Results tagged ‘ Jason Bourgeois ’

New-look Astros bring enthusiasm

There’s a good chance the Astros will be starting three rookies in most games the rest of the season. Call it throwing in the towel or looking towards the future, but the bottom line is the Astros had to shake things up. One player said Tuesday it felt like Opening Day all over again, coming to the ballpark and knowing Jason Castro, Chris Johnson and Jason Bourgeois would be in uniform.

The Astros were getting little offensive production from their catchers and had top prospect Castro waiting in the wings. Pedro Feliz has been a huge disappointment at third base since signing as a free agent and with Johnson tearing it up at Triple-A Round Rock, the move made sense. Tommy Manzella has been starting at shortstop since Opening Day and appears to have settled down defensively, while the Astros hope he can make more strides on offense.

Despite the high-price contracts of franchise icons Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt and left-fielder Carlos Lee, the future is the Astros is in their young players. Players like Castro and Johnson and Double-A pitcher Jordan Lyles, who will pitch in the Futures Games this year.

“Obviously when you’re in the situation we are, having gone through a little more than a third of the season and you’re still sucking wind, you get to the point where you’re like, ‘Hey, let’s try something,'” Berkman said. “I think, that’s kind of where we are now at this point.”

Berkman admits he feels old, but not necessarily because he’s surrounded by fresh-faced youngsters.

“I don’t think we’ve had as many young guys as this probably since the early ’90s when Craig [Biggio] and Jeff [Bagwell] and those guys started infusing the organziation with the next wave of new talent,” Berkman said. “You had those playoff teams, good teams in mid ’80s and a few good teams in there and that wave came and went and you’ve got some new guys coming in. I don’t think this is dissimilar. In any organization, you’ve got cycles and it’s time for some of these new guys step in and see what they can do.”

Castro coming, and not a moment too soon

If you follow me on Twitter — and I don’t know why you wouldn’t if you want the latest Astros news — you may remember during Sunday’s game I threw out the stats of catcher Jason Castro and third baseman Chris Johnson. Castro was having a solid season and getting better, and Johnson was simply smoking the ball.

While I was looking at Round Rock’s stats and watching the Astros lose their eighth game in a nine-game span, I couldn’t help but think. Why not? Why not bring Castro and Johnson up and see what they can do? So when the Astros announced after the game they had called up Castro, Johnson and outfielder Jason Bourgeois, it was met with much anticipation in the press box.

“I think we have to see what some of these guys can do,” manager Brad Mills said. “If they are the ones to go further to go beyond this year then we need to find those answers and we need to find out about it.”

Exactly.

Castro, the first Draft pick of the Ed Wade-Bobby Heck regime to reach the Majors, will get the “lion’s share” of the time behind the plate, according to Mills. In other words, he’s the starter. He’s not coming up here to sit the bench. There are 92 games left in the season, and the Astros need to find out if he can play at the Major League level. Scouts like his defense, the club raves about his game-calling ability, but can he hit? We’ll find out.

Pedro Feliz has been a disappointment at third base, both offensively and defensively. So why not give Johnson a shot? The signing of Feliz in the offseason was a sign the club wasn’t exactly sold on Johnson, especially when you consider they were committed to giving Tommy Manzella the job at shortstop.

Mills said Johnson would get a lot of playing time at third, so it will be interesting how much Feliz plays the rest of the way. Here’s hoping Johnson, unlike last year when he was called up and didn’t play, gets a bulk of the starts so the Astros know what they have going into 2011.

I’d keep Manzella in the lineup, too. He’s making strides on offense and has settled down defensively. Perhaps he winds up starting against left-handers more, but what’s to lose by getting him another 300 at-bats this season?

Bourgeois was tearing it up at Triple-A and may be a late-bloomer. We know he can fly and he gives Mills a different kind of weapon off the bench. Keep in mind Cory Sullivan, who was designated for assignment, was a left-handed hitter and Bourgeois hits right-handed. But Bourgeois can do things Sullivan can’t.

Simply put, this youth movement is exciting. The Astros will never admit to rebuilding, but the arrival of Castro could be a watershed moment in the franchise’s future. And that future is now.

Day 35: Injuries mount in final week of camp

Remember how we all joked about Camp Quiet? That was in February, when one of the coldest winters in Florida history forced everyone to wear jackets for workouts. That was back when the Astros weren’t making any news, except for mild ankle sprains by Casey Daigle and Jeff Fulchino.

Things sure have changed.

Lance Berkman, Brett Myers, Roy Oswalt, Michael Bourn, Tommy Manzella, Jason Bourgeois, Alberto Arias and Yorman Bazardo have all gone down with injuries. Suddenly, Kaz Matsui is the healthiest guy on the team. Most of the injuries are strains and not serious, though Arias could be headed for the DL and Berkman had minor knee surgery.

Oswalt joined the M*A*S*H unit Friday when he left his start against the Pirates after four innings with a mild left hamstring strain. Oswalt isn’t concerned, but GM Ed Wade showed enough concern to send Oswalt to Houston to be examined.

The Astros did have some good news Friday, rallying for four runs in the eighth and two in the ninth to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-4. Chris Johnson’s two-out, two-run walk-off home run that struck the batters eye in center field a few feet from the top, won the game.

Here’s the breakdown:

The good: Before his hamstring started to bother him, Oswalt looked terrific. He retired 10 of the first 11 batters he faced, striking out six batters in that span. He threw 60 pitches (41 strikes) and gave up three hits and one run in four innings. Brandon Lyon threw one scoreless innings and appears to have put his shoulder troubles in the past.

How about Drew Locke and T.J. Steele? These two guys continue to impress with how they’re swinging the bat in Grapefruit League play when they’re pulled over from Minor League camp. Steele started in center field and went 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI, and Locke had a three-run triple in the eighth inning in his only at-bat.

Johnson and non-roster first baseman Chris Shelton are making things interesting. Johnson, who has been pretty much pegged for Triple-A Round Rock since the spring started, is hitting .326 and leads the team with five homers and is second with 14 RBIs.

“I’ve got to remember, though, it’s just spring,” he said. “These don’t count yet.”

When asked if he feels he has opened some eyes, he said: “We’ve got a new group of guys coming in and a whole new coaching staff, and that’s all I’m trying to do is show them what I can do if they’ve never seen me play before.”

Shelton, whose double in the ninth set up Johnson’s homer, is hitting .333 with two homers and 11 RBIs in 36 at-bats. He could be making a push to make the team, considering Berkman could begin the year on the DL and they could carry an extra infielder by going with a four-man rotation.

Competition at the end of camp is a good thing.

“That’s the way you want to do it,” Mills said. “You hope you have to make those types of decisions. You hope they come down to the end like this, and that’s exactly what’s happened.”

The not-so-good: The only regulars the Astros had in the starting lineup Friday were third baseman Pedro Feliz and left fielder Carlos Lee, so perhaps that helps explain why Pirates starter Zach Duke shut them out on two hits for 6 2/3 innings. When the benches emptied in the eighth, the bats came alive.

Bud Norris, who was originally scheduled to pitch in a Minor League game, followed Oswalt and Lyon and threw four innings, giving up four hits and three earned runs. Norris struggled in the ninth against some Pirates hitters that aren’t going to make the team, but Mills was glad he was able to get up and down four times after missing a start with the flu.

What did Norris take from the 58-pitch outing?

“It was a whirlwind because I thought I was on the Minor League side, but I’m glad [pitching coach Brad Arnsberg] moved it around so I could pitch out there,” he said. “I felt good, my body felt good and arm felt good, and I’m glad I pitched as long as I did. I had only had 7 1/3 innings coming in and that was the biggest part. I completely understood the reason for it and I’m glad they go me out there.”

What they said: “This late in camp, there’s always concern, no doubt about it. The one positive on that note is he wanted to go back out. He said he felt the strain in his left hamstring. He’s concerned about it, but he’s not so scared that he wasn’t willing to go out there and pitch.” – Mills on the health of Oswalt.

What’s next: Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez will make his penultimate start of the spring when he faces the Tampa Bay Rays at 12:05 p.m. CT on Saturday at Osceola County Stadium. Rodriguez, who threw 90 pitches in his previous start Monday, has gotten knocked around this spring. He’s given up 20 hits and 16 earned runs in 13 innings in his four starts. Matt Lindstrom, Jeff Fulchino, Tim Byrdak and Yorman Bazardo are also scheduled to pitch.

Astro-notes: Michael Bourn, who’s been out a week with a strained oblique, went 1-for-4 with a stolen base in a Minor League game Friday and said he’s ready to return to action. Mills said Bourn could be in the lineup Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays. … The Astros trimmed their roster to 38 players on Friday, optioning left-handed pitcher Wesley Wright to Triple-A Round Rock and reassigning right-hander Shane Loux and infielder Oswaldo Navarro to Minor League camp.

Monday morning Astros update

Astros manager Brad Mills said Monday morning his group of injured players were improving: Lance Berkman (knee surgery), Michael Bourn (strained oblique), Jason Bourgeois (strained hamstring), Tommy Manzella (strained quadriceps) and Yorman Bazardo (shoulder strain). Right-hander Alberto Arias (shoulder strain) was scheduled to get an MRI on Monday morning.

“Lance came into the office and said he felt better today and that’s always good to hear from him,” Mills said. “We’re trying to keep his range of motion where it needs to be and keep the swelling down. Bourgeois felt better when he came in today, and Manzella is feeling and looking better. Those things are good. Arias is getting an MRI this morning and we’ll looking forward to hearing back from him. Bazardo is getting stronger every day and playing catch and doing all his things.”

Arias, Bazardo and Bourgeois are fighting for spots on the club, and Mills admitted their inability to get on the field isn’t helping their chances.

“We’re not looking at this as a detriment to them because we want them healthy, but at the same time if they can’t go out and perform they can’t show us,” he said. “Jason has been able to show us quite a bit. Bazardo hasn’t been able to show us very much and it’s more of a situation with him than Jason because of that.”

Bourgeois strained his left hamstring Sunday, a few weeks after he strained his right hamstring early in camp. Considering Bourgeois’ speed is his biggest asset, the injury is frustrating.

“That’s my game,” Bourgeois said. “It’s unfortunate but these things happen.”

Bourgeois was able to play catch and take batting practice, but he’s not going to do any quick movements. Manzella is still at least a week away from returning.

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Because of rainouts, split-squad games and Monday’s off day, the starting rotation has been thrown a little off. Wandy Rodriguez will start Monday against the Cardinals, with Felipe Paulino to pitch Tuesday in Bradenton against the Pirates. Reliever Casey Daigle will make a spot start Wednesday at the New York Mets.

Oswalt, who threw one inning Sunday in Kissimmee before rain washed out the game against the Mets, will take his turn Friday. Bud Norris and Brian Moehler, both of whom pitched against Boston in Sunday’s split-squad game, will be worked in. Norris said he might pitch in a Minor League game.

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With starting shortstop Tommy Manzella out for at least another week with a strained quadriceps, veteran Geoff Blum was scheduled to see his first action of the spring at shortstop on Monday. Blum plays primarily first base and third base at this point in his career, but he has played 190 games at shortstop in his career.

“We have to look at all of our options,” Mills said. “With Tommy being down for a few days we want to make sure we see [Edwin] Maysonet over there and [Jeff] Keppinger and Blummer. We’ll keep all options open. This is the first time we put him out there this year. I’ve got to see him play out there. I do know he’s got good hands, a good arm and his experience and being able to position himself where he needs to be should help his range.”

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