Results tagged ‘ Jiovanni Mier ’

A look back on the 2011 Minor League season

The Astros’ eight Minor League affiliates went a combined 337-488, with no team finishing with a winning record. Of the four full-season clubs, Triple-A Oklahoma City finished with the best record at 68-75 in the Pacific Coast League. Double-A Corpus Christi went 50-90 overall, Class A Lancaster was 55-85 overall and Class A Lexington was 59-79 overall.

Astros director of player development Fred Nelson wished the teams’ collective performances would have been better, but the club pushed players aggressively through the system this year and continued to send players to the Major Leagues.

“I would say we’re disappointed from a team standpoint, but I spent some time over the weekend looking at some things and our clubs have been very young,” Nelson said. “And so it makes it difficult at times to compete. That’s no excuse, but certainly our clubs have been young and we’re also just one of seven other clubs that field seven teams here in the United States, so you spread your players a little bit thinner. The individual performances have been very rewarding.”

The system sent several players to the Major Leagues, including third baseman Jimmy Paredes, second baseman Jose Altuve and left fielder J.D. Martinez, each of whom made the jump from Double-A to start in the big leagues. Twenty-year-old pitcher Jordan Lyles made 15 starts for the Astros.

“We moved a lot of players this year, some of it by need,” Nelson said. “Also, just the domino effect. When you take guys to the big leagues it creates holes and opportunities, and we really pushed a lot of kids and most have held their own and done quite well and positioned themselves to be pretty good players for us.”

The biggest impact on the system came when the team traded away Jeff Keppinger, Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn near the Trade Deadline. The Astros received 10 players in return, including four of the Phillies’ top prospects – pitchers Jarred Cosart, first baseman Jonathan Singleton, pitcher Josh Zeid and a player to be named later that turned out to be outfielder Domingo Santana.

Pitcher Henry Sosa, who came from the Giants in the Keppinger deal, joined the Astros rotation and has pitched well. Two players acquired from the Braves – outfielder Jordan Schafer and pitcher Juan Abreu – are in the Major Leagues.

“The influx of players, especially the pitchers we got in the trades, have helped us at the Double-A and Triple-A levels moving forward,” Nelson said. “And some of the young kids, the Singleton kid and the signing of [first-round pick George] Springer and the Santana kid that we got from Philadelphia, has really helped us get younger.”

Springer is scheduled to go the instructional league in Florida, and the team is exploring the possibility of trying to find him a winter ball spot in a less competitive environment that Venezuela or the Dominican Republic.

“I think he’ll have a busy offseason playing and that should position himself well to come to Spring Training with a good idea of what’s expected and what’s here,” Nelson said.

The Astros were, of course, thrilled with what Kody Hinze was able to do while splitting the season between Class A Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi. He hit a combined .306 with 29 homers and 98 RBIs. He had a .458 on-base percentage and a 1.083 OPS in 80 games at Lancaster, which is in the hitting-friendly California League.

One of the players that opened eyes this season is left-handed hitting outfielder Jacob Goebbert, who began the year in Lancaster and finished in Triple-A Oklahoma City. He hit a combined .290 with 12 homers and 67 RBIs with a .352 on-base percentage.

The Astros were pleased with the progress of shortstop Jonathan Villar, who was acquired last year in a trade with the Phillies. He began the season at Lancaster and finished up at Corpus Christi and began to mature and settle into his new surroundings.

Nelson was also impressed with right-hander Jake Buchanan, a starter who was drafted in the eighth round in 2010. He went 5-10 with a 3.91 ERA at Lancaster, walking 35 batters and striking out 102 in 158 2/3 innings in the hitter-friendly California League.

“He pitched exceptionally well,” Nelson said. “We moved him for his last start, with [Lucas] Harrell coming to the big leagues, and he went to Double-A and threw seven innings and gave up a run. That was a nice ending to the season. You’ve got to be excited about what he did.”

Outfielder Austin Wates, the team’s third-round pick in 2010 out of Virginia Tech, batted .300 with nine triples, six homers and 75 RBIs this year in 526 at-bats at Lancaster.

“He’s somebody that had not played a lot in the organization,” Nelson said. “He signed late and went to Tri-City and for the first time and in a full season to go out to the Cal League and do what he did, ending up at .300 and driving in 70-plus runs, that’s good.”

As far as the team’s most recent first-round selections, 2010 pick Delino DeShields Jr. batted just .220 with 30 stolen bases in Class A Lexington of the South Atlantic League, but the Astros were pleased with the way he made the transition full-time from the outfield to second base.

“Delino DeShields actually played outstanding in the Sally League when you look at the fact he played all year at 18,” Nelson said. “I believe he may have been the youngest player in the league. To go from being a converted outfielder to the infield and what we saw of him a year ago in the instructional league to where he stands now defensively is pretty remarkable on his part.

“You have to give him a lot of credit, and a lot of credit to the development people who worked with him. He has a long way to go. He’s just 18 years old, and I could see him being a player that repeats in that league.”

Shortstop Jiovanni Mier, the team’s No. 1 pick in 2009, split the season between Lexington and Lancaster and batted a combined .239 with seven homers, 52 RBIs and a .345 on-base percentage.

“After the All-Star game, we moved him to California League and he played outstanding defense,” Nelson said. “He did get hurt; he missed two-to-three weeks with a knee injury. He has made some adjustments offensively and I think he’s had some challenges offensively. He’s positioned himself to come back and compete for a job in Double-A next year.”

Meanwhile, Vincent Velasquez is making progress in his return from Tommy John surgery. Velasquez was the Astros’ second-round pick in 2010 out of high school in Southern California, and he injured his elbow pitching at rookie-league Greeneville.

Nelson said he’ll throw some innings in the instructional league later this month.

“We’re excited about the progress he made, and we’re looking forward to him getting back into action,” he said. “It’s almost like we acquired another [player through the draft].”

Altuve, Villar promoted; Paredes to 3B

The Astros have promoted 5-foot-7 second baseman Jose Altuve and shortstop Jonathan Villar to Double-A Corpus Christi from Class A Lancaster in a move that will move Jimmy Paredes to third base. Astros director of player development Fred Nelson said it’s time for Altuve and Villar to get tested at a higher level.

“Altuve is a guy that has come onto our radar screen,” Nelson said. “He’s continues to play well. He’s not a very big kid in stature, but he plays like a man and knows how to play the game and he’s a guy that’s a baseball player. There comes a point in time when we have to take notice of that and we certainly have.”

Altuve, 21, leads the California League with a ridiculous batting average of .408 (87-for-213) with five homers, 34 RBIs and a leading-leading seven triples. Villar, acquired by the Astros from the Phillies in the Roy Oswalt trade, was hitting .259 with four homers, 26 RBIs and 20 steals at Lancaster.

“We just felt the time was right to give [Altuve] an opportunity, and it gives the organization a chance to see how good of a player he is and how he adjusts to a higher level,” Nelson said. “He’s had a wonderful year offensively for us.”

Nelson said the Astros want Villar to focus on making better contact while at Corpus Christi.

“At times he overswings and comes off the ball,” he said. “He’s got enough power to drive balls in alleys and will hit some home runs. He needs to be more of a line drive, gap-to-gap guy, with better contact.  His defensive skills are really quality.”

Paredes, acquired by the Astros from the Yankees in last year’s trade for Lance Berkman, is hitting .265 in 162 at-bats as Corpus Christi’s second baseman. He’s made a team-high nine errors.

“We don’t have any problems getting him at-bats at third,” said Nelson, who added that Paredes could get time at second in the instructional league or the Arizona Fall League. “As much as anything, it’s a way to get two other guys on the club and get them all at-bats. He’s the most logical guy to move over and take some reps at third.”

In other roster moves, third baseman David Flores is being sent down to Lancaster after hitting .212 at Corpus Christi. Left fielder Daniel Adamson is going on the disabled list at Lexington and the Astros are bringing outfielder Jordan Scott, who’s in extended Spring Training, to join the Lexington club. Henry Rodriguez, a utility infielder, is joining Lancaster from extended Spring Training.Nelson sang the praises of 2009 first-round Draft pick Jiovanni Mier, a shortstop who’s hitting .259 with five homers and 27 RBIs in 170 at-bats at Lexington. He’s committed eight errors in 45 games.

“He’s really matured and is playing really, really sound defense,” Nelson said. “We really like what we’ve seen there. I think he’s right on track. I think he’s matured as a player, he’s not as hard on himself and understands the season’s long and there’s going to be ups and downs and you have to be able to deal with both. I’m really impressed with how he’s conducted himself and how sound he’s been on defense.”

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 (0×4, 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 (0×1, 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 (0×3); IF Brian Dopirak (0×3); IF Jimmy Paredes (0×2, BB); OF J.B. Shuck (3×3, 3B); OF Drew Locke (0×3, R); C Brian Esposito (0×2, RBI); IF Jiovanni Mier (0×1, BB); OF Jon Gaston (0×3); IF Oswaldo Navarro (0×2).

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.

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: shortstop

Our latest Astros position-by-position breakdown takes a look at shortstop, a position the Astros are going to be looking to upgrade offensively in the offseason:

SHORTSTOP

2010 Opening Day starter: Tommy Manzella.

2010 end-of-season starters: Tommy Manzella and Angel Sanchez.

Others who were in the mix in 2010: Jeff Keppinger, Geoff Blum, Anderson Hernandez, Matt Downs, Oswaldo Navarro.

Combined 2010 stats of Astros shortstops: .260 BA/.312 OBP/.321 SLG, 22 doubles, 2 homers, 54 RBIs, 40 walks, 127 strikeouts, 585 at-bats.

Free agents: Anderson Hernandez (Minor League).

Arbitration eligible: None.

What happened: The Astros went into last season ready to let Tommy Manzella show what he could do on offense, knowing all the while he was a Major League-ready defensive shortstop. Manzella struggled with the bat for much of the year, and came out the gate a little shaky on defense. But he got better with the glove as the season went on and blossomed into the defensive player the club had seen throughout the Minor Leagues.

Jeff Keppinger made a few starts at shortstop, but would soon be entrenched at second after the Astros cut ties with Kaz Matsui. That opened the door for Geoff Blum to get in some time at second base, as well. Manzella hit .224 in April and .192 in May before breaking his left index finger diving for a ball in late June and missing more than six weeks of the regular season. With Oswaldo Navarro and Blum the only options at shortstop after Manzella went down, the Astros traded catcher Kevin Cash to Boston for shortstop Angel Sanchez.

Sanchez hit .280 in 250 at-bats and impressed with the Astros with to put the ball in play. He went 4-for-6 and drove in a career-high six runs on Aug. 3 at St. Louis, but had only four RBIs over the next 31 games. Sanchez had only 13 extra-base hits, including no home runs, and proved to be a below-average defender because of his arm and his limited range. That’s why the Astros tinkered with him at second base, but he was still a better offensive option than Manzella.

Manzella, who hit .290 against left-handers, did end the season on the upswing offensively after coming back from his broken finger. He hit .261 in 69 at-bats to finish the season. He and Sanchez were splitting time at shortstop when the season came to an end.

What’s next: Manzella and Sanchez will back next year battling for a spot at shortstop, but the Astros will make it a priority in the offseason to find more offensive punch at shortstop, whether through free agency or a trade. That shouldn’t come as a surprise when you consider the Astros managed only two home runs out of their shortstops last year. And when you consider the outfield is set and the club is committed to Jason Castro at catcher, Brett Wallace at first and Chris Johnson at third, adding offense at shortstop and/or second base makes the most sense.

Bringing in a new player could lead to a platoon situation at shortstop or even at second base, where Keppinger brings limited offensive tools. Depending on which player the Astros bring in, Manzella and Sanchez could be competing for a roster spot next spring.

Who’s on the farm: Jiovanni Mier, the Astros’ No. 1 Draft pick from 2009, is still considered the club’s shortstop of the future, but he’s a few years away. He’s off to a slow start, but he was drafted out of high school and is still making adjustments. He hit .235/.323/.314 in 131 games last season with two homers, 53 RBIs and 15 stolen bases at low Class A Lexington. The Astros are also excited about adding Jimmy Paredes and Jonathan Villar in the two deals they made at the trading deadline. They both are athletic, strong kids who bring speed.

 

Ed Wade on Paulino, Mier and another drug suspension

Felipe Paulino, the barrel-chested right-hander with the 98-mph fastball and little ability to throw it for strikes, is back with the Astros, and based on the comments made by general manager Ed Wade on Wednesday it appears Paulino better get things ironed out soon.

Paulino is 2-1 with a 3.12 ERA this year at Triple-A Round Rock, but he’s been an enigma at the Major League level since he made his debut with six scoreless innings on the final day of the 2007 season. He’s 4-7 with a 7.24 ERA in 20 career Major League games (14 starts), including 2-6 with a 7.28 ERA this year.

“I think Felipe needs to take advantage of every opportunity he gets to stand 60, 6 inches away from Major League hitters,” Wade said. “He’s got to show that he’s prepared to take advantage of these opportunities. He needs to give us a clear signal going into Spring Training next year that he’s prepared to win a job and hold it for the entire season and help us win.

“He’s got the stuff to do it. It’s not too late, but he’s got to step up and take advantage of this. We see the stuff, but it’s got to come out in whatever role he’s given for the remainder of the season. Right now, it’s a bullpen role.”

When Paulino was sent down Aug. 8, the Astros told him to work on his fastball command. He’s been used in relief and as a starter, and Wade said when he hits Kissimmee next year he better be ready to win a spot. Wade said the careers of Paulino and Fernando Nieve with the Astros were at “high noon” at Spring Training this year, and Nieve was soon cut loose.

“Aside from being out of options, when you’re as big and physical and with the tools Felipe’s got, you want to see it manifest itself on a regular bases from the standpoint of success,” Wade said. “He certainly needs to understand this is the best opportunity he’s going to get for a while and to make the most out of it.”

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Astros general manager Ed Wade returned Monday from a tour of some of the Astros’ Minor League clubs, including short-season Tri-City, rookie-league Greeneville and the new Gulf Coast League team in Kissimmee, Fla.

Wade saw three games in Tri-City and was impressed with left-hander Dallas Keuchel, a seventh-round pick from Arkansas in this year’s Draft. At Greeneville, he lauded the left side of the infield – third baseman Jonathan Myer (third round pick in 2009) and shortstop Jiovanni Mier, the Astros’ No. 1 pick.

Mier is hitting .286 with five homers, 25 RBIs and a .394 on-base percentage in 39 games.

“All indications are this kid is everything we hoped he would be from standpoint of ability, instincts, athleticism, makeup and leadership qualities,” Wade. “One of our guys was having a conversation and trying to make a point to one of our Latin players down there that had minimal English-speaking ability, and Jiovanni stepped right in and took control of the conversation and interpreted for him. We’ve heard a lot of stories like that about him.”

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Left-hander Gabriel Garcia, who was playing for the Greeneville Astros of the Appalachian League (Rookie), was suspended 50 games Wednesday after testing positive in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. He tested positive for metabolites of Nandrolone.

Garcia is the third Minor League player in the Astros’ system this year to receive a 50-game suspension, joining Mitch Einertson at Double-A Corpus Christi and pitcher Felix Ramirez of the Dominican Summer League. Einertson tested positive for a drug of abuse, and Ramirez for Boldenone.

MLB guidelines for “drugs of abuse” stipulate that a player’s first positive test is not subject to an announcement or penalty, while a second violation carries a 50-game ban. Performance-enhancing drug violations, however, carry a 50-game suspension for a first offense.

“I’m always concerned about it,” general manager Ed Wade said. “We try to educate the players as best as we can to avoid being put in those positions, and I think we’ve done a good job with that . Any player who tests positive is making a mistake, so I’m certainly not justifying what anybody has done or what other circumstances develop within our organization.

“That said, I think our numbers are below average for the 30 clubs. But again, as an industry we have to get to a point of zero players testing positive for any type of substances and having zero tolerance for it. If you see enough of your teammates missing 50 games, unless you’re a little dense, the message should be getting through.”

Mier's one-liner, Geary's exit and a catching shuffle

It was one line in a conference call, a line delivered by a teenage No. 1 draft pick. Just the same, it was about a former MVP and an All-Star who plays the same position.

What exactly did Jiovanni Mier say when asked by reporters about playing shortstop for the Astros, who drafted him No. 21 overall in Tuesday’s First-Year Player Draft?

“When I was down in Houston for the workout, one of the scouts was saying they wanted to get rid of [Miguel] Tejada and were looking for a shortstop,” he said. “I got big-eyed.”

Pause. Awkward silence.

You could call it a rookie mistake, if Mier was actually even a rookie.

In any case, the Astros brushed off the comment.

“I think it’s irrelevant,” general manager Ed Wade said. “We’ve got one guy who’s an All-Star shortstop who has a pretty good history of performing at this level and is having another All-Star-caliber season. We have an 18-year-old who’s hopefully beginning his professional baseball career pretty soon.

“Who we selected [in the draft] today or yesterday and how it impacts the composition of the big club in the short term is irrelevant.”

Wade even made light of the situation.

“Hopefully that’s not part of the recruiting speech,” he joked.

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The Astros’ decision to outright relief pitcher Geoff Geary is certainly a curious one. He was one of the team’s most dependable members of the bullpen last year and had only pitched in 16 games, though ineffective, this year before going on the disabled list.

If Geary wants to continue to get paid by the Astros, he’ll have to accept his Minor League assignment and report to Round Rock and work his way back to the Majors. If not, he’s a free agent and will have to convince another team to give him a paycheck.

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Speaking of curious moves, manager Cecil Cooper had Humberto Quintero – and not Ivan Rodriguez – behind the plate for Wednesday’s game. I-Rod had caught each of Wandy Rodriguez’s previous 12 starts and had been praised for helping the left-hander blossom.

Wandy allowed nine hits and five runs in 4 2/3 innings in his previous start five days earlier against Pittsburgh, and Ivan Rodriguez told general manager Ed Wade afterwards he thought Wandy was tipping pitches. Wandy said repeatedly he couldn’t find anything on videotape.

“He and Pudge had worked together for 10 or 12 starts, and I just said a change might be what’s needed for awhile,” Cooper said. “I’m going to start it today and see what happens. It’s not something Pudge is really happy with but I understand that. He wants to be an everyday guy and he and Wandy have had a good run.

“I think Q is playing pretty good. Let’s change it up and see what happens. It’s like changing Lance [Berkman] from third to fifth [in the order] or Hunter [Pence] from fifth to sixth. You have to make changes sometimes.” 

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