Results tagged ‘ Josh Fields ’

Finding a closer is top job for Astros

Astros manager Bo Porter said Monday morning the task of finding a pitcher or a combination of pitchers to successfully handle the role of closer will be job one this spring. That’s no shocker considering the Astros have blown 48 saves in 111 chances the last two years, which is a Major League-low 56.8 save percentage in that span.

“When you look at the woes in which we had in our bullpen last year, it’s something we set out as an organization to make sure we rectified,” Porter said. “We brought in some guys that have the ability to rectify that portion of our ballclub, and I’m anxious to see how it plays out.”

Porter said newcomers Jesse Crain, Chad Qualls and Matt Albers will all be considered for closer, along with Josh Fields, who handled the duties for part of last season as a rookie after Jose Veras was traded. Qualls spent parts of three seasons as a closer with the D-backs.

“We’ll figure out as the course of spring goes on and the season goes on who’s best suited for that role, but it will be collectively a group effort to get those late outs in the back end of the game,” Porter said. “I think it’s totally open because I think competition brings out the best in all of us. And it’s something that we’re going to let these guys compete and let the competition tell us who should actually have that role.”

Ideally, the Astros would like to have one identified closer, but Porter knows that might not be the case for the start of the season.

“When you have that guy, that’s the ninth-inning guy, you know when it’s a save situation he’s going to get the ball every time,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’re not at that point, as far as our team would go. I’m glad we have a multitude of guys capable of manning that role. Again, we’ll let that competition play itself out, and I believe one of these guys, if not two or three of these guys, are going to step up. It’s a good problem to have if you have everyone throw well and now you look and you feel like you have a closer in the seventh, eighth and ninth.”

In addition to experience, which could give Qualls a leg up, the ability to induce weak ground balls is what Porter is looking for in a closer.

“If they do get in trouble, they have something that can get them out of trouble,” he said. “They have to be able to get righties and lefties out because when you bring in a closer, you don’t want to feel like you need to match him up against the opposite hitter. I also think experience plays a huge role in doing that job. It’s a guy that’s been there and understands the moment. The moment is never going to get too big for him. That’s important for well.”

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Players gather for morning instruction

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Catching instructor Jeff Murphy and new first base coach Tarrick Brock talk

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Pitching coach Brent Strom

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Josh Fields talks to Dallas Keuchel

Astros to add another rookie to bullpen

The Astros will call up left-handed pitcher Kevin Chapman from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Friday and will designate left-hander Travis Blackley for assignment. Chapman will be in uniform against the Rangers for would be his Major League debut.

Chapman, 25, was 1-2 with a 3.20 ERA in 45 appearances for the RedHawks with two saves and 61 strikeouts in 50 2/3 innings of work. In his last 10 games, he has posted a 1.42 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings pitched. He earned a save in his last appearance on Tuesday, throwing a scoreless inning against Colorado Springs. For the season, left-handed hitters are hitting .193 against him.

Blackley, acquired by the Astros from Oakland on April 4 in exchange for Minor League outfielder Jake Goebbert, was 1-1 with a 4.89 ERA in 42 appearances with Houston this year.

Chapman, acquired last spring along with outfielder D’Andre Toney from the Royals in exchange for Jason Bourgeois and Humberto Quintero, will be the second rookie reliever to join Houston’s bullpen in as many games. Jorge De Leon was called up prior to Wednesday’s game, but he’s yet to make his Major League debut.

The addition of Chapman gives Houston five rookies in their bullpen, joining De Leon, Chia-Jen Lo, Josh Fields and Josh Zeid. Wesley Wright and Lucas Harrell are the only veterans in the bullpen.

Astros take Fields, Freiman

The Astros added a pair of players Thursday they believe can help them next season when they selected right-handed pitcher Josh Fields with the first overall pick in the Rule 5 Draft and first baseman Nate Freiman with the first pick of the second round.

Fields, 27, is expected to pitch at the back end of the Astros’ bullpen. He appeared in 42 games in the Minor Leagues for the Red Sox last year and was 4-3 with a 2.01 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings. Fields was a consensus top pick for Houston.

“We liked him at 1-1 all along,” Astros director of pro scouting Kevin Goldstein said. “We had scouting stuff and analytic stuff, and Fields was at the top of both lists. In the end, there wasn’t a long conversation at all about 1-1. We kind of sat in the room and said ‘1-1 is Fields’ and everyone kind of nodded their head and moved on.”

Fields and Freiman will have to stay on the 25-man roster for the full season or be offered back to his former team.

Fields was drafted in the second round in 2007 by the Braves out of Georgia and returned to school and was selected in the first round (20th overall) the next year by the Mariners.

“We think he can pitch in our bullpen right away, and that’s something we needed,” Goldstein said.

The Astros would have passed with their first pick of the second round had Freiman not been available, Goldstein said. He’s a 6-foot-7 right-handed power bat who wears out left-handed pitching.

Freiman, 25, hit .298 with 24 homers and 105 RBIs in 137 games at Double-A San Antonio (Padres) with 95 strikeouts in 581 plate appearances.  He followed up his big season with San Antonio with a standout performance for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic qualifier in September.

Of his five hits, four were home runs, though Israel lost to Spain in extra innings, thus missing out on a spot in the WBC next spring.

“This is a guy who’s worth taking a chance on, a guy we’ve like since his days at Duke,” Goldstein said. “He was great in Arizona and played well for Israel as well. Right-handed guys with that kind of power are not normally available in the Rule 5. You think about what we have right now. He destroys left-handed pitching and he’s a guy you give an opportunity to him in the spring and see what he can do.”

Houston also took two players in the Minor League phase – outfielder Michael Burgess from the Cubs and right-handed pitcher Cameron Lamb from the Giants.

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