Results tagged ‘ J.R. Towles ’

Towles, Clemens file for free agency

First baseman Koby Clemens and catcher J.R. Towles were among the Astros Minor League players to file for free agency, according to a list in Baseball America. The majority of the players are the list are six-year free agents, which means the Astros have used all six of his contract renewals.

“The list, in total, is very interesting to us,” Astros general manager Ed Wade said. “We’ve spent a lot of time – Ricky Bennett, Charlie Norton and Pete Putila here in our office – going through the reports, ranking the six-year free agents and talking to our player development staff and scouting personnel and being aggressive in getting out there and trying to make contact and offers to see if we can do some things to help the club.

“We were very successful in that respect last year when you look at people like Fernando Rodriguez and Carlos Corporan and others. We view it as a vehicle to be able to strengthen the depth at not only the Minor League level, but also help the big-league club as well.”

Wade wasn’t prepared to close the door on bringing back any of the team’s own players who have filed for free agency.

“At the end of the day, if it works out that we feel they’re the right players, we’ll go ahead and pursue them,” he said.

Here is the Astros’ list:

Astros (16)
RHP:
Erick Abreu (AA), Sammy Gervacio (AAA), Brad James (AA), Ross Wolf (AAA)
LHP: Kristian Bueno (SS), Ryan Rowland-Smith (AAA), Andy Van Hekken (AAA)
C: J.R. Towles (AAA)
1B: Koby Clemens (AAA)
2B: Jose Vallejo (AAA)
3B: Jhonny Medrano (Lo A), Oswaldo Navarro (AAA)
SS: Anderson Hernandez (AAA), Wladimir Sutil (AA)
OF: Luis Durango (AAA), Drew Locke (AAA)

Astros’ lineup Thursday vs. Rangers

J.R. Towles returns to the Astros’ lineup tonight to face the Rangers. It’s just Towles second start in two weeks and first since he took a foul ball off his face mask last Friday, cutting his chin.

Here’s the lineup:

CF Michael Bourn

2B Jeff Keppinger

RF Hunter Pence

1B Carlos Lee

LF Jason Michaels

3B Chris Johnson

SS Clint Barmes

C J.R. Towles

P Wandy Rodriguez

Corporan to provide relief for Towles

The Astros made a move they hope will bolster their catching position following Thursday’s loss to the Cardinals, purchasing the contract of switch-hitter Carlos Corporan from Triple-A Oklahoma City and optioning catcher Robinson Cancel to Oklahoma City.

Corporan, who recently returned to action after missing a month with a broken finger on his right hand, will join the club Friday. The injury limited him to 22 games this year for the RedHawks, and he was hitting .250 with three homers and 12 RBIs.

“He will catch some, but we’ll kind of see,” Astros manager Brad Mills said. “[J.R.] Towles has been getting beat up the last few days with foul tips and so forth, and we’ll have to give him a couple of days at some point.”

Towles has been catching four out of five games since starter Humberto Quintero went on the disabled list May 28 with a high ankle sprain. Quintero isn’t expected to return to action for at least another week.

Corporan, who had a hit in his only Major League at-bat in 2009 with Milwaukee, was a non-roster invitee to Spring Training this year for the Astros and hit .353 with four homers and 13 RBIs.

 

 

 

Astros postgame tidbits from Friday

Here are some post-games notes from the Astros’ 4-3 loss to the Marlins on Friday:

  • With Friday’s loss, the Astros are now 23-27 in home openers in the history of the franchise.
  • Friday marked the Astros first multi-homer game of the season, getting one each from C J.R. Towles and 1B Brett Wallace. The last time the Astros hit two homers in a game was on Sept. 21, 2010 at Washington.
  • Wandy Rodriguez was handed a no-decision Friday after tossing seven innings, allowing one run on eight hits. Friday marked his second time to start an Astros home opener, also in 2008 vs St. Louis. In those two games, Rodriguez has pitched 14 1/3  innings allowing 1 earned run
  • Dating to last season, Rodriguez has posted 11 consecutive quality starts at Minute Maid Park. Since June 24, 2010, he is 5-1 with a 1.56 ERA at Minute Maid, and the Astros have gone 6-5 in those games.
  • Towles connected for his first homer of the season and has now hit safely in all three of his starts this season. This is the second time Towles has homered in an Astros home opener (2008).
  • Wallace hit his first home run of the season and tied his career high with three hits. His only other career three-hit game came on Aug. 30, 2010 vs. St. Louis.
  • With a crowd of 41,042 on Friday, the Astros have sold out 10 straight Home Openers dating back to 2002. In the history of MMP, the Astros have sold out 11 of their 12 home openers.

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 11: Crisp win over Mets

The Astros split a pair of games Tuesday afternoon, beating the New York Mets, 5-4, in Kissimmee, and losing, 3-2 , to the Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers.

The race for the fifth starter’s spot was front and center Tuesday afternoon, with three of the five candidates for the job – Nelson Figueroa, Aneury Rodriguez and Lance Pendleton – all in action in two different games.

Figueroa started the split-squad game against the Mets, his former team, and gave up three hits and one run in one inning. He allowed the Mets to load the bases with one out in the first inning, but allowed just one run on a sacrifice fly.

Rodriguez started the Astros’ other split-squad game against the Red Sox in Fort Myers and gave up four hits and one walk in three scoreless innings. He was followed on the mound by Pendleton, who allowed two hits, two walks, one run and hit one batter in two innings.

Here’s the breakdown of the win over the Mets:

What went right: Plenty, beginning on the mound, where Figueroa, Mark Melancon, Wilton Lopez, Casey Fien and Sergio Escalona all pitched well.

The Astros banged out nine hits, including doubles by Carlos Lee, Hunter Pence, Clint Barmes and Oswaldo Navarro and a home run by J.R. Towles. It was Towles’ first home run of the spring.

“I just want to see the ball and put a good swing on it and I can’t do anything other than that,” said Towles, who went 1-for-3 to raise his average to .273. “That’s all I’m really looking to do.”

Barmes, having scrapped the leg kick he worked on all winter, went 2-for-3 to raise his average to .167, and Pence went 2-for-2 with a double and is hitting .524 this spring.

What went wrong: The only pitcher to get roughed up was Cesar Carrillo, who allowed two hits and two runs in one inning. Matt Downs and Brett Wallace, both of whom have had good springs, each went 0-for-3. The Astros were 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

What they said: “When I first got to spring I was looking at some video and some pictures [of the 2007 and 2008 seasons], and my hands were lower than they had been [recently], so I just got my hands a little lower and am sitting back on that back leg a little bit and not going out to get it. I’m feeling good and seeing the ball well. I’ts working for me, so I don’t need to change anything right now.” – Astros catcher J.R. Towles.

What’s next: The Astros meet the Mets for the second day in a row, traveling to Port St. Lucie for Wednesday’s 12:10 p.m. CT game. Ryan Rowland-Smith, one of five men competing for the fifth starter’s job, will make his second start and his third outing of the spring. He allowed three runs in his first spring start Friday against the Cardinals. Jordan Lyles, also battling for the final spot in the rotation, will follow Rowland-Smith.

Injury update: Jason Michaels, who was originally in the lineup in the outfield against the Red Sox, was scratched because of back spasms. … Bud Norris, who strained his hamstring on Monday, said Tuesday he felt fine.

Now to the photos:

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Above: Catcher J.R. Towles cover the plate during some drills early Tuesday.

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Above: That’s Telvin Nash, a burly outfielder brought over from Minor League camp to play in Tuesday’s game, taking a swing during batting practice.

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Above: Carlos Lee practices tagging up from third base.

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Above: Ryan Rowland-Smith practices fielding a ground ball during drills. Bud Norris awaits the throw at third base.

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Above: Hall of Fame announcer Milo Hamilton convinces Hall of Fame guy Clint Barmes to be his guest on Astroline on Wednesday night. He said yes.

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Above: That’s former Astros pitcher Tim Byrdak, now trying to win a job with the Mets.

Castro to miss most of the 2011 season

Astros catcher Jason Castro will miss nearly the entire 2011 season after being diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, in addition to the medial meniscus tear he suffered while stepping awkwardly on first base on Wednesday.

“The recovery for ACL and meniscus is about six months plus conditioning,” general manager Ed Wade said. “There’s going to be things as a catcher he’s not going to be able to do. We’re looking at sometime in September before he’ll be back playing.”

Castro was scheduled to undergo surgery in Houston early Friday morning to repair the injuries. Castro, 23, is a former first-round pick who entered camp as the Astros’ No. 1 catcher, and his loss puts a cloud over which catchers will be on the Opening Day roster.

Humberto Quintero has been the backup for the past two years, and J.R. Towles — last year’s Opening Day catcher — is in camp and will be getting more reps at catcher instead of being tried out at other position on the diamond. Non-roster players Carlos Corporan, Brian Esposito and Rene Garcia are also in camp.

“I think the first thing we have to do is evaluate the catchers we have in camp,” Wade said. “We’re fortunate to have J.R. and Quintero and Corporan who have big league experience. We’ve got Garcia and Esposito here. We’ll evaluate what we’ve got, but as is always the case if there’s opportunity to do something to improve the club we’ll try to do that.”

Castro hit .205 with two homers and eight RBIs in 67 games in his Major League debut last year. He moved steadily through the Minors since being drafted with the eighth overall pick from Stanford University in 2008.

“I feel bad for Jason, obviously,” Wade said. “Millsie talked to him last night briefly after I called him to let him know what Dr. [David] Lintner had to say. It goes without saying that Jason is going to be down about something like this. You just have to provide him support and we’ll do everything to get him back at the appropriate time, and hopefully this is the only setback he’s got in what turns out to a long big-league career.” 

 

Myers, Happ, Wandy highlight third day

The top three pitchers in the Astros’ rotation — Brett Myers, J.A. Happ and Wandy Rodriguez — each threw their second bullpen session Friday. With 30 healthy pitchers in camp, the Astros have split into six pitching groups with five pitchers in each group. Myers is the leader of group one, Happ of group two and Rodriguez of group three.

Groups 1-3 threw off the bullpen mounds for the second time Friday, and groups 4-6 will do the same thing Saturday before everyone takes a day off Sunday, the first day position player reports. So far, camp has been relatively quiet, which is definitely a good thing. Manager Brad Mills likes what he has seen.

“It’s really nice to see those guys throw the ball so well,” Mills said. “It was even smoother than [Thursday]. Any time you have your top three guys in the rotation throwing on the same day and having them throw like they did, that was nice. Plus, Aneury Rodriguez and Sergio Escalona from the left side threw well, too. I don’t want to single them out because other guys threw well, but it was a good day.”

Aneury Rodriguez, a 23-year-old right-hander taken in the Rule 5 Draft, is an imposing figure, to say the least. He 6-feet-4, 200 pounds and has terrific stuff. He was 6-5 with a 3.80 ERA in 27 games (17 starts) at Triple-A Durham last year in the Rays organization and is in the hunt for the fifth spot in the rotation.

The pitchers have yet to face any hitters, but Mills said the evaluations have begun. The manager said he is in constant evaluation mode, beginning with the moment a guy walks in the door and shakes his hand to the way he carries himself among his teammates to his stuff on the mound.

“It’s a whole process,” Mills said. “You want to give the guy the best opportunity he can to perform the best he can.”

Meanwhile, Hunter Pence had his arbitration hearing Friday in Arizona, and the Astros said they should know the outcome Saturday. Pence is seeking $6.9 million, and the club if offering $5.15 million.

And what would a Spring Training blog be without some pictures? Here’s a photo gallery from the third day under the hot sun in Kissimmee:

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Above: Manager Brad Mills really gets into this drill in which he hit rag balls at the pitchers at a rapid pace. Brandon Lyon is the pitcher currently in the line of fire.

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Above: Catcher J.R. Towles after finishing a bullpen workout.

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Above: Pitching coach Brad Arnsberg (standing on the back slope of the mound) gives instruction to a group of pitchers. Oklahoma City pitching coach Burt Hooton listens in.

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Above: Pitcher Jeff Fulchino fields a ball off the mound and prepares to throw to first base. Other pitchers are lined up the background, preparing for the same drill.

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Above: 2009 first-round pick Jiovanni Mier signs some autographs for fans.

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Above: Jiovanni Mier (foreground) plays catch with Clint Barmes.

Astros position breakdown: catcher

Every few days for the next two weeks, I’m going to take an in-depth, position-by-postion look at the Astros. What went wrong/right last year? Where do they stand at that position? Who do they have coming up that could make an impact? What does the immediate future hold at that position?

This should help us get through the World Series and into free agency, which begins five days after the end of the Fall Classic. Last year at this time, we were writing about who the Astros were going to hire as manager, so things are much quieter this time around. So let’s jump right in and take a look at our first position breakdown of the offseason: catcher.

CATCHER

2010 Opening Day starter: J.R. Towles

2010 end-of-season starter: Jason Castro

Others who were in the mix: Humberto Quintero, Kevin Cash

Combined stats of Astros catchers: .220 BA/.269 OBP/.312 SLG, 22 doubles, 9 homers, 39 RBIs, 35 walks, 122 strikeouts, 551 at-bats.

Free agents: None

Arbitration eligible: Quintero

What happened: The Astros have struggled to find offense at catcher for more than a decade, which was one of the reasons they drafted Jason Castro with the No. 10 overall pick in 2008. He wasn’t going to get confused with Johnny Bench on offense, but the club believes he can be a good offensive player and is already capable of catching at the Major League level.

Still, the season begin with Castro getting his first taste at Triple-A Round Rock and J.R. Towles as the starter with Humberto Quintero backing him up. Towles, in what might have been his last chance in the organization, struggled to hit and was optioned to Double-A on May 5. He wound up getting injured and missing much of the second half.

The Astros were desperate for catching help and called up Kevin Cash, who provided little offense but was a veteran presence behind the plate. All the while, Quintero was hitting his typical .230 and throwing our runners on bases. He also caught Brett Myers, who had his best season in his debut with the Astros.

With the season slipping away, the Astros finally summoned Castro from Triple-A Round Rock on June 22 to began a youth infusion. Castro was plugged into the starting lineup and hit .205/.286/.287 with two homers and eight RBIs in 67 games (57 starts). He still has strides to make defensively, though he did throw out 37 percent of the runners who tried to steal a base against him.

What’s next: The Astros are still committed to Castro. He’s only 23 years old and there’s no reason to believe he won’t get better with age. But don’t be surprised to the see the club perhaps bring in a low-cost veteran to take over behind the plate if Castro just isn’t ready on Opening Day. Among the free agents who could fit that bill are Gregg Zaun, Matt Treanor and Josh Bard or similiar-type players in age (older), ability (declining) and salary (cheap). Unless the Astros don’t tender him a contract, Quintero appears poised to return as the back up yet again.

Who’s on the farm: Ben Heath, taken in the fifth round in the 2010 Draft out of Penn State, had a solid debut and finished the year with a cup of coffee at Double-A Corpus Christi. He hit a combined .276/.387/.495 with 10 homers and 38 RBIs in 210 at-bats between short-season Tri-City and Class A Lexington, spending 37 games at the New York-Penn League and 20 games in the South Atlantic League. Venezuelan switch-hitter Federico Hernandez hit a combined .273/.303/.429 last season between Class A Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi. Farther away, 2010 Draft pick Chris Wallace hit a combined .293 with 10 homers and 40 RBIs between rookie-league Greeneville and Tri-City. Jonathan Fixler and Lou Santangelo saw time at Corpus Christi last year, too.

In summary: Castro is the man of the future, but if he winds up not being able to cut it, the Astros seem to have a wave a younger catchers on the rise in the Minors for the first time in years.

 

 

 

Phils, Cards the focus in Oswalt talks; Towles, Steele suffer setbacks

Not a whole lot new to report Thursday night, so I’ll keep it simple.

The Astros are continuing to have lots of discussions with several clubs, though nothing of substance. They continue to have dialogue about Roy Oswalt, who has requested to be traded. Every team in contention has kicked the tires on Oswalt, but as MLB.com accurately reported Wednesday the focus at this point is on the Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals in the bid for Oswalt’s services.

Meanwhile, Oswalt is focusing on breaking Joe Niekro’s record while addressing trade speculation. He starts against the Reds on Saturday in an effort to try to tie Joe Niekro’s franchise record of 144 wins. Oswalt is 23-2 all-time against the Reds.

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J.R. Towles, who began the season as the Astros starting catcher before he was sent down to Double-A Corpus Christi, will have his broken right thumb examined by team physician Dr. Tom Mehlhoff on Friday in Houston. He broke it during a head-first slide on May 13 and it’s not progressing the way the team had hoped.

“He’s still having some soreness and pain and discomfort in his hand and we had to back him off,” said Astros assistant general manager Ricky Bennett, who is in Corpus Christi watching the Hooks.

Bennett also said speedy outfielder T.J. Steele, a fourth-round pick in 2008 who had a nice season in 2009, could be lost for the rest of the year. Steele was hitting .228 with two homers and 18 RBIs in 241 at-bats for Double-A Corpus Christi before he suffered a bone bruise in his left hand while swinging the bat. He’s been out since July 5.

Steele had an MRI in Corpus Christi on Wednesday.

“His wrist issue hasn’t been resolving and he’s got some tendinitis or something else going and there is a possibility he won’t play for the rest of this season at this point,” Bennett said.

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