Results tagged ‘ Matt Downs ’

Downs designated for assignment

Infielder Matt Downs, who hit .202 with eight homers and 16 RBIs in 91 games for the Astros last year, has been designated for assignment, essentially ending his time in a Houston uniform. Downs, claimed off waivers from the Giants on August on 2010, had a terrific 2011 season, hitting .276 with 10 homers and 41 RBIs in just 199 at-bats while playing all over the infield and even the outfield.

This is the time of year when teams clear space on their 40-man roster in advance of free agency and having to protect players prior to the Rule 5 Draft. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow couldn’t be reached for comment.


Martinez, Downs optioned to Triple-A

The Astros optioned left fielder J.D. Martinez, who leads the team with 54 RBIs, and infielder Matt Downs to Triple-A Oklahoma City following Thursday’s loss to the Nationals. Both had options remaining and will likely be back up at some point in September when rosters expand.

Earlier in the day, the Astros acquired infielder Tyler Greene from the Cardinals in exchange for a player to be named later or cash and will have him in uniform for Friday’s series-opener against the Brewers. The club will make another roster move to add a player prior to the game.

“I’m not going to look at it in a negative way,” Martinez said. “I’m not going to go down there and try to be bitter. I’m going to use it as a growing experience.”

Martinez admitted he’s lost some confidence.

“I felt like I started off good and went through kind of a struggle and hit a plateau and never got hot again,” he said. “The confidence was always there. It was never boosted back up again.”

Martinez is barely a year removed from making his Major League debut, which came last August after Hunter Pence was traded to the Phillies. He was called up from Double-A Corpus Christi, so he will be making his first appearance on a Triple-A roster when he joins the RedHawks.

He went 0-for-4 with a strikeout on Thursday, dropping his batting average to .235 with 11 homers. Martinez, who leads the team with 87 strikeouts, had been hitting just .218 since April 22, including a 6-for-54 stretch April 22-May 13.

“He’s in a situation where he’s going through a little funk and because he has that option left, it’s better if he got out of that funk the next couple of weeks in the Triple-A level instead of trying to work out of it here,” Astros manager Brad Mills said. “That’s exactly what I told him, ‘You’re going to fight through this funk.’”

Martinez was disappointed in the move, but was focusing on positives.

“It’s obviously tough,” he said. “You never look forward to that, you never expect it. You have to take it positive and go down there and try to get my swing [right], the same swing that got me here, and I’m just going to keep moving forward and keep working hard to come back.”

Martinez simply hadn’t been squaring up balls like he did last season when he burst onto the scene and hit .274 with six homers and 35 RBIs in 53 games in his Major League debut. He had 28 RBIs last August, which were the most for any Astros rookie in any month.

“You talk to hitters and how hitters get hot is hit the ball on the barrel, and when you hit the ball on the barrel you get that feel again,” Martinez said. “I think that’s the biggest thing I feel that I lost a bit. It’s never easy up here in the first place with the guys pitching and having the stuff they have and you’re battling. It’s a little bit tougher to find that barrel, but it’s the big leagues and that’s why guys get paid a lot of money to play up here. It’s not that easy.”

Downs, meanwhile, was hitting .209 with seven homers and 13 RBIs in 154 at-bats, many of which had come off the bench. He was hitting .311 (14-for-45) in his last 21 games, but hadn’t been able to gain the consistency he had last year when he was arguably the best pinch-hitter in baseball.

When he wasn’t starting, Downs found himself in the unenviable position of pinch-hitting late in games, often against the other team’s closer.

“Here’s a guy that’s prepared so well for his role and done such a good job in facing some of the best pitchers he faces every night,” Mills said. “In the last three innings is usually when he gets his at-bats, and that’s tough. That’s not an easy assignment. Last year, he was exceptional at it and this year he hasn’t been quite as exceptional. But he’s been professional about it how he prepares.”

Astros outfield race has plenty of options

The Astros plan to give Brian Bogusevic a good look in center field this spring, putting him in competition with Jordan Schafer and Jason Bourgeois for the starting nod. Bogusevic started 31 games in right field last year after Hunter Pence was traded, but has some experience in center and enough athleticism to play the position.

What’s more, the Astros have Jack Cust and Travis Buck capable of playing right field.

“His ability gives him the opportunity to be able to play center or right, but we want this guy to step up and be an everyday starter for us and there’s reason he won’t be able to,” Astros manager Brad Mills said of Bogusevic. “We all saw what he can do at times last year.”

Bogusevic, a former first-round pick as a pitch who made the switch to outfield in 2008, understands the importance of being versatile enough to play different positions, and is more than willing to give center field a shot.

“There’s a lot of guys going for open spots, so I think everybody is trying to make a good impression all around,” he said.

Cust can play in left and right and will get some ground balls at first base. Top prospect Jonathan Singleton will also get some time in the outfield, Mills said. Versatile infielders Matt Downs and Brian Bixler will also do some work in the outfield.

Regarding Schafer, Mills said: “He seems like he’s on a mission.”

Here are a few other items of interest:

  • Astros manager Brad Mills announced the starting pitchers for the team’s first two Grapefruit League games, with veteran Livan Hernandez pitching Saturday against the Washington Nationals – his former team – at Kissimmee. Left-hander J.A. Happ will face the Nats on Sunday in Viera, Fla.
  • Astros pitchers will take a break from throwing live batting practice on Tuesday, giving some of the pitching groups two days off between times on the mound.
  • The Astros haven’t been able to successfully schedule extra B games against other clubs, something they wanted to do to create more innings for all of the arms they have in camp. Mills said some pitchers might have to throw in Minor League games. “You’d rather have B games against other teams, but that didn’t quite work out,” he said.
  • Infielder Angel Sanchez was again forced to watch from the sidelines against Monday because of his ailing back. Sanchez did some light toss, but didn’t participate in the team’s defensive drills. He said the back is improving.

Here is the day in pictures:

Brett Wallace and Chris Johnson take balls at third.

Chris Snyder and Jason Castro walk across the field.

A group of pitchers awaits the next drill.

Brad Mills watches Zach Duke pick-off drills.

Back problems kept Angel Sanchez on the sidelines Monday.

David Carpenter, Fernando Rodriguez and Lucas Harrell shoot the breeze.

David Carpenter throws a pitch to a hitter.

Jason Castro check the schedule.

Who knew bats on born-on dates?

J.D. Martinez talks with hitting coach Mike Barnett.

Jose Altuve plays catch with himself while awaiting the next drill.

Who’s the Astros’ MVP in 2011

When outfielders Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn were traded in late July, the race for Astros Most Valuable Player suddenly became wide open. Astros manager Brad Mills was asked Friday who he thought should get it, and he threw out the names of Clint Barmes, Matt Downs, Carlos Lee, Bud Norris and Wandy Rodriguez.

If you look at statistics, Lee appears on his way to 20 homers and 90 RBIs, which could give him the edge. Barmes has played a Gold Glove-caliber defense and has shown some pop offensively, though he’s remained under .250 for much of the year. Downs has been a huge catalyst off the bench has had some huge hits, and Rodriguez has an 11-10 record on a team that’s going to lose 100 games.

So who’s your pick for team MVP in 2011?

Downs not happy with strike call

Versatile Astros infielder Matt Downs was fit to be tied following Tuesday night’s 11-9 loss to the D-backs at Chase Field. Downs struck out with runners at second and third base in the ninth inning and believed he had drawn a walk on a 3-1 pitch that was inside and called a strike by CB Bucknor.

“The 3-1 I thought was a ball way, way, way, way in and I came back and looked at the video and the ball is not just a ball off the plate, but real inside,” Down said. “It changes the game completely when you go from 3-1, walk to 3-2 and a strikeout. I get tired of umpires going back to the hotel and smoking their cigars and thinking they did a good job on the night and I have to go back on a failure after I feel like I walked 3-1 instead of punching out out 3-2. Some kind of action has got to be taken on a bonehead called like that.”

Downs asked Bucknor if the ball was inside.

“I said ‘I think that ball’s in,'” he said. “He told me if I didn’t swing next time it would be a 3-2 strikeout. So he told me it was a strike all the way, a great pitch. After looking at the film, I realize it was not.”

Downs would like to see umpires held more accountable for their calls.

“My stats are put in the paper every day and everybody knows if I fail or succeed,” he said. “I think some kind of action has got to be taken to where we realize if the guy’s blown a call or not and he’s held accountable.”

Johnson to get ‘bulk’ of time at 3B

Astros manager Brad Mills shed some light Saturday on how he plans to split playing time the rest of the season at third base, which has been a rotation between Chris Johnson, Angel Sanchez and Matt Downs the past two weeks.

Johnson, who burst onto the scene last year with a strong rookie campaign, has started just three of the team’s last nine games after starting 75 of the first 85 games. Downs has started a pair of games at third during the last nine games, and Sanchez started his fourth game in that span on Saturday.

Mills said Saturday that Johnson will get most of the playing time. Johnson batted .298 in June and is hitting .274 with four homers and 23 RBIs following a woeful April when he hit .185.

“C.J.’s going to get the bulk of it,” he said. “He’s got the bulk of it in the first half of the season and he’s going to get the bulk of it here coming up pretty quickly. Again, hopefully he’s able to get it going and trying to get these guys some at-bats right now is difficult. He’s going to get the bulk of starts as soon as [Sunday] maybe, at third base.”

Mills had Sanchez in the No. 2 hole Saturday, which is where Sanchez has hit during most of his starts.

“He does a good job defensively, wherever you put him,” Mills said. “He’s done a good job at second and obviously has done a good job at third. We’re putting him in there today mainly because how he fits in. C.J.’s struggled against [Paul] Maholm in the past, even though he’s a left-handed pitcher. I think how Sanchez is able to fit into our lineup is nice.”

Astros lineup Saturday vs. Rays

Matt Downs, who hit a two-run, pinch-hit home run in the ninth inning Wednesday at Arlington to beat the Rangers, is in the starting lineup for tonight’s game against the Rays at Minute Maid Park.

Here is the lineup:

CF Michael Bourn

2B Jeff Keppinger

RF Hunter Pence

LF Carlos Lee

SS Matt Downs

1B Brett Wallace

3B Chris Johnson

C Carlos Corporan

RHP Bud Norris

Mills: Downs worthy of more playing time

Astros manager Brad Mills said Friday versatile infielder Matt Downs is worthy of more playing time. Downs hit a game-winning homer in the ninth inning Wednesday to beat the Rangers and entered Friday hitting .282 with five homers and 19 RBIs despite just 12 starts.

“We want to give him more playing time going forward,” Mills said. “He’s earned that right to be able to do it. We’re going to have to kind of measure things a little bit and pick our spots to give him more playing time, but at the same time for him to be able to have the success off the bench he’s had, he’s going to need some playing time to stay fresh and stay ready.”

Downs was hitting .389 (7-for-18) with two homers and eight RBIs in a pinch-hit role entering Friday, making him a valuable commodity off the bench. That makes it harder to put Downs in the lineup on a consistent basis.

“You don’t want to get greedy,” Mills said. “What I mean by greedy is not getting him those [regular] at-bats and picking your spots late in the ballgame to get him those at-bats at crucial times of the ballgame. That is getting a little greedy. A the same time, he’s a guy that deserves a little more playing time.”


Astros lineup for Thursday’s game

Here is manager Brad Mills’ lineup for Thursday game against Pirates:

CF Michael Bourn

2B Jeff Keppinger

RF Hunter Pence

LF Carlos Lee

1B Brett Wallace

3B Matt Downs

SS Angel Sanchez

C Carlos Corporan

RHP Jordan Lyles

Astros lineup Saturday vs. Padres

Here is the Astros’ lineup for Saturday’s game against the Padres, and not surprisingly Matt Downs is in the lineup at second base over the struggling Bill Hall. Here is the complete lineup:

CF Michael Bourn

SS Angel Sanchez

RF Hunter Pence

LF Carlos Lee

1B Brett Wallace

3B Chris Johnson

2B Matt Downs

C J.R. Towles

RHP Nelson Figueroa