Results tagged ‘ Jonathan Villar ’

Villar benched by Porter

Astros manager Bo Porter pulled starting shortstop Jonathan Villar in the third inning of Tuesday’s 9-6 loss to the Twins for what the skipper described as an ill-advised base running gaffe with his team trailing, 4-1.

Villar led off the third with a single to left field, but he was thrown out trying to stretch the hit to a double. Marwin Gonzalez played the rest of the game at shortstop while Villar watched the final nine innings from the bench.

“I learned this a long time ago from Sandy Alomar,” Porter said. “He told me the scoreboard is the most important object on the baseball field. I explained this to Jonathan after the game.”

What did Porter tell Villar exactly: “’I would never want to take your aggression away from you. It’s part of what makes you a special player, but at the same time you have to be aware of the situation that’s going on and what’s the score.’ We have a starting pitcher out there who has basically labored for three innings, we’re down, 4-1, and get the leadoff man on and that’s not a time to take that kind of a chance.”

Earlier this season, Porter benched outfielder J.D. Martinez for swinging at a pitch in a situation in which the hitters had been instructed not to swing. Porter said Tuesday pulling Villar was a “no-brainer.”

“As the umpire was calling him out at second base, I was telling Gonzo to get ready to go to shortstop,” Porter said. “I believe that Jonathan will receive the message properly because him and I talked about it. I think it will help him moving forward.

“He’s young, he’s aggressive and I told him, ‘Your aggression is what allows you to be an impact player. But at the same time, that scoreboard is the most important object on this field and you have to understand there are times when the scoreboard will dictate to you exactly how aggressive you should be.’”

Grossman suffers oblique injury

Astros left fielder Robbie Grossman had to be pulled from Tuesday’s game in the middle of his at-bat in the 12th inning after suffering a strained right oblique while swinging the bat. It’s unclear the extent of the injury.

“It just bit me on the swing,” said Grossman, who went 2-for-5 and is hitting .322 since he was called up for the second time July 28. “We’ll see how it feels [Wednesday] and go from there.”

Astros manager Bo Porter noticed Grossman grimace on the swing and sent assistant athletic trainer Rex Jones to the plate to check on the rookie. Matt Pagnozzi, acquired by the Astros in a trade late Monday, took Grossman’s place in the box and grounded out to end the game.

Grossman said he had a similar injury a few years ago.

“At this stage of the season, you just don’t want to end up having a guy miss a considerable amount of time,” Porter said. “It was best to get him out at that point and allow the trainers to do everything they can to get him healthy.”

Castro has cyst in knee drained

All-Star catcher Jason Castro has a cyst on his right knee drained on Tuesday and doesn’t expect be sidelined long-term.

Castro, who was taken from the game in the second inning Monday following his second hit, was examined by team doctors on Tuesday and diagnosed with a cyst on the medial side of his knee. After having it drained, Castro said he was already feeling better.

“It was kind of interfering with my hamstring tendon based on where it was located,” he said. “They drained it, and hopefully that should provide some relief. We’ll see. It’s just day-to-day, I guess.”

Castro, who missed the entire 2011 season following surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, said he fouled a ball off his knee in the first inning Monday, which aggravated the cyst.

“I think that kind of getting it taken care of and getting it drained out and tended to will solve the problem,” he said. “Like I said, it’s a day-to-day kind of thing. As of right now, it’s feeling OK and the more time we get away from it happening [Monday] the better it feels. As the day goes on, it feels better and better.”

Castro, an All-Star this season and two-time American League Player of the Week, is having a career season, hitting .282 with 18 homers and 56 RBIs. He’s the latest in a string of catching injuries for the Astros.

Carlos Corporan suffered a concussion Aug. 19 when he took a foul ball of his facemask, and his replacement, Max, Stassi, was hit in the head by a pitch two days later and hasn’t played since because of a concussion. Corporan could return to the Astros on Monday.

Astros cut 10 players from Major League camp

The Astros trimmed their Spring Training roster by 10 players on Sunday morning, optioning outfielders Robbie Grossman, Jimmy Paredes, shortstop Jonathan Villar and pitchers Paul Clemens and Dallas Keuchel to Minor League camp and reassigning outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin, catcher Carlos Perez and pitchers C.J. Fick, Josh Zeid and Sergio Escalona to Minor League camp.

The moves leave the Astros with 39 players in camp two weeks shy of the March 31 season-opener against the Texas Rangers (that includes pitchers Jose Veras and Xavier Cedeno, who are competing in the World Baseball Classic).

“We open up two weeks from today, and even though it’s a long Spring Training, it feels as though it’s gone very quickly,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do here. We’ve got to get down to 25. Pitchers are going longer in games, we’ve got innings to dole out, we want to see our position players go a little deeper and have a few more at-bats as well.

“A lot of these guys we’re sending out today have a bright future in our organization, and they know they’ll be back. They need to go down and get regular work and go to their respective Minor League locations and show us what they can do. We know the 25 we start with are not the 25 we’re going to have all year.

“They’ve done, by in large, a good job and especially when you have a new staff at the big league level, it’s a clean slate for everybody. Everybody gets to know each other, and I think it’s been very good for a lot of these players to really take advantage of clean slate to go out and impress. When the time comes, our staff is not going to hesitate to want them back up here.”

With Hinze on way to Double-A, Corpus Christi loading up

With Kody Hinze on his way to Double-A later this week to play first base for the Hooks, those who are waiting for the next crop of young Astros prospects to reach the Major Leagues have to like what’s taking place at Corpus Christi.

Hinze, who is hitting .326 with 22 homers and 69 RBIs at Class A Lancaster, will join a promising infield at Corpus Christi: Jose Altuve at second base, Jimmy Paredes at third base and Jonathan Villar at shortstop. Altuve and Villar were promoted on June 1. Hinze is 23 years old.

“Kody’s obviously sung the bat very well in what we know is an offensive environment, but the thing that’s impressive about Kody is he leads the league in walks [70 walks, 73 strikeouts] and has a good on-base percentage,” Astros director of player development Fred Nelson said. “Some of the peripheral things in the offensive ranks are real high, and I think that equates to pitch select and command of strike zone and the ablity to take pitches an put the ball in play. He’s got the ability and tools to strive there [in Double-A].”

Altuve, who will represent the Astros at the 2011 XM All-Star Futures Game in Phoenix next month, is hitting .371 with four homers and 22 RBIs in 30 games at Corpus Christi. Paredes is hitting .273 with six homers and 26 RBIs.

Catcher Chris Wallace was promoted to Double-A last month and is off to a quick start, hitting .313 with 2 homers and 10 RBIs in 10 games. Wallace and outfielder J.D. Martinez each hit a grand slam in Sunday’s 16-3 over Northwest Arkansas.

“We’ve had some kids that have gone from real nice offensive years and not duplicated them in Double-A out of Lancaster, but we just think [Hinze is] is one of those guys, along with Altuve and Villar, that should hold their own and make progress,” Nelson said.

Martinez, who appears to have worked his way back from a nagging hamstring injury, is hitting .331 with seven homers and 52 RBIs in 65 games and could be getting a call to Triple-A Oklahoma City later this year if he stays healthy.

There are some positive happens on the mound, too.

Left-hander Dallas Keuchel threw his fifth consecutive quality start Sunday to improve to 7-6 with a 2.62 ERA in 15 starts. He’s thrown seven innings each of his last five starts, going 4-1 with a 1.03 ERA. He leads the Texas League in ERA.

Left-hander Xavier Cedeno (4-5), who struck out 14 batters last Monday, was scheduled to start tonight’s game against Frisco.

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.”

Astros stockpile young talent

The Astros’ success from 1997-2005 was a product of some terrific front-office moves. They drafted well, made some key free-agent signings and weren’t afraid to trade away some of their top prospects to get players in return. When the big contracts become burdensome and the youth pipeline began to dry up, the Astros were forced to shift course.

What made matters worse was the disastrous draft of 2007, which led to a shake up in the front office. Ed Wade took over as general manager and was asked to rebuild a farm system considered one of the worst in baseball, and one of the first thing he’s he did was hire Bobby Heck as scouting director.

The 2008 draft produced catcher Jason Castro and pitcher Jordan Lyles, and the Astros are still waiting to see what the 2009 and 2010 drafts produce, though several of their top prospects came from those drafts, including 2009 first-round pick Jiovanni Mier.

But what Wade and his staff have managed to do is add even more young players to the system in the past few months with a series of trades, as well as the Rule 5 draft. Here’s a look at the moves the teams has made since July 1 that have netted 11 young players in return:

  • July 1, 2010 – Acquired infielder Angel Sanchez from Boston in exchange for Kevin Cash.
    Comment: Sanchez did a nice job at the plate while starting at shortstop for much of the second half of the season while Tommy Manzella was on the disabled list. Sanchez has no power and is limited defensively, but he has skills.
  • July 29, 2010 – Acquired pitcher J.A. Happ, infielder Jonathan Villar and outfielder Anthony Gose from Phillies in exchange for Roy Oswalt.
    Comment: Oswalt didn’t want to be in Houston anymore, and the Astros were thrilled to get the switch-hitting Villar, who immediately became one of the team’s top prospects.
  • July 29, 2010 – Acquired first baseman Brett Wallace from Blue Jays in exchange for Gose.
    Comment: With Lance Berkman on his way out, the Astros spun Gose to the Blue Jays for Wallace, who became the starting first baseman at the Major League level.
  • July 31, 2010 – Acquired pitcher Mark Melancon and infielder Jimmy Paredes from the Yankees in exchange for Lance Berkman.
    Comment: The Astros weren’t going to pick up Berkman’s hefty option for 2011, so he agreed to a trade to the Yankees. Melancon is a key part to the bullpen, and Paredes is a speedy third baseman who was put on the 40-man roster.
  • Aug. 19, 2010 – Acquired pitcher David Carpenter from the Cardinals in exchange for Pedro Feliz.
    Comment: With rookie Chris Johnson tearing it up at the plate, Feliz was done in Houston. Still, the Astros managed to get something for him in a trade. Carpenter was added to the 40-man roster and could be in the mix this year in the bullpen.
  • Dec. 9, 2010 – Selected right-handers Aneury Rodriguez and Lance Pendleton in the Rule 5 Draft.
    Comment: Both Rodriguez and Pendleton will compete for a spot in the rotation this spring, but they must remain on the active roster or be offered back to their former clubs (Rodriguez came from the Rays and Pendleton the Yankees).
  • Dec. 23, 2010 – Acquired left-hander Wes Musick and right-hander Jonnathan Aristil from the Rockies in exchange for Matt Lindstrom.
    Comment: Lindstrom was due for a big raise in arbitration, and the Astros were worried about his health and inconsistency last year. They got a pair of young arms in return who have some potential.

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.

 

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