Results tagged ‘ J.A. Happ ’

Rotation stability important to Astros

The Astros rotation certainly isn’t among the deepest in baseball and they don’t have the horses at the top you’d expect to contend in the Cy Young race, but they do have stability. And that could go a long way in determining the club’s chances to compete in the National League Central the next few years.

After announcing they had locked up left-hander Wandy Rodriguez with a three-year, $34-million contract extension on Tuesday, the top four pitchers in the team’s rotation heading into Spring Training are under club control for at least the next two years and possibly longer, depending on vesting options.

“We’re very pleased to get this done,” general manager Ed Wade. “Wandy is one of the top left-handed starters in the game. With pending free agency and its uncertainty, it made all the sense in the world for us. Wandy made it clear he wants to be a part of the Astros. Now, he’ll be here for at least the next three years and hopefully beyond that.”

Here’s a glance at the top four starters in the Astros rotation:

RHP Brett Myers
Age
: 30.
Contract status: Signed through 2012. The contract is guaranteed for the 2011 and 2012 seasons and carries a 2013 club option that could become vested through Myers’ 2012 performance. The two-year guaranteed value, including a buyout on the option year, guarantees Myers $21 million. If the contract carries through 2013, it will guarantee Myers $28 million. The pact also contains additional performance bonus potential that could raise the total value to $29.5 million.
2010 record: 14-8, 3.14 ERA.
Career record: 87-71, 4.20 ERA in nine seasons.
Comment: Myers is coming off a career year that he parlayed into a lucrative contract extension midseason last year. He’s become the leader of the staff following the departure of Roy Oswalt and is a terrific competitor who wants the ball.

LHP Wandy Rodriguez
Age
: 32.
Contract status: Signed through 2013. The Astros on Tuesday agreed to deal with Rodriguez that will pay him a three-year deal with a guaranteed $34 million. He has a 2014 vesting option that would push the total value of the deal to $44.5 million.
2010 record: 11-12, 3.60 ERA.
Career record: 62-64, 4.18 ERA in six seasons.
Comment: Rodriguez, the only remaining member from the 2005 World Series team, pitched like an All-Star in 2009 and in the second half of last year. That’s the pitcher the Astros threw $34 million at on Tuesday, and not the one who struggled mightily in the first half of the 2010 season.

LHP J.A. Happ
Age
: 28.
Contract status: Signed through 2014. Will be arbitration eligible for the first time in 2012. He made $470,000 last year, and his 2012 salary has yet to be determined.
2010 record: 6-4, 3.40 ERA (with Phillies and Astros).
Career record: 19-9, 3.27 ERA in four seasons.
Comment: The Astros were thrilled to get Happ from the Phillies in the Oswalt trade. He’s still relatively young, doesn’t make much money and heretofore has been a dependable Major League pitcher.

RHP Bud Norris
Age
: 25.
Contract status: Signed through 2015. Will be arbitration eligible in 2013 and is scheduled to hit free agency in 2016.
2010 record: 9-10, 4.92 ERA.
Career record: 15-13, 4.82 ERA in 1 1/2 seasons.
Comment: Has the kind of stuff to have a long Major League career. Norris could be poised for a breakout season in 2011.

Spring brings optimism for Wade

When general manager Ed Wade met with some members of the media earlier this week to address the team’s arbitration stance, the discussion didn’t stop there. Wade addressed a number of other topics, including the state of the Major League club, Jeff Keppinger and the young players who will play a huge role in 2011.

Here are Wade’s answers to some of those questions:

On the state of the club: “We like our club. I said when the offseason began that we didn’t expect it to be a headline-busting offseason for us. We very specifically had some things in mind. We replaced the middle of our infield with Bill Hall and Clint Barmes coming on board. We think those are some really good steps in the right direction for us. We’ve created competition for the fifth starter’s spot and we did things that did not create an environment where we could stump the progress of the young guys who came on last year and got their feet wet at the big-league level. We had a good four months last year, the last four months. We need to figure out a way to get off to a better start, and the things we tried to do this offseason were to give us every opportunity to do that.”

On having so many young players in key roles: “People stay away from the phrase ‘rebuilding,’ but I think good franchises are always in some type of rebuilding mode because that means you’re bringing players through the system or have acquired younger players who have begun to establish a new core nucleus of your club. I think it’s a process you have to go through frequently, and I think the fact a number of guys were up in early, late June last year and joined the organization at the trade deadline in July, they should benefit from the experience they had a year ago. I know people look at our club and say they’re not a lot of veterans around and where does our leadership come from, and at some times it’s the mental make up of the younger players, who recognize they have a great opportunity not only to produce on the field but have a presence in the clubhouse. We have a number of players who have indicated a willingness to do that and feel refreshed with the opportunity to step up and show what they’re capable of doing both on the field and in the clubhouse.”

On the progress of Jeff Keppinger, who underwent surgery on his left foot Jan. 14: “When the surgery was performed, the specialist who did the surgery in North Carolina indicated the normal process would call for probably a three-month rehab before he’s running aggressively, and that takes us probably into early or mid-May if everything is moving in a straight line. Keppinger has indicated through Nate Lucero, our trainer, he’s feeling great right now and if we could shave some weeks or months off that rehab schedule, that would be great. It would be dictated by the progress he makes and what the doctors tell us.”

On which players he’s most anxious to see this spring: “Brett Wallace has been talked about a lot from the standpoint of this is a golden opportunity for Brett to step up and win the first base job when he gets to Spring Training, and he’s got to do that because we know we’ve got alternatives. We know we can play Carlos Lee at first base or Brian Bogusevic coming through the organization with the ability to play over there. I think, again, Brett is one of those young guys who will benefit from having been here the second half of last season and find out you have to make adjustments at the big-league level. Every successful young player is challenged at the big league level and the ones who remain successful are the ones who make adjustments. I’m anxious to see him and anxious to see J.A. Happ in our uniform all year long. I think we saw a real good sample of what he’s capable of doing by what he did a year ago. I’m looking forward to seeing the guys who we were counting on to show whatthey’re capable of doing over six months, primarily our outfield trio. Hunter [Pence] and Carlos got off to tough starts last year and came on strong, and I would anticipate you’re not going to see those slow starts again. I’m anxious to see Chris Johnson at third base and given the opportunity to go out there and build on the type of season he had. Newness is always great, and I’m anxious to see the two new middle infielders [Barmes and Hall] as well. I guess what I’m saying is I’m excited to see everybody when I get down there.”

On the top prospects coming to Spring Training, including RHP Jordan Lyles: “The message delivered to these younger guys when we call them up is you’re not going to make the club out of Spring Training. No matter how many times you say that, they’re going to come in and try to make the club. Sometimes we’re reluctant to bring in younger guys like that, but we thought creating an environment for Jordan Lyles, who probably does have a chance to make our club, and some of these other younger guys, it gives them a chance to see what a big-league environment is all about and, in all candor, gives us a chance to pump our chest a little bit that we’ve got a substantial number of young guys who are on the near horizon and have a chance to help this club in the not-too-distant figure. And why not bring them in and show them off and get them in shape and send them back to Fred Nelson on the development side and put them in the right spot to continue their development?”

 

Astros position breakdown: starting pitcher

Here is the second-to-last installment of our Astros’ position-by-position breakdown. The Astros had a decent starting rotation last year, with the ability to be pretty good next season. Here’s a look at the starting staff:

STARTING PITCHING

2010 rotation to begin season: Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers, Bud Norris, Felipe Paulino.

2010 end-of-season rotation: Brett Myers, Bud Norris, J.A. Happ, Wandy Rodriguez, Nelson Figueroa.

Others who made a start: Felipe Paulino, Brian Moehler, Wesley Wright, Josh Banks.

Combined 2010 stats of Astros starting pitchers: 52-63, 3.90 ERA (seventh-best in NL), 4 complete games, 2 shutouts, 857 strikeouts (second in NL), 380 walks (most in NL).

Free agents: Brian Moehler.

Arbitration eligible: Wandy Rodriguez, Nelson Figueroa, Felipe Paulino.

What happened: The Astros signed Brett Myers late last winter to help legitimize a rotation that included Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez, Bud Norris and Felipe Paulino. Oswalt got off to a strong start, but once again suffered poor run support and began grumbling about wanting to be traded, which he eventually was. Rodriguez, coming off a breakout season, stumbled badly out of the gate as the losses piled up for the Astros. Norris got better as the season progressed and finished strong, and Paulino had a brief stretch of dominance before an injury ended his season.

Oswalt made 20 starts with the Astros before being traded and was 6-12, but had a respectable 3.42 ERA. With the team slipping out of contention, he told the Astros in May he wanted to be traded. The club granted his wish in July and sent him to the Phillies in a blockbuster deal in which the team got J.A. Happ in return. Oswalt, who finished one win shy of tying Joe Niekro’s club record, was terrific in Philadelphia, going 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA in 12 starts.

Rodriguez, the team’s Pitcher of the Year in 2009, was terrible to begin the season. He went 3-10 with a 6.09 ERA in his first 14 starts (the team was 4-10 in those starts) before rallying in the second half. He went 8-2 in his final 18 starts and posted a 2.03 ERA, which was the second-best NL in the ERA in that span. He finished the season with 13 consecutive quality starts, the fourth-longest such streak in franchise history, to finish 11-13 with a 3.60 ERA.

Myers, who signed for a one-year deal worth a guaranteed $5.1 million, proved to be one of the best free-agent signings of the season. He went 14-8 with a 3.14 ERA and pitched a career-high 223 2/3 innings, leading the team in wins and ERA by a starter. Myers threw at least six innings in his first 32 starts of the season before coming up one out shy of being able to make it 33-for-33 in his final start of the year. He parlayed the strong season into a three-year contract extension.

Norris, who had only 10 starts under his belt beginning the year, stayed in the rotation all season, missing about a month in June with bursitis and biceps tendinitis. He was 2-7 with a 6.08 ERA in his first 14 starts of the year. He was 7-3 with a 3.84 ERA in his final 14 starts to finish 9-10 with a 4.92 ERA and 158 strikeouts in 153 2/3 innings pitched. He struck out a Minute Maid Park-record 14 against the Pirates on Aug. 14.

Paulino didn’t win a game until his 11th start of the season. He was 0-7 with a 4.40 ERA in his first 10 starts and was the victim of poor run support. He finally broke through June 4 against the Cubs, allowing one run in eight innings. In a five-start stretch from May 19-June 9, he was 1-1 with a 1.75 ERA. Paulino went on the DL on June 21 and missed nearly three months with right shoulder tendinitis. He made five relief appearances in September and wound up finishing 1-9 with a 5.11 ERA in 19 games (14 starts).

Happ, acquired in the Oswalt trade, made 13 starts for the Astros and was 5-4 with a 3.75 ERA. He was winless in his final five starts, going 0-2 with a 4.81 ERA.

The Astros claimed Nelson Figueroa off waivers in the middle of the season and he wound up in the rotation, going 5-3 with a 5.22 ERA in 18 games, including 4-3 with a 3.23 ERA in 10 starts. Veteran Brian Moehler made eight starts for the Astros (and 12 relief appearances) before his season ended in early July with a left groin strain that eventually required surgery. Left-hander Wesley Wright made four starts, and Josh Banks came up from the Minor Leagues to make one start.

What’s next: The Astros are content with the top of their rotation, especially if Myers pitches like he did last season and Rodriguez continues his second-half dominance. Happ is a steady left-hander who should be able to eat up innings and keep the Astros in games if he remains healthy. The Astros were pleased with the progress of Norris and are content with him opening next season as their No. 4 starter.

The biggest question is who’s going to be the fifth starter? Paulino and Figueroa will be given a look, unless the Astros are able to acquire another pitcher in the offseason. The Astros will try to sign a low-cost veteran like they did last offseason with Myers and hope they have similar results. If not, Paulino, Figueroa and prospect Jordan Lyles will battle for a spot in the rotation next spring.

Who’s on the farm: Lyles, the team’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year last season, is only 19 and has a world of potential. He posted a 7-12 record and a 3.57 ERA in 27 games, 26 starts, between the Double-A and Triple-A levels. Lyles spent the majority of his season with Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 7-9 record and a 3.12 ERA in 21 games, 20 starts. Douglas Arguello (7-5, 2.55 ERA) had a solid season at Double-A Corpus Christi. Kyle Greenwalt (8-7, 5.93 ERA), Brad Dydalewicz (1-6, 11.39 ERA), Dallas Keuchel (5-8, 3.36 ERA) and Ross Seaton (6-13, 6.64 ERA) had varying degrees of success at Double-A. Mike Foltynewicz, a first-round pick this year, and right-hander Tanner Bushue have world of potential, but aren’t quite ready yet.

 

Perhaps future not so dim for Astros

The Astros are knocking on the door of third place and could be pushing the Cardinals at season’s end if they keep playing like they have been in recent weeks. Say what you will about these youngsters, but they’re growing up before our very eyes.

J.A. Happ, one year removed from being a rookie, threw a two-hit shutout on Monday, and rookie first baseman Brett Wallace went 3-for-3. Angel Sanchez isn’t a long-term option at starter, but he makes gritty plays night after night. And Tommy Manzella continues to make strides offensively and defensively.

Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence have had good second halves, Michael Bourn is coming on strong, but the key to the Astros’ run has been pitching. Pure and simple. Astros starters have posted a 2.27 ERA in the club’s last 21 games (13-8).

It’s just enough to give you hope next year will be better. Hope that the pitching staff could be pretty good, and hope there is something good on the near horizon.

Happ, Astros battling struggling Cards

The only poor start J.A. Happ has had in an Astros’ uniform came Aug. 4 at St. Louis when he allowed seven runs, six hits and three walks in one inning. Otherwise, Happ has been pretty good since coming to Houston. He’s 3-2 with a 4.26 ERA in six starts with the Astros, holding opponents to a .207 batting average. He’s 3-0 with a 1.16 ERA in four starts this year at Minute Maid Park, one of which came with the Phillies before he was traded to Houston in July. Right-hander Jake Westbrook (1-2, 4.06 ERA) starts for the Cardinals, who are five games out in the NL Central race and in danger of being left in the Reds’ dust.

Here is the Astros’ lineup:

CF Michael Bourn

2B Angel Sanchez

RF Hunter Pence

LF Carlos Lee

3B Chris Johnson

1B Brett Wallace

SS Tommy Manzella

C Jason Castro

LHP J.A. Happ

Astros go for 8 in a row, sweep of Cardinals

Coming off an incredible night when they pounded out 22 hits (17 singles) in an 18-4 rout of the Cardinals, the Astros will try to run their winning streak to eight games when they send left-hander J.A. Happ (2-0, 1.27 ERA) to the mound in Wednesday night’s series finale. It won’t be easy, though, with Chris Carpenter (11-3, 2.93 ERA) starting for St. Louis.

The Astros are 30-25 since June 1, which is the fourth-best record in the NL in that span, and they’re suddenly knocking on the door of third place. No, they’re not going to catch the Cardinals, but they’ve put 10 games behind them and the last-place Pirates.

Astros pitchers have posted a 1.67 ERA in their last nine games, which is the lowest ERA in the Majors in that span. Meanwhile, the Astros are hitting .284 and averaging 5.9 runs per game since the All-Star break and have the second-highest NL batting average in the second half. Prior to the All-Star break, they were hitting .238 and averaging 3.5 runs per game, which was 15th in the 16-team NL.

Tonight we get a second look at Happ in an Astros’ uniform. He threw six scoreless innings in his Astros debut on Friday. This will be his first apperance at Busch Stadium, and he’s 0-1 with a 5.11 ERA in two career games against St. Louis. He’s 5-2 with a 3.36 ERA in his career against NL Central teams.

Here are the lineups:

ASTROS

Michael Bourn, cf
Angel Sanchez, ss
Hunter Pence, rf
Carlos Lee, lf
Jeff Keppinger, 2b
Brett Wallace, 1b
Chris Johnson, 3b
Jason Castro, c
J. A. Happ, lhp 
 
CARDINALS
 
Felipe Lopez, 3b
Colby Rasmus, cf
Albert Pujols, 1b
Matt Holliday, lf
Allen Craig, rf
Yadier Molina, c
Brendan Ryan, ss 
Chris Carpenter, rhp
Aaron Miles, 2b 

 

Latest on Oswalt

The Astros have a deal in place to trade right-hander Roy Oswalt to the Philadelphia Phillies if the ace pitcher agrees to waive his no-trade clause, a person close to the negotiations told MLB.com on Thursday.

The Astros are waiting a response from Oswalt after approaching him about accepting a deal to the Phillies, but the teams have agreed upon the amount of money from Oswalt’s contract the Astros will absorb, as well as the players Houston will get in return.

Oswalt is scheduled to pitch for the Astros on Friday at Minute Maid Park, and the both sides are hoping to get the deal done at some point today.

Oswalt is owed about $5 million more this year and is due to make $16 million next season in the last year of his contract, but there’s a club option for 2012 that would pay him another $16 million. He said last week the option wouldn’t be an issue when it came to approving a trade.

The Astros have scouted Phillies left-hander J.A. Happ‘s most recent starts, and he likely would be included in the deal.

Happ, 27, is a left-hander who would immediately be inserted into the Astros’ rotation. He went 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA in 35 games last year, including 23 starts, and had three complete games and two shutouts. He was second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting, but has battled through a strained left forearm for much of the year.

Happ is making $470,000 this year, is younger than Oswalt and could be part of the Astros’ rotation for years to come. And if he pitches like he did in 2009, the Astros will have a good piece in their rotation.

The Astros could also be getting Minor League first baseman Jonathan Singleton, the team’s eighth-round pick last year. He’s 18 years old and is hitting .319 with 12 home runs, 57 RBIs and a .962 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 248 at-bats at Class A Lakewood. He’s a left-handed hitter with power.

The Phillies are reluctant to give up Singleton, which may be why the Astros are willing to put up some money to absorb Oswalt’s contract. 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 74 other followers