Astros fans? Boos or cheers for Oswalt and Pence?

Cosart thrilled to join Astros

The dream of pitching in the Major Leagues just got much better for Jarred Cosart.

Cosart, one of four players acquired by the Astros in the deal that sent Hunter Pence to the Phillies on Friday night, grew up cheering for the Astros from his home in League City, Texas, which is about 27 miles south of Houston. He’ll report to Double-A Corpus Christi (at Midland, Texas) on Sunday and hopes to be pitching at Minute Maid Park soon.

“I can’t describe it in words,” Cosart told MLB.com via phone. “It’s stuff you read about all the time, players having a chance to play for their hometown team. I don’t know how many guys in the Major Leagues right now have that opportunity. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and I’m going take it and run with it.”

Cosart’s parents are vacationing in San Diego and began to hear rumors he was being traded to Houston.

“They heard my name pop up and finally saw it up there [on TV],” he said. “They were kind of shocked, but after the shock wears off you get excited. I heard from a lot of friends and family. I turned my phone off last night about 3 a.m.”

Cosart, 21,was drafted in the 38th round of the 2008 Draft but signed with the Phillies with an over-slot deal instead of heading to Missouri. He’s always had electric stuff, but he had trouble staying healthy over his first couple of years and threw just 95 2/3 innings from 2009 to ’10.

In 2009, he had back and shoulder problems. In 2010, his season ended in June because of a bad elbow. Even in limited time, though, he showed what he can do, striking out 102 and walking just 23 in that span.  Cosart has one of the better fastballs in the Minors, and it was on display at this year’s Futures Game, when he was touching 98 mph.

Cosart said he’s healthy. He was 9-8 with a 3.92 ERA in 20 games (19 starts) at Class A Clearwater.

“I’ve had some really minor little injuries and I never wanted to have that label,” he said. “I worked really hard this last offseason to get in shape for the season. It worked out well and I know I’m starting to let it go, get after it. I feel like I’m close to where I need to be.”

When he heard he was traded, he texted J.D. Martinez and told him he’d be joining him in Corpus Christi. He didn’t know at the time Martinez was headed to the Major Leagues in the wake of the Pence trade. Cosart and Martinez played against each other several times last year in Class A Lexington and talked a lot.

Not only is Cosart joining the Astros, but he’s moving up a level in an organization that’s showing increasing willingness to promote young prospects. Jordan Lyles in the Majors at 20 years old, and Jose Altuve and Martinez were promoted from Double-A.

Suddenly, Cosart is much closer to reaching the Major Leagues.

“It doesn’t matter what team, but now that I’m with my hometown team it’s unbelievable,” he said. “And the fact they’re rebuilding and they have a lot of young guys and there’s an opportunity. I want to pitch in the big leagues and I want to win. There Astros are going into that mode and they want to win with younger guys. It shows a lot about the organization’s belief in young guys and giving younger guys a chance, something the Phillies really didn’t need to do.”

Pence still an Astro, for now

The Astros remain in intense trade talks regarding All-Star right fielder Hunter Pence on Friday afternoon, specifically with the Philadelphia Phillies.

MLB.com has confirmed Pence was briefly removed from the lineup prior to Thursday’s game in St. Louis because of potential trade, but wound up staying in the order and going 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles in the Astros’ win. Pence was in the lineup on Friday night for Houston’s series opener against the Brewers, batting fourth.

Although there are reports the Astros and Phillies have discussed a three-team deal, a person close to the situation told MLB.com Friday that a two-team swap remains Houston’s focus. The Astros are coveting several prospects for Pence, who’s the top name on the trade market in the wake of the Carlos Beltran trade.

The Atlanta Braves are also reportedly in the mix for Pence’s services, along with the Reds and a handful of other teams.

Astros general manager Ed Wade had no comment.

The Astros are also getting heavy interest about Gold Glove center fielder Michael Bourn, left-hander Wandy Rodriguez and, to a lesser extent, right-hander Brett Myers. The non-waiver Trade Deadline is 3 p.m. CT on Sunday.

Pence, 28, is hitting .309 with 11 homers and 62 RBIs for the Astros and made the National League All-Star team for the second time. He’s making $6.9 million this season and still has two years of arbitration remaining, so any team acquiring him would have him under control for at least two more seasons.

Pence: ‘I love Houston’

With the Astros possibly getting closer to a deal to trade Hunter Pence, the right-fielder admitted following Thursday night’s win over the Cardinals that he couldn’t help but think it might have been his last game in an Astros uniform.

“What can I say? I’m not in control,” he said. “I love these guys, I love Houston. That’s all I know.”

The Phillies are pushing hard for Pence and could be willing to offer pitcher Vance Worley, outfielder Domonic Brown and a Minor League pitcher.

Pence went 2-for-4 with two doubles on Thursday to raise his average to .309, saying he benefited from a day off.

“Sometimes when you get to watch a game you know it kind of slows things down for you,” he said. “Things were piling up and was making mistakes of the past and trying to do too much just to make up for it. It made me realize…slow the game down.”

Pence out of lineup, not traded

The news that Astros All-Star outfielder Hunter Pence was out of manager Brad Mills’ starting lineup Wednesday against the Cardinals caused quite a stir. Pence has been the subject of numerous trade rumors, but his absence from the lineup had nothing to do with that.

Mills had been looking for a good spot to give Pence a day off during this week’s four-game series against the Cardinals, and he found it Wednesday afternoon. Pence was out of the lineup for the first since June 22, a span of 27 games.

Mills acknowledged Pence’s recent struggles – he’s hitting .158 on the Astros’ current 10-game road trip – and the fact didn’t get to rest during the All-Star break because he was the team’s lone representative to make the National League All-Star team.

“If there’s anybody that’s tough to give a day off on this club, it’s Hunter because he’s such a good player and everything else,” Mills said. “He’s kind of struggled a little bit after the All-Star break and the weather on this trip has been extremely warm and he completely wears himself out every night because he plays so hard. No night is a good night to give him a day off, but he needs one.”

Pence admitted a day out of the lineup can be beneficial on occasion.

“There’s a lot of games we play, and I think sometimes it can help,” he said. “Obviously, as a team and myself, we haven’t been doing the best job. It’s part of baseball. You go through some ups and downs and sometimes you get a day off. How many players haven’t had a day off? Not very many, right?

“I don’t love having days off, but that’s what he told me. He’s the manager. Sometimes it’s good for you. I wear the way the season’s going pretty hard. I’m going to be ready in case he needs me and use [the time off] to turn this thing around and propel myself forward.”

As far as the trade rumors go, Pence is aware.

“I haven’t been able to totally keep it out of my mind,” he said. “I don’t think it has anything to do with [my] performance. It’s something you can’t avoid. It’s the first time I’ve gone through something like this. It’s something I can’t control and I try to block it out as much as possible.”

 

Astros in numerous conversations

With the Trade Deadline a week away, the Astros are engaged in numerous trade conversations, general manager Ed Wade said on Sunday. Wade has a policy not to discuss trade specifics, but what’s known is outfielders Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn – their two best offensive players – have been attracting considerable attention.

Bourn and Pence would come with a steep price tag, which means Houston could be more likely to deal pitchers Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers. CSNPhilly.com reported Sunday that Pence is the top target of the Phillies and that they would have be willing to give up outfield prospect Dominic Brown.

Right now, the Astros are open to listening to anything.

“As I’ve indicated before, at the very least we have to be good listeners,” Wade said. “We can always say ‘no’ to anything that we don’t think improves us in the short term or long term. It’s important for us to be proactive on a couple of different fronts as we were with Jeff Keppinger, and at the same time be receptive and responsive to any other inquiries or opportunities that may present themselves.”

Who will be the Astros’ All-Star

Considering the Astros are 29-54 and have the worst record in the Major Leagues, it would be surprising if they had more than one representative for the All-Star Game, which will be July 12 in Phoenix. The teams will be announced at 11 a.m. CT on Sunday.

Right fielder Hunter Pence, who had three hits Saturday, appears to be the overwhelming choice to be the team’s lone representative. He leads the team in batting average (.323), home runs (10) and RBIs (57), where he ranks among the league’s leaders.

But don’t discount center fielder Michael Bourn, the Astros’ lone All-Star representative last year. Bourn went 4-for-5 on Saturday to increase his batting average to .297 and on-base percentage to .362. He also leads the Majors in stolen bases and appears on his way to winning a third consecutive Gold Glove.

Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez (6-4, 2.97 ERA) has had a nice first half, but I can’t imagine him making it at the expense of either Pence or Bourn, assuming the Astros only get one All-Star.

So who’s your Astros’ All-Star in 2011?

Astros at the season’s midpoint

The Astros hit the halfway mark of the season with a 28-53 record, which means they’re on pace to finish with 106 losses. That would easily surpass the franchise records for most losses in a season, which is 97 set in 1965 and matched in 1975 and 1991.

Of course, the Astros were on pace for 100 losses for much of last year before they turned it around in the second half following the trades of Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt. This year’s club could be facing selling off some commodities as well, but it’s hard to envision a strong second half like we saw last year.

Through 81 games, here are stats to consider:

  • The Astros have hit 45 home runs and are on pace to hit 90 for the season. That would be their fewest since hitting 79 in 1991. They hit 249 home runs in 2000 — the first year of Minute Maid Park.
  • The Astros have 300 RBIs, putting them on pace for 600. That would actually surpass their total of 577 of a year ago.
  • With 66 stolen bases, the Astros are on pace for their most since stealing 166 in 1999.
  • The Astros are on pace to set a club record in strikeouts. They’ve struck out 597 times through 81 games, and the club record is 1,138 in 1999. They are on pace to walk just a tad bit more than last year’s 415.
  • Closer Mark Melancon leads the pitching staff with five wins, which means the Astros have a chance of not having a 10-game winner. The team record for fewest wins to lead the club is 10, which was done most recently in 1995 when Doug Drabek, Shane Reynolds and Greg Swindell each had 10 wins. A pitcher has won at least 14 games in each year since.
  • Hunter Pence has nine homers and 53 RBIs in 75 games, so we can loosely assume he’s on pace for 18 homers and 106 RBIs. He’s hit 25 in each of the previous three seasons. The last time the Astros failed to have a player hit 20 home runs was in 1992, when Eric Antony slugged 19.

Finally, here are my midseason Astros awards:

MVP — Hunter Pence. He’s hitting .314 with nine homers and 53 RBIs and has been the Astros’ most consistent hitter all season.

Pitcher of the Year — Wandy Rodriguez. This could have gone to Bud Norris or Mark Melancon, but when healthy Rodriguez has been pretty darn good. He’s 5-4 with a 3.21 ERA in 13 starts.

Rookie of the Year — Jordan Lyles. Lyles is 0-3 with a 4.75 ERA in six starts. Aneury Rodriguez and Francisco Rodriguez are also rookies.

Most Improved — Bud Norris. Not that he was bad last year, but he continues to make strides and has been pretty solid with a 4-6 record and 3.36 ERA.

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