Results tagged ‘ J.B. Shuck ’

Mills sporting a black eye and a new watch

The Astros worked out on the stadium field at the Osceola County Stadium complex for the first time Friday morning in anticipation of Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener against the Washington Nationals.

Before the players began to stretch, manager Brad Mills addressed the team and lauded non-roster outfielder Brandon Barnes for presenting him earlier in the morning with a Transformers watch. Mills’ watch was shattered and he suffered a black eye Wednesday when a ball came through the netting behind the cage and struck him.

“That’s pretty good for a young kid to do that,” Mills said. “I told the guys if we screw up on the time today, it’s Brandon’s fault, because of the Transformers watch.”

Here’s the latest on the Astros:

  • LHP Sergio Escalona, who injured his throwing elbow swinging a bat last week, will be shut down for a few days, Mills said. Escalona had an MRI on Thursday, which showed no structural damage.
  • Mills announced the next two starters in his rotation following Livan Hernandez (Saturday), J.A. Happ (Sunday) and Jordan Lyles (Monday).  Wandy Rodriguez will start Tuesday against the Mets, and Bud Norris will start Wednesday against the Phillies in Clearwater.
  • Among the relievers scheduled to pitch behind Hernandez on Saturday are Brett Myers and Brandon Lyon, who will be pitching in a game for the first time since May. Myers will throw one inning in his debut as Astros closer (he won’t pitch the ninth, however).
  • The batting order has yet to be announced, but Mills revealed his starters for Saturday’s game against the Nats: Chris Johnson (third base), Jed Lowrie (shortstop), Jose Altuve (second base), Carlos Lee (first base), J.B. Shuck (left field), Jason Bourgeois (center field), Travis Buck (right field), Castro (catcher) and Jack Cust (DH).
  • Third baseman Jimmy Paredes, who’s nursing a sore left wrist, took batting practice left-handed Thursday, but is still not cleared to swing right from the right side of the plate.
  • Castro, who missed all of last year following knee surgery and then had foot surgery in December, will catch only three innings Saturday. Mills said he’d like Castro to catch three more innings Monday and then perhaps four on Wednesday, depending on how he feels.

Players gather to stretch on the stadium field for the first time

Schafer’s return clogs center field picture

Jordan Schafer, the lone Major League player the Astros got in last month’s trades with the Giants, Phillies and Braves (pitcher Henry Sosa has since made his Major League debut) will be activated from the disabled list today and will likely in the starting lineup for his Astros debut when the Astros open a three-game series at Colorado tonight.

Schafer injured his finger sliding into a base on July 20, while he was still with the Braves, and went 10-for-20 in five games during his Minor League rehab at Oklahoma City. Once the top prospect in the Braves system, Schafer has a career .223 average in 577 Major League at-bats. He doesn’t have much power (three home runs), but he certainly can run and cover ground in center field. He has 17 steals in 102 games.

The debut of Schafer probably means less playing time for Jason Bourgeois, who had a terrific first half when he was healthy. Bourgeois took over in center when Michael Bourn was sent to the Braves on July 31 and he’s batting .155 (9-for-58) in 16 games since. He stole two bases on the day Bourn was traded, but hasn’t had a stolen base in August.

If Bourgeois had been posting the kinds of numbers he did in the first half, manager Brad Mills would have a tough decision. Perhaps Bourgeois is better fitted for a reserve role, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. Having Bourgeois available to pinch run late in a game will be a huge weapon. J.B. Shuck has also seen time in center recently, but he’ll likely split time in right field with Jason Michaels (against left-handers) and Brian Bogusevic (against right-handers).

Needless to say, the Astros are eager to see what Schafer can do.

Game 31: Shuck steals the show

Friday’s game against the Yankees wasn’t televised, so there’s no video evidence that will tell the story of the outstanding game outfielder J.B. Shuck had. The evidence was on Shuck’s uniform, which was covered from neck to feet in dirt.

In short, Shuck played like a guy trying to make a team. Getting the start in left field before more than 11,000 fans under the lights at Steinbrenner Field, Shuck stole the show in a 6-4 loss to the Yankees. He went 1-for-4 at the plate with a hustling double and an RBI, but he made two terrific diving catches and threw out a runner at the plate.

“Shuck had a great game,” Astros pitcher Nelson Figueroa said. “Shuck was outstanding. It could have been a lot worse day if it wasn’t for Shuck. He made some great plays.”

Shuck made a diving catch in the left-center gap in the second to rob Eduardo Nunez of a hit, coming out of nowhere to corral the ball. The crowd gave him a standing ovation. In the fourth, he charged towards the infield and went horizontal to catch Brett Gardner’s blooper for an out. In the sixth, he fielded a fly ball and threw a rope to the plate to complete a double play.

“I got a bead on it in the gap and I though I had a chance and just dove for it and was able to get to it,” Shuck said. “The other just happened to stay up long enough and I was able to slide in there and avoid running into [shortstop Angel] Sanchez. You don’t think about it and you just go after it.”

Shuck, 23, is a non-roster invitee who’s battling with Jason Bourgeois for the final bench spot. He definitely  helped himself Friday.

Here’s the recap:

What went right: Outside of Shuck’s great game, there were a few other encouraging signs. Chris Johnson went 1-for-3 with a triple and a run scored, and Matt Downs came off the bench and went 1-for-1 with a double and is now hitting .286 in Grapefruit League action.

Michael Bourn, Jason Michaels, Hunter Pence and Oswaldo Navarro also had one hit each for the Astros. On the mound, Jose Valdez pitched a scoreless inning.

What went wrong: I always hesitate to say any starting pitcher’s outing went “wrong” in Spring Training, but Nelson Figueroa would certainly have liked to have a better a line than nine hits, five runs, four walks and two homers allowed in six innings. Figueroa did throw 106 pitches, so he got in his day’s work, and he pitched out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the first.

“It was fun to get the work in and get to 100 pitches,” he said. “I felt like I was still strong, but at the same time I’ve had a sinus infection the last two days and it kind of felt like I was in a fish bowl starting out. I felt a little weak in the first inning and it started to unravel quick and I was a little worried about that a short day and a long inning.

“I got out of that first inning and felt good and made some good pitches. I found Eric Chavez’s bat a few times. I’m just really working on command and locating my pitches and get comfortable with [catcher Carlos] Corporan. All in all, it could have been a better day result-wise. We were still in the ballgame when I left. It was fun to be out there and get the work in.”

Ross Wolf pitched the seventh and gave up two hits and one run, striking out one batter. At the plate, the Astros struck out nine times, including Pence twice. Angel Sanchez and Brett Wallace were 0-for-3, and center fielder Michael Bourn made a throwing error.

What they said: “I think I’m going to put mayonnaise and mustard on his sandwich before he comes in. He did a great job today. It was great to see him and have some fun and continue to see the young kids working hard and being productive.” — Astros pitcher Nelson Figueroa on the great defensive play Friday by left fielder J.B. Shuck.

What’s next: The Astros’ bullpen will be on display when they return to Osceola County Stadium to face the Washington Nationals at 12:05 p.m. CT. Opening Day starter Brett Myers was originally scheduled to start, but he will pitch in a Minor League game because he’s already faced Washington twice this spring. The Astros will piece things together with their bullpen, with Henry Villar getting the start. Also pitching are Brandon Lyon, Wilton Lopez, Enerio Del Rosario, Mark Melancon, Aneury Rodriguez and Fernando Abad.

Injury report: Shortstop Clint Barmes left the game after being hit in the left hand by a pitch. He had a nasty bruise and some swelling and will undergo X-rays on Saturday morning. Read more about it here.

Sorry, no pictures again today. I spent the pregame in the press box writing the story that updates the status of the team’s impending sale. Details can be found here.

Bourgeois or Shuck will grab final outfield spot

Unless the Astros acquire another outfielder in the next week, Jason Bourgeois or J.B. Shuck will begin the season as the fifth outfielder. Bourgeois served in that role for a time last year, and even started 11 games in center field at the end of the season when Michael Bourn went on the disabled list.

The two have emerged as the only candidates to win the final outfield spot after Brian Bogusevic was optioned to Minor League camp on Thursday. Bourgeois has certainly had a strong camp, entering Thursday hitting .314 with four stolen bases. The fact Bogusevic swings the bat from the left side was a bonus for him, but Bourgeois’ good spring couldn’t be ignored.

Shuck is somewhat of a surprise to still be at camp. A non-roster invitee, he’s a career .303 average in the Minor Leagues, but he’s only played 36 games above Double-A. He bats left-handed and can play all three outfield positions.

Astros general manager Ed Wade said the role of a bench player, such as what Bogusevic was going to be asked to play, is difficult for a young player.

“The bat-off-the-bench role is tough for a young guy to roll himself into,” Wade said. “They’re used to get 375, 400 at-bats at the Minor League level and maybe get called up and still be sharp and game ready. It becomes much more difficult when you get four or five at-bats a week at the big league level and understand what the level of preparation is associated with that.

“We’re fortunate here that we have a guy like Jason Michaels who’s done it and can help mentor younger players, if we have a young guy filling that role. We recognize it’s a tough one to fill, and we felt the right thing for us right now was to let Bogie go play and figure that one out down the road.”

When asked about Shuck in that role, Wade said: “It’s held against the same backdrop. That’s a tough job. J.B. makes a really good contact, he can bunt, he’s an above-average runner and can play all three defensive positions. He’s still in the mix.”

The decision to send Manzella to the Minors was somewhat surprising, considering he was hitting .278 this spring and is a polished defensive player. What probably worked against Manzella — last year’s Opening Day shortstop — was his lack of experience at third base and second base. 

His departure leaves four infielders — Matt Downs, Anderson Hernandez, Angel Sanchez and Oswaldo Navarro — battling for two spots. Downs might have the upper hand because he can play anywhere and has swung the bat well, but Hernandez can also be moved all over the diamond and is a switch-hitter. Sanchez is out of options and performed well last year with the Astros.

“We’ve got things to figure out,” Wade said. “One would say your big decisions are made. You’ve decided who your fifth starter is, you’ve decided who your closer it, you’ve decided this, that and the other thing. The fact of the matter is we recognize the importance of the composition of the bench and what opportunities it provides for [manager Brad Mills].

“In call candor, we’re going to be guided by what Millsie feels is appropriate with the composition of the bench because he’s the one that will look down there and make sure that,, as best we can, we’ve provided him the pieces to make effective moves late in the game.”

Let the games begin, Astros

The Astros will kick off their Grapefruit League campaign at 12 p.m. CT Monday with a game against the Atlanta Braves at Disney World. It’s the first of 37 games for Houston this spring – including six split-squad games – in preparation for the April 1 season opener at Philadelphia.

“You can go through as much drills as you want, but until you’re really putting another team across the field, you’re never really [sure what you're seeing],” Astros manager Brad Mills said. “We can go through these fundamentals, but they know where we’re going to hit the fungo or know what’s happening. Now the evaluating process ramps up a little bit.”

Here is the Astros’ starting lineup for the game:
CF Michael Bourn
1B Brett Wallace
RF Hunter Pence
LF Carlos Lee
DH Jason Michaels
3B Chris Johnson
C Jason Castro
2B Matt Downs
SS Tommy Manzella

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LHP Wandy Rodriguez will start on the mound. Also scheduled to pitch are Henry Villar, Enerio Del Rosario, Fernando Rodriguez, Lance Pendleton, Sergio Escalona and Wesley Wright.

On Sunday, the Astros played an intrasquad game with Koby Clemens going 3-for-3 with a homer and two RBIs to lead Dave Clark’s team to a 5-1 win over Bobby Meacham’s team. J.B. Shuck went 3-for-3 with a triple for Meacham’s squad.

Here are the stats from the game in which each pitcher threw an inning — Clarkie’s Crushers: RHP Jordan Lyles (K); RHP Jose Valdez (H, K); LHP Patrick Urckfitz (H,1R/0ER); RHP Nelson Figueroa (H); RHP Arcenio Leon (H, 2BB); RHP Ross Wolf; OF Brian Bogusevic (2×3, R); OF T.J. Steele (0x4, RBI); IF Anderson Hernandez (1×2); IF Tommy Manzella (1×3, R); C Carlos Corporan (2×3, RBI, R); OF J.D. Martinez (1×2, BB, R); IF Koby Clemens (3×3, HR, 2RBI, R); IF Jose Carlos Thompson (0x1, 2BB); IF Jay Austin (3×3); Meach’s Mashers: LHP Fernando Abad (2H, K); RHP Sergio De Leon (2H, 2R/2ER, BB); RHP David Carpenter (3H, 3R/3ER, BB, K); RHP Casey Fien (H); LHP Douglas Arguello (2H, K); RHP Cesar Carrillo (H, BB, K); C J.R. Towles (0x3); IF Brian Dopirak (0x3); IF Jimmy Paredes (0x2, BB); OF J.B. Shuck (3×3, 3B); OF Drew Locke (0x3, R); C Brian Esposito (0x2, RBI); IF Jiovanni Mier (0x1, BB); OF Jon Gaston (0x3); IF Oswaldo Navarro (0x2).

Defensively, Anderson Hernandez made a terrific diving stop behind third and was able to throw out catcher Brian Esposito, and Tommy Manzella had a nice game at third base. Also, shortstop Jiovanni Mier was able to complete a double play after second baseman Jimmy Paredes fumbled a ground ball. Carlos Corporan threw out a runner at second base trying to steal.

Here is the day in pictures:

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Above: Outfielder Brian Bogusevic warms up in the outfield.

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Above: The Astros practiced relays and cut-offs on Sunday morning, using players from Minor League mini camp as base runners. Third baseman Chris Johnson is taking a throw as prospect Telvin Nash runs the bases.

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Above: Left-hander Gustavo Chacin gets his work done in the bullpen.

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Above: Manager Brad Mills takes notes during Sunday’s intrasquad game.

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Above: Jordan Lyles throws a pitch in the intrasquad game. He threw a scoreless inning.

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Above: Outfielder J.D. Martinez stands in the batter’s box.

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Above: Former first-round pick Jiovanni Mier swings at a pitch.

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Above: J.B. Shuck gets ready to rip one of his three hits in Sunday’s intrasquad game.

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Above: Cesar Carrillo, a former first-round pick of Padres, prepares to fire a pitch Sunday.

Busy off day for the Astros

Astros pitcher Brian Moehler said Thursday he torn the tendon off the bone in his left groin area during Wednesday’s simulated game in St. Louis and is seeking more input from doctors about what course of action he should take.

Moehler flew to Houston from St. Louis on Wednesday night and was examined Thursday morning by team medical director Dr. David Lintner. Moehler will have to choose between having the groin repaired surgically or trying non-surgical procedures.

“Dr. Lintner said you see more of this in football players and hockey goalies than you do baseball players, and he said a lot of studies are showing now that they’ve had success without surgery,” Moehler said. “We’re going to talk to a couple of other doctors who specialize in that area, and Dr. Lintner wants to know as well and see what they have to say.”

Moehler said Lintner was surprised with how well Moehler was moving around Thursday. He even threw a baseball off flat ground without pain. He plans to work out Friday at Minute Maid Park and rejoin the team when it returns to Houston on Monday.

“I’m not in any pain,” he said. “I’m walking around fine, and that’s very surprising. I thought I’d be in discomfort.”

Moehler admitted there’s a chance he might not pitch again this year.

“My head’s spinning because I don’t know which way to go,” he said. “If I do rehab and it doesn’t’ work, then I’ve wasted six weeks or however long it would take me to get back on the mound. I just need to talk to as many people as people and see what the other doctors have to say.”

The 38-year-old Moehler, who has been on the disabled list since July 8 with a right groin strain, is 1-4 with a 4.92 ERA in 20 games, including eight starts.

Also, right-hander Felipe Paulino is scheduled for a second opinion on his ailing right shoulder and will visit Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., on Aug. 12.

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Major League Baseball made official what was reported Wednesday by announcing Astros’ Minor League players Marcos Cabral, a shortstop, Jonathon Fixler, a catcher, and Danny Meszaros, a pitcher, were suspended 50 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

All three tested positive for Methylhexaneamine and began serving their suspension immediately. On Wednesday, MLB announced pitcher Richard Rodriguez of the Astros’ Dominican Summer League team had been suspended for 50 games for using a performance-enhancing drug.

Astros general manager Ed Wade released a statement about the suspension that was understandably strong:

“The Houston Astros fully support the efforts of the Commissioner’s Office to rid our sport of any type of inappropriate drug use. Our players and staff have been briefed, counseled, educated and warned about what the ramifications and consequences are when they choose, either knowingly or not, to violate the MLB drug policy. And yet, despite the best efforts of MLB and the Astros, we still have individuals who abuse our game by ignoring reality. We are embarrassed by these types of suspensions. They are a smear on our game and our organization, and we will redouble our efforts to make sure the message gets through.”

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Astros general manager Ed Wade, in Corpus Christi to watch the Hooks play on Thursday night, said shortstop Tommy Manzella reported to Corpus Christi to being his rehab. He’s been out six weeks with a fractured left index finger.

The plan is for Manzella to get two at-bats in two games and then increase to three at-bats in two games before playing in a full game. He will then continue his rehab at Triple-A Round Rock. The longest the rehab could last is 20 days, but Manzella hopes it won’t be that long.

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The Astros made official the signing of first-round pick Delino DeShields Jr. during a news conference Thursday at Minute Maid Park. DeShields inked for a signing bonus of $2.15 million, which is around the suggested slot recommendation.

For a complete story on DeShields, as well as pictures and video of the news conference, click here.

Here are a couple of other stories Astros fans should read that posted today at Astros.com:

 

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