Results tagged ‘ Lance Berkman ’

Berkman reacts to Cushing

Astros first baseman Lance Berkman chimed in on the suspension of Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing following the Astros’ game against San Diego on Friday. Cushing was suspended four games by the NFL for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy.

Berkman believes baseball players who test positive for performance-enhancing drugs are maligned more than football players.

“The man’s a beast, I know that,” Berkman said. “I don’t know. I didn’t see what he tested positive for. It said he violated the steroids policy. I will say what will be interesting will be to see the reaction because generally when that happens to a football player it is kind of ho-hum.

“You write a story about it and he serves his four games and nobody will ever say anything else about it. If that happens to a baseball player, they want to strike him from the record book. It’s a totally different reaction, and I’m not sure why that is, but I will be following this just to see. I personally love the guy and love the way he plays. It’s a little disappointing, but I’m not going to pass judgment on him. We’ll see how the story goes.”

According to Major League Baseball drug policy, a player receives a 50-game suspension for a first positive performance-enhancing drug test, a 100-game suspension for a second positive test and a lifetime ban for a third positive test.

Mills vows to eliminate mistakes

Astros manager Brad Mills said there were some things that took place during Wednesday’s win over the Marlins that he felt he needed to address with his team. Mills didn’t get into many specifics, short of saying the base running had to be better.

The one specific issue Mills did address was a throw left-fielder Carlos Lee made in the fifth inning. With runners at first and second and one out, Gaby Sanchez hit a ball high off the left-field wall. Lee apparently threw to the wrong base while getting the ball back to the infield.

“We were talking to Carlos about where he’s going to throw the ball when that ball comes off the wall,” Mills said. “We talked about our baserunning for one thing. There were some other issues that I don’t want to really get into, but there was one significant issue we wanted to address what happened last night and we did and we’re moving on.

“Those little things might not show up last night as a big issue, but it will rear its head at some point in the near future if it’s not addressed, and that’s what we want to do.”

The Astros struggled on the bases Wednesday. Lee was caught stealing to end the first inning, and Lance Berkman was thrown out by a large margin trying to steal third base in the sixth inning. Lee also went to first to third on a grounder in the eighth, though he made it safely to third because of a pair of bad throws.

“We’re open to using anchors-are-us online if we could order some anchors for our guys so they just stop running,” Astros general manager Ed Wade said. “We have to run the bases smart, particularly when we have some guys struggling at the plate. We can’t give outs away. You want to be aggressive and things happen, but last night they were really happening.”


Astros doing it all right on winning streak

This is probably the best stretch of baseball the Astros have played since the 2008 season. They never won more than four games in a row last year, and they have a chance to win No. 5 in a row Thursday when they face the Marlins in the final game of the series.

What’s the key? Starting pitching? Relief pitching? Clutch hitting? Check, check and check.

Astros starters have posted a 3.07 ERA with 35 strikeouts in the last seven games, a span in which the club is 5-2. The bullpen has been tremendous, with Brandon Lyon ironing things out and Matt Lindstrom getting saves in four consecutive games. And you can’t say enough about Wilton Lopez, who threw two scoreless innings Wednesday.

The return of Lance Berkman, who has three RBI groundouts in two games, has been key in many ways. It allows Geoff Blum to be a factor off the bench, and Blum did just that in the seventh inning Wednesday by hitting his first career pinch-hit triple to win the game. Jason Michaels came up big off the bench with a sac fly in the 10th Sunday in Chicago and hit a pinch-hit homer Tuesday.

“We’re awesome,” Blum said of the bench brigade.

And center-fielder Michael Bourn ran down nearly everything hit his way in center field Wednesday and is starting to become a big factor on the bases with three stolen bases in two games. He also managed to avoid a tag in a rundown and wound up on third and eventually scoring. That was a huge play.

OK, so not everything was so great Wednesday. Berkman was thrown out by a mile trying to steal third base with the Astros trailing 4-3 in the sixth inning.

“His name is Puma and I don’t think he demonstrated any cat-like actions right there,” manager Brad Mills said.

So, Lance, what did happen?

“I was thinking nobody in the stadium expects me to try to steal third right here,” he said. “It was the sixth inning, and I thought the worst-case scenario would be that we would end up with Carlos [Lee] on second base and two outs in the sixth against a tough pitcher where a hit still ties the game.

“If I made it then we had a chance to score an easy run off a guy that was giving us some fits. The thinking was sound, the mind was willing but the body was weak. If I had to do it all over again clearly I would not have attempted it. Clearly I did not notice my leg was as weak as it is. I’m glad we won the game because you guys would have made a bigger deal out of it.”

If the Astros think it’s great having Berkman back to the lineup, the media surely missed his post-game comments, too.

Astros face roster move ahead of Berkman activation

The Astros will likely activate first baseman Lance Berkman from the 15-day disabled list prior to Tuesday’s game against the Marlins, which means Puma will make his 2010 debut in the season’s 13th game.

Berkman, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee March 13, went 3-for-4 with a homer and a double Sunday in his second of two rehab starts at Triple-A Round Rock, and said after the game he was ready to return to action.

“I’ve already talked to Brad Mills and tried to call [general manager] Ed Wade,” Berkman told via phone Sunday. “[Mills] asked me if I could go Tuesday, and I said, ‘Absolutely.’ He said is this the type of thing where we’re going to have to nurse you along, and I said, ‘No, you can run me out there for about 10 or 15 games and see what happens.’ I anticipate being in the lineup on Tuesday and not coming out of it until the end of the year.”

Berkman’s long-awaited returns means space has to be created on the 25-man roster. Berkman is an infielder, so it’s likely the Astros will have to make a move with an infielder. The likely choice is rookie Chris Johnson, who’s playing time would dwindle to nearly nothing when Berkman returns and plays first base and Pedro Feliz stays at third full time instead of getting some reps at first.

Could the Astros be considering doing something with Kaz Matsui? He has gotten buried on the bench while Jeff Keppinger is off to a .371 start at the plate. Matsui is hitting .095 but is still owed more than $5 million, so it’s unlikely the Astros would release him at this point. But if they’re going to commit to Keppinger, Matsui is not suited to coming off the bench.

The most important thing for the Astros is Berkman’s return to a lineup that sorely needs him.

Berkman placed on DL

The Astros placed first baseman Lance Berkman and pitchers Yorman Bazardo and Alberto Arias on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday, retroactive to March 26. They will be eligible to come off the DL on April 10, meaning they will miss the first four games of the season.

“Obviously it stinks to have to start the year on the DL, but I’ll get off quick and never look back,” Berkman said. “I hate missing any games at all, but as long as it doesn’t turn into an ordeal. Really just being eligible to come off Saturday (April 10) is good news.”

Berkman had arthroscopic knee surgery March 13 to clean out loose particles in his left knee and was progressing until he suffered a setback Tuesday.

Arias and Bazardo have right shoulder problems.

The moves leave the Astros with 26 players, meaning they have to make more cut to get down to 25 players.


Day 39: Busy, busy day at Astros camp

What a day at Astros camp.

The day began with the news the Astros had made nine roster moves, which essentially gave the starting catching job to J.R. Towles, and ended with Lance Berkman telling he suffered a setback Tuesday in his recovery from arthroscopic knee surgery. In between, Bud Norris pitched well against the Phillies and Matt Lindstrom was named closer.

Other than that…

Let’s start with the biggest news, which is Berkman. It’s growing increasingly unlikely he’d be ready for Opening Day. He felt so good taking batting practice Tuesday he said he was about “70 percent” certain he’d be ready for Monday. After trying to run, his hopes diminished.

“When I tried to run, I just couldn’t do it,” he said. “They’re going to back me down for a few days and see what happens.”

The recovery time on the surgery was two to four weeks, and Berkman has barely passed the halfway point. If he starts the season in the disabled list, he would have to miss at least the first four games of the regular season before being eligible to return.

Astros GM Ed Wade plans to meet with Berkman and head athletic trainer Nate Lucero on Wednesday to talk about the slugger’s immediate future.

“I was hopeful that by increasing activities that it wouldn’t irritate it, and apparently it’s going to,” he said. “I need to drop down to where I just swing a little bit. Today I took ground balls and moved around a good bit, and it didn’t respond like I wanted it to.”

If Berkman starts the year on the DL – and that is a good possibility – that would create another opening on the roster. We’ll get to that later. But if Berkman is placed on the DL, the earliest he’s be able to play in the fifth game of the season, April 10, against Philadelphia.


Lindstrom, who had a terrific spring, was named closer by manager Brad Mills after Tuesday’s game against the Phillies. The hard-throwing right-hander hasn’t allowed an earned run in eight appearances this spring, though he nearly did Tuesday after he loaded the bases with no outs and worked his way out of the jam.

Lindstrom came to camp competing with Brandon Lyon for the closer’s role, but Lyon was behind and didn’t appear in a game until March 18. Lyon had a cyst drained in his right shoulder in January and had to get his arm strength back.

But Lindstrom left little doubt with how well he’s pitched.

“He’s throwing the ball well, and obviously with Brandon Lyon slow getting out of the gate from the cyst, it’s a logical move to make having him down there close to games in the ninth inning and still have an alternative to run with Lyon at some point,” Wade said.

Lyon, who signed a three-year, $15-million deal, has 54 career saves, including 26 with Arizona in 2008. Lindstrom has saved 20 games in his career, including 15 with Florida last year.

“We told Brandon Lyon he was going to be extremely valuable for us and going to be extremely valuable getting to us getting to that point as we go forward,” Mills said. “Nothing against Brandon at all, but when Matt did throw the ball as well as he did and Brandon was getting slow in getting going, that was probably it.”


The Astros trimmed their roster by nine players Tuesday morning to get to 29, and in the process awarded an Opening Day roster spot to catcher J.R. Towles, who was competing with No. 1 prospect Jason Castro for the starting position. They haven’t announced Towles is the starter, but the belief all along was Towles and Castro were competing for the starting spot with Humberto Quintero as backup.

Castro was among nine players told by Mills and Wade they weren’t going to make the Opening Day roster. Castro and right-hander Casey Daigle were reassigned to Minor League camp, and right-hander Wilton Lopez and utility man Edwin Maysonet were optioned to Triple-A Round Rock.

In addition, non-roster invitees Gary Majewski (right-hander), Gustavo Chacin (left-hander), Drew Meyer (infielder), Chris Shelton (first baseman) and Kevin Cash (catcher) were reassigned to Minor League camp, but will remain with the team through this weekend’s exhibition games in Houston. Daigle will remain with the team until after he pitches Thursday’s Grapefruit League finale.

What does this all mean?

Towles is going to be the starting catcher. He told reporters team brass told him he was going to be the everyday guy. That’s not surprising. Castro had a very good spring, but Towles had a better spring at the plate and has some experience. And what’s wrong with Castro getting his feet wet in Round Rock?

The moves also leave the Astros with 14 pitchers, two of which (Alberto Arias and Yorman Bazardo) are injured. They’re likely going to carry 12 pitchers so it appears here are the 12: Roy Oswalt, Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, Bud Norris, Felipe Paulino, Brian Moehler, Matt Lindstrom, Brandon Lyon, Jeff Fulchino, Chris Sampson, Tim Byrdak and Sammy Gervacio.

Gervacio had a great spring and deserved it, but Lopez and Daigle had great springs and were sent out. I’m guessing we’ll see those guys again soon.

What about the infield? The Astros have seven infielders remaining, including Lance Berkman, who could be headed to the disabled list. If Berkman is disabled, that leaves Geoff Blum, Kaz Matsui, Tommy Manzella, Pedro Feliz, Chris Johnson and Jeff Keppinger as the six infielders.

That’s why I was somewhat surprised they sent out Maysonet on Tuesday. If Berkman is disabled, Maysonet seems to be a much better fit to make the team as a utility infielder than Johnson, who’s a third baseman. Johnson has had a great spring, but they still want him to play every day. It will be interesting to see what they do if Berkman is disabled.

The Astros need to trim one more outfielder from among the two non-roster players: Cory Sullivan and Jason Bourgeois. Let’s be honest: Sullivan is the guy, especially considering Bourgeois had had trouble staying healthy.

So final four roster cuts could be the four injured guys: Berkman, Arias, Bazardo and Bourgeois.


As far as the game goes, the Astros beat the Phillies 5-2 on Tuesday to improve to 13-12 with two Grapefruit League games left. Philadelphia pretty much had its Opening Day lineup on the field, except for pitcher and catcher, so this was a good test for Bud Norris.

Here’s the breakdown:

The good: Norris held the Phillies to six hits and two runs and struck out seven batters in five innings. He had a 1-2-3 first, allowed two runs and three hits in the second and one hit in each of the other three innings.

“I felt great,” he said. “The plan was to go out there and throw strikes and compete and give my team a chance to win the game. I competed and made a lot of pitches.”

Lindstrom walked two batters and allowed a hit to load the bases with no outs in the sixth, but he got two strikeouts and a groundout to escape and keep his spring ERA spotless. Jeff Fulchino threw a scoreless inning and had two strikeouts, Tim Byrdak allowed one hit and struck out one batter in one inning and Chris Sampson struck out three batters in one inning.

At the plate, Michael Bourn went 4-for-5 with two doubles, a triple and a stolen base and appears to be fully recovered from his strained oblique. Carlos Lee went 2-for-3 with an RBI double and a three-run double, and Pedro Feliz had two hits. Hunter Pence scored two runs.

The bad: They were 3-for-16 with runners in scoring position. OK, now I’m nitpicking.

What they said: “I thought he threw the ball really well. It scared the daylights out of me when he stuck his hand up there, but at the same time I thought he threw the ball really well and it was so nice to see. The ball was coming out of his hand really good, even after he was hit in the hand.” – Mills on Norris, who was hit in the pitching hand by a line drive in the third.

What’s next: The Astros will send left-hander Wandy Rodriguez to the mound Wednesday against the Braves in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., at 12:05 p.m. CT. Rodriguez is scheduled to throw only two innings before catching a plane for Houston, where his wife is scheduled to deliver the couple’s second child Thursday. Moehler, Sampson and Gervacio are also scheduled to pitch. Right-hander Roy Oswalt, who had an injection into his lower back Monday in Houston, will start a Minor League game Wednesday. Shortstop Tommy Manzella will also play in that game.

Berkman suffers setback

Astros first baseman Lance Berkman‘s road to recovery from arthroscopic knee surgery took a slight detour Tuesday when the five-time All-Star said his left knee “swelled back up a good bit” after taking ground balls and trying to run.

Berkman, who had surgery March 13 to clean out loose cartilage, was in good spirits at the batting cage prior to Tuesday’s game and — prior to running — said he thought there was a 70 percent chance he would be ready for Opening Day. He’s not as hopeful now.

“When I tried to run, I just couldn’t do it,” he said. “They’re going to back me down for a few days and see what happens.”

The recovery time on the surgery was two to four weeks, and Berkman has barely passed the halfway point. If he starts the season in the disabled list, he would have to miss at least the first four games of the regular season before being eligible to return.

“I was hopeful that by increasing activities that it wouldn’t irritate it, and apparently it’s going to,” he said. “I need to drop down to where I just swing a little bit. Today I took ground balls and moved around a good bit and it didn’t respond like I wanted it to.”

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.

Friday morning Astros update

It’s a warm and muggy day here in Kissimmee, and the Astros survived a grueling three-day road trip across Florida and back and will play the Pirates at Osceola County Stadium. Roy Oswalt, who’s had two of his four starts rained out, will start today and could go five or six innings.

Bud Norris, who was originally scheduled to start in a Minor League game, will throw behind Norris. When asked about the change, manager Brad Mills said simply he wants to see Norris pitch. Norris lost some time with an illness, and Mills was to get an up-close look at him. Thus, Wilton Lopez and Sammy Gervacio will throw a Minor League game today.

The Astros also made some roster moves this morning, optioning left-hander Wesley Wright to Triple-A Round Rock and reassigning right-hander Shane Loux and infielder Oswaldo Navarro to Minor League camp. Wright told me he’s going to be in the rotation at Round Rock.

Here are some other morning tidbits, including some injury updates (I’ll have a full injury story posted later today on injuries):

  • RHP Brett Myers told me he felt a little stiff, one day after leaving Thursday’s game with a mild left groin strain. Mills said he doesn’t expect Myers to miss his next start, which would come against the Phillies on Tuesday in Kissimmee.
  • 1B Lance Berkman, who’s nearly two weeks removed from arthroscopic knee surgery, is making slow progress, but he’s still hopeful he will be ready on Opening Day. He still isn’t running or doing any baseball drills.
  • CF Michael Bourn (strained oblique) will get three to five at-bats in a Minor League game today, and if all goes well he could return to the Astros’ lineup Saturday. “He asked me if he could get five [at-bats] and I said the whole reason is we don’t want him to get too tired,” Mills said. “I said, ‘If you’re OK, I’ll trust you to go ahead and get five.’ We’ll see how it goes.”
  • SS Tommy Manzella (strained quadriceps) is steadily improving and he’ll take some ground balls today. Manzella said he ran at about 60 percent on Thursday with no problems. He’s hoping to get a few at-bats perhaps in a Minor League game this weekend and return to action sometime next week.
  • RHP Alberto Arias (rotator cuff impingement and weakness) will play light catch today for the first time since being diagnosed. He’s still likely headed to the disabled list, and Arias told me this morning he thinks he’s about two weeks away from perhaps getting into a game. It’s way too early to speculate about his return.
  • RHP Yorman Bazardo, who hasn’t thrown in nearly two weeks because of s shoulder strain, threw a bullpen Thursday and was encouraged. “It was good,” he said. “I have a lot of soreness today.” There are no plans to get Bazardo into a game at this point. Remember, Bazardo is out of options, so he would have to clear waivers when he’s sent down.

Tuesday morning Astros update

The Astros brought a shell of a team to Bradenton to face the Pirates on Tuesday, and it had little to with injuries. Michael Bourn, Tommy Manzella and Lance Berkman are injured, but with five long road trips in the next seven days and players ailing, manager Brad Mills doesn’t want to ride anyone into the ground.

For example, outfielder Cory Sullivan, who had played six days in a row, didn’t travel to Bradenton, and neither did Carlos Lee or Hunter Pence. The Astros had 11 players from Minor League camp travel with the Major League club Tuesday: pitchers Daniel Meszaros, Erick Abreu and T.J. Burton, catcher Federico Hernandez, infielders Michael Garciaparra, Mark Ori and Matt Kata and outfielders Collin DeLome, David Cook, Drew Locke and T.J. Steele.

Mills said Pence and Lee would make the trip Wednesday to Port St. Lucie, Fla., to play the Mets.

“Just because they’re healthy, we still have to be able to give them their time,” Mills said. “Those guys need to stay on schedules so we’re going to see a lot of Minor League guys.”

Mills didn’t really have much to report on the health front Tuesday, saying the club was still waiting on MRI results from right-hander Alberto Arias, who has a right shoulder strain. Mills said Bourn (strained oblique) and Manzella (strained quadriceps) felt better Tuesday, but Bourn still isn’t taking swings in the cage.

Mills said Berkman felt much better Monday, meaning the swelling had gone down. That will enable him to do more rehab. When asked if he had a better idea of Berkman’s availability for Opening Day, Mills said: “We want to make sure he’s 100 percent and gets back to playing with confidence and they’re no health issues.”

He didn’t have an update on outfielder Jason Bourgeois (left hamstring strain) or infielder Oswaldo Navarro, who left Friday’s game with a strained right hip flexor.

Mills said some positions battles are starting to clarify, but he wouldn’t give any specific details. Jason Castro and J.R. Towles are competing to be the starting catcher and there doesn’t appear to be a front-runner. Brandon Lyon or Matt Lindstrom will begin the season as closer, and with Lyon appearing in only his second game of the spring on Tuesday, it’s not crazy to assume Lindstrom might have the leg up at this point. Lindstrom has thrown the ball well, too.

There could be another backup infield spot open if Manzella and/or Berkman start the year on the disabled list, and the bullpen battle is intriguing. Sammy Gervacio and Wilton Lopez have put themselves in the mix with their superb springs and could push a veteran like Gary Majewski out of the way.