Results tagged ‘ Michael Bourn ’

Astros full squad hits the field

The clubhouse was buzzing and full of excitement this morning as 62 players – everyone except veteran infielder Bill Hall – dressed and took the field for the first full-squad workout of Spring Training.

The players took physicals in the morning and then heard from owner Drayton McLane, general manager Ed Wade and manager Brad Mills in a quick team meeting.

“I talked to them about the opportunity we have here,” McLane said.

Wade reminded the players they have a veteran core nucleus who know what they’re responsibilities are from the standpoint of leadership, but he also told the many young players on the roster they also carry some responsibilities.

“The young guys don’t have to act like young guys,” Wade said. “They can step up and hold themselves and their teammates accountable and hold that measure of trust between themselves and their teammates and the staff and believe in themselves.”

Hall, who signed with the Astros in December, isn’t expected to be with the club until Wednesday following the birth of his child. Among the players who arrived for the first time in camp were Carlos Lee and Michael Bourn.

“It’s time to get going,” Mills said. “It’s really kind of hard to ease into those types of things because we start playing games in a week. Most of the guys are ready to go, they’ve at least been playing catch. We’re going to introduce a lot of the things and they’ll get it done. We’ll be fine.”

Here are some early-morning pictures of the players getting ready for the first full-squad workout:
spring day 5 001.jpg

Above: Clint Barmes, Hunter Pence and Brett Wallace emerge from the clubhouse for the first full-squad workout of Spring Training.

spring day 5 002.jpg
 

Above: Jason Michaels hits the field for the first full-squad workout of Spring Training.

spring day 5 003.jpg

Above: Carlos Lee prepares to take the field for the first workout.

spring day 5 004.jpg

Above: Brad Mills speaks briefly to the team before beginning early-morning stretch.

Young players hold key for Astros

Perhaps it’s foolish to assume Carlos Lee, Michael Bourn and Wandy Rodriguez will each have rebound seasons, and perhaps it’s too much to ask Hunter Pence and Bud Norris to keep improving. Can Brett Myers and Chris Johnson possibly duplicate their success of a year ago? That, too, is a question the Astros will ponder.

For the Astros to make any kind of noise in an improved National League Central in 2011, they will certainly everyone to be at their best. They’ll need Lee and Wandy to perform like they did in the second half, and Pence and Norris to continue to blossom. They’ll need Myers and Johnson to prove last year wasn’t a fluke, and newcomers Bill Hall and Clint Barmes to make an immediate impact.

These are not unreasonable expectations, though it’s likely there are going to be road bumps. But more than anything else, the Astros’ need to get more from their youngsters, specifically catcher Jason Castro and first baseman Brett Wallace. The Astros are committed to these two left-handed bats in the lineup, both of whom were taken high in the first round in the 2008 Draft.

Wallace, traded from the Blue Jays last July, and Castro both got their feet wet in 2010 with varing degrees of success/disappointment. But now it’s time for them to jump right in. Imagine how the whole lineup would change if Wallace slugs like he did in the Minor Leagues and Castro blossoms into a solid hitter? That would suddenly give the Astros a deep batting order to go along with a pretty good rotation.

The Astros dealt with and certainly expected both to struggle a year ago, but now they’re fully invested in Wallace and Castro. The Astros have some good catching prospects on the farm, but none on the immediate horizon. Castro is the guy. The team toyed with bringing in a left-fielder as an insurance policy if Lee had to move to first to replace Wallace, but general manager Ed Wade said at the Winter Meetings they wanted to remain fully committed to Wallace.

Hopefully, for the Astros’s sake, Wallace and Castro can reward that confidence this season and come into their own.

_____________________________________________________________________________

I hope everyone had a great holiday season, and, like most of you, I’m back to work this week. We’ll find out Wednesday if Astros icon Jeff Bagwell made it into the Hall of Fame, and the more I hear and see feedback from those with a vote, the less likely I think it is that he’ll make it on the first ballot. Colleague Peter Gammons thinks he should make it eventually, for what it’s worth.

Wednesday also begins the salary arbitration filing period, a list that is now down to five players following the trade of Matt Lindstrom: Wandy Rodriguez, Clint Barmes, Jeff Keppinger, Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence.

 

Astros make tender decisions

Right-hander Sammy Gervacio, who missed most of last season with right rotator cuff inflammation, was the only unsigned player on the 40-man roster the Astros chose not to tender a contract to prior to Thursday’s deadline to do so.

The move reduces Houston’s 40-man roster to 36 and makes Gervacio a free agent and able to sign with any team, but general manager Ed Wade said the club will attempt to re-sign him at some point. The shoulder ailments limited the side-armed Gervacio to just 13 combined relief appearances last season between Triple-A Round Rock and the Astros.

“It’s really a move of economics more than anything because of the uncertainty of his status going into Spring Training,” Wade said. “Had he been injured coming into Spring Training and unable to perform, we would have had to carry him on the Major League disabled list.

“While we’re protecting ourselves with respect to the tender, we still want Sammy to be part of our picture going forward.”

Gervacio, who went 1-1 with a 2.14 ERA in 29 games in his Major League debut in 2009, is still dealing with shoulder discomfort despite not pitching in a game since May 3. He made $403,000 last season, which is slightly above the league minimum.

“We’re going to have to be cautious how we bring him along,” Wade said.

Wade said the club never entertained the possibility of non-tendering pitchers Wandy Rodriguez and Matt Lindstrom, infielders Clint Barmes and Jeff Keppinger and outfielders Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence, all of whom are arbitration eligible and figure to play a key role in 2011.

“All of those players have value and will be counted on in some fashion going forward,” Wade said.

Keppinger ($1.15 million salary in 2010), Bourn ($2.4 million), Pence ($3.5 million) and Lindstrom ($1.625 million) are in their second year of arbitration eligibility and Rodriguez ($5 million) and Barmes ($3.25 million) are in their third and final year.

Earlier this week, the Astros agreed to terms on one-year contracts with right-handed pitcher Nelson Figueroa ($900,000) and catcher Humberto Quintero ($1 million), thus avoiding arbitration with both players. Right-handed pitchers Brandon Lyon and Brett Myers and outfielders Carlos Lee and Jason Michaels are also all signed through 2011 or beyond.

Astros face arbitration decisions

UPDATE: The Astros signed Humberto Quintero to a one-year, $1 million deal Tuesday, and I’ve updated this entry accordingly…

Thursday is the deadline for teams to tender contracts to players who are eligible for arbitration. For the Astros, the list of players eligible for arbitration goes seven deep: pitchers Wandy Rodriguez, Nelson Figueroa and Matt Lindstrom, infielders Clint Barmes and Jeff Keppinger and outfielders Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence.

With Rodriguez, Bourn and Pence leading the way – they made a combined $10.9 million in 2010 – the Astros are going to have to commit a sizable amount of their 2011 payroll to arbitration-eligible players. Of course, the club could choose to non-tender some of these players and save money, and last week they outrighted left-handers Tim Byrdak and Gustavo Chacin, who were heading for arbitration.

Last year, the Astros wound up paying out $16.84 million to eight arbitration-eligible players. Rodriguez was the only player to wind up going to an arbitration hearing. He was asking for $7 million and the club won the hearing and had to pay him $5 million.

Here’s a closer look at each of the Astros’ seven arbitration-eligible players and what the chances are of the club tendering a contract:

LHP Wandy Rodriguez
2010 stats: 11-12, 3.60 ERA, 32 starts.
2010 salary: $5 million.
Can become free agent: 2012.
Tender prediction: Likely.
Analysis: I really can’t envision a scenario in which the Astros wouldn’t tender him a contract, even though he’s due another hefty raise. He was their best pitcher in 2009 and had a terrific second half in 2010. Heading into free agency, it would behoove Rodriguez to put it all together for next season and repeat what he did in 2009. Good starting pitching isn’t cheap, and the Astros hope they get what they pay for in 2011.

RHP Nelson Figueroa 
2010 stats: 7-4, 3.29 ERA in 31 games (11 starts); 5-3, 3.22 ERA in 18 games (10 starts) for Astros.
2010 salary: $416,000.
Can become free agent: 2014.
Tender prediction: Likely.
Analysis: Figueroa is 36 and just now reaching arbitration, so he’s still not making much money in the baseball world. And he had a pretty good season for the Astros in 2010 after they picked him up off waivers, which is why it would make sense to tender him. He’s a solid clubhouse citizen and could compete for a spot in the rotation or give them a steady option in long relief.

RHP Matt Lindstrom
2010 stats
: 2-5, 4.39 ERA, 23 saves, 58 games.
2010 salary: $1.62 million.
Can become free agent: 2013.
Tender prediction: Likely.
Analysis: Lindstrom had an up-and-down first season in Houston, and he really struggled in the second half when his back issues began to mess with his delivery. When he was healthy, he was a pretty solid closer. He’s still relatively inexpensive when you consider his age (30) and his stuff, and I doubt the Astros would give up on him after one rocky half of a season.

IF Clint Barmes
2010 stats
: .235/.305/.351, 8 HRs, 50 RBIs (with Colorado).
2010 salary: $3.325 million.
Can become free agent: 2012.
Tender prediction: Definitely.
Analysis: The Astros landed Barmes in a trade with the Rockies on Nov. 18 in exchange for Felipe Paulino. He’s likely going to be their starting shortstop next season and will be playing for a contract because he’s a free agent after next year. Considering the offensive shortcomings the Astros had at shortstop last season, paying around $4 million for Barmes for one year isn’t a bad deal.

2B Jeff Keppinger
2010 stats
: .288/.351/.393, 6 HRs, 59 RBIs, 34 2Bs.
2010 salary: $1.15 million.
Can become free agent: 2013.
Tender prediction: Definitely.
Analysis: Keppinger is coming off a career season in which he was the Astros’ starting second baseman for most of the season. There’s still a chance the Astros could acquire a second baseman with more pop and better range and return Keppinger to a reserve role, but he’s too much of a steady hand not to want back on the roster. He rarely strikes out or gets into prolonged slumps and had a pretty good on-base percentage a year ago.

CF Michael Bourn
2010 stats
: .265/.341/.346, 3 HRs, 25 RBIs, 52 SBs.
2010 salary: $2.4 million.
Can become free agent: 2013.
Tender prediction: Definitely.
Analysis: Bourn didn’t quite have the breakout season on offense in 2010 that he enjoyed in 2009, but he made the All-Star team, won his second Gold Glove and led the league in stolen bases. He was up and down on offense, but finished the season with a flourish at the plate before a strained oblique injury cost him the final two weeks of the season.

RF Hunter Pence
2010 stats
: .282/.325/.461, 25 HRs, 91 RBIs, 18 SBs.
2010 salary: $3.5 million.
Can become free agent: 2014.
Tender prediction: Definitely.
Analysis: He’s coming of a career season in which he was named the team’s Most Valuable Player after tying career high with 25 homers and setting career high with 91 RBIs. This is Pence’s second year in arbitration eligibility and he’ll still have two years remaining after 2011, so he’s under the Astros’ control for three more years at least. He’s going to get a nice raise in 2011, but he’s earned it.
 

Bourn wins second Gold Glove

Michael Bourn still has a way to go before he can be considered the greatest defensive outfielder to wear an Astros uniform, but he’s put himself in select company when it was announced Wednesday he had won his second consecutive National League Rawlings Gold Glove.

Bourn is only the fifth player in club history to win multiple Gold Gloves, joining third baseman Doug Rader, outfielder Cesar Cedeno, second baseman Craig Biggio and catcher Brad Ausmus. Bourn and Cedeno (1972-76) are the only Astros outfielders to win a Gold Glove.

“Michael’s second Gold Glove comes as no surprise to anyone who has watched him play,” general manager Ed Wade said. “You see the ball leave the bat, and you say, ‘No way that one gets caught,’ and then Michael runs it down. Some guys make plays look tougher than they are. Michael makes the impossible catch look routine. It’s nice to see his hard work get recognized.”

The speedster was all over center field at Minute Maid Park this season, running downs balls in gaps, charging towards the infield and making diving catches and scaling Tal’s Hill center. He also had eight outfield assists, which were tied for third in the NL among center fielders.

Bourn had a bushel of terrific catchers last season, perhaps none better than his long running catch in the fourth inning of a July 7 game against the Pirates. Bourn’s personal favorite was his over-the-shoulder catch at the Brewers on June 29, which robbed Jim Edmonds of a hit.

“There is no one more deserving than Michael,” Astros manager Brad Mills said. “Our fans get an opportunity to watch him each and every day, which is special. It’s so nice that he’s being recognized by the rest of the baseball world as well.”

Bourn, 27, posted a .992 fielding percentage in 2010, making just three errors in 370 total chances. Last week, Bourn was also recognized for his defensive excellence when he was named one of nine winners of the 2010 Fielding Bible Awards, which are selected annually by a panel of 10 baseball experts, including MLB.com’s Peter Gammons and Bill James.

The Rawlings Gold Glove Awards are voted on by National and American League managers and coaches, who are responsible for selecting the winners of their league prior to the conclusion of the regular season. Rawlings has been awarding Gold Gloves since 1957. 

Will Bourn will his second Gold Glove?

The Rawlings Gold Glove winners for the National League will be announced at 2:30 p.m. CT today and I’d be shocked if Astros center fielder Michael Bourn didn’t win his second award in a row. Bourn did nothing to warrant not getting the award again after he ran all over Minute Maid Park and routinely made highlight-reel catches.

“Winning the first one is the hardest,” Bourn told me earlier this year.

I asked Bourn late in the season what he thought was his best catch of the season and he offered his twisting, over-the-shoulder catch against the Brewers on June 29 to rob Jim Edmonds. Watch it by clicking here.

My favorite is this long running catch against the Pirates on July 7. Click here to watch.

Those are just two of a long list of great catches made by Bourn this season — plays that should give him his second Gold Glove. 

Here is a list of previous Astros Gold Glove winners:

Cesar Cedeno, CF, 1972-76 (5)

Doug Rader, 3B, 1970-74 (5)

Craig Biggio, 2B, 1994-97 (4)

Brad Ausmus, C, 2001, 2002, 2006 (3)

Roger Metzger, SS, 1973 (1)

Jeff Bagwell, 1B, 1994 (1)

Michael Bourn, CF, 2009 (1)

 

Astros position breakdown: outfield

OUTFIELD

2010 Opening Day starters: LF Carlos Lee, CF Michael Bourn, RF Hunter Pence.

2010 end-of-season starters: LF Carlos Lee, CF Michael Bourn, RF Hunter Pence.

Others who were in the mix: Brian Bogusevic (LF-CF-RF), Jason Bourgeois (LF-CF-RF), Jason Michaels (LF-CF-RF, Cory Sullivan (LF-RF-CF).

Combined 2010 stats of Astros outfielders: .261 BA/.317 OBP/.401 SLG, 93 doubles, 51 homers, 217 RBIs, 156 walks, 316 strikeouts, 1,917 at-bats.

Free agents: None.

Arbitration eligible: Bourn and Pence.

What happened: The Astros went into last season feeling good about what they had in the outfield with Carlos Lee returning in left, Michael Bourn returning in center and Hunter Pence returning in right. Lee had averaged 30 homers and 100 RBIs in his first three seasons with Houston, Bourn was named the team’s MVP in 2009 and won a Gold Glove and Pence was coming off his first All-Star appearance. The three held down the starting duties, but not without some road bumps.

Lee, who started 133 games in left field, struggled out of the gate and hit .183 in April with no home runs. He had only five homers at the end of May and wound up hitting .240 in the first half with 12 homer and 45 RBIs, helping put the Astros in a hole. He came around in the second half with a .254 average to go along with 12 homers and 44 RBIs to finish with 24 homers and 89 RBIs, his lowest totals with Houston. He split time before left field and first base in September as the Astros wanted to get a look at him at first defensively.

Bourn, who started 133 games in center, picked up where he left off in 2009 and got off to a quick start, hitting .311 in April. His average slowly began dipping as the season wore on. He hit .245 in May, .252 in June and .185 in July with an on-base percentage of .271. Bourn was enjoying a great finish – he hit .229 in his final 17 games – before his season ended two weeks early with an oblique strain. He hit .265/.341/.356 with 52 stolen bases and had another Gold Glove-caliber season in center field.

Pence, who started 155 games in right, joined Lee in getting off to a slow start. He hit around .230 with two homers and seven RBIs in April before coming around in May, batting .302 with six homers and 16 RBIs. After hitting .263 before the All-Star break, Pence hit .302 in the second half and finished with 25 homers for the third year in a row and 91 RBIs to lead the team. He was up and down defensively.

Jason Michaels, the fourth outfielder, had a solid year in a backup role and parlayed that into his option being picked up for 2011. He hit .253/.310/.468 with eight homers and 26 RBIs while playing all three outfield spots. He had two pinch-hit home runs. Jason Bourgeois, a speedster who doesn’t hit for a high average, got the bulk of the playing time in center in the final two weeks with Bourn on the shelf. The Astros got an abbreviated look at former No. 1 pick Brian Bogusevic, the pitcher-turned-outfielder who made his Major League debut. Cory Sullivan began the year as the fifth outfielder but was let go in the middle of the season.

What’s next: Lee, Bourn and Pence are all back in 2011, barring a trade. Lee will be in the fifth year of his six-year, $100-million contract (he has a limited no-trade clause this year) and Bourn and Pence are eligible for arbitration. But not all three could return as starters in the outfield. The Astros are going to give Lee another look at first base in Spring Training next year, with the hopes Brett Wallace – acquired in the Roy Oswalt trade – does enough to warrant winning the first base job and keeping Lee in left field.

If the Astros deem Wallace needs more time in the Minor Leagues, they will stick Lee at first base. That’s why they’re on the lookout this winter for a left-handed hitting left fielder they could use in a platoon situation with Michaels. The decision on which player opens at first base won’t unfold until later in Spring Training.

The Astros are banking on Bourn and Pence to pick up where they left off at the end of last year and have the best offensive seasons of their careers. Lee had a down season in 2010 and would certainly give the club a boost if he can return to his 2007-09 form as a reliable run producer. Bogusevic and Bourgeois will get a look as backup outfielders, but don’t be surprised to see a Minor League player make a push during the spring.

Who’s on the farm: The Astros are starting to see the fruits of their last several drafts pay off in the outfield, where an impressive group of young outfielders is emerging.  The club is high on Jack Shuck, who had a bang-up season for Double-A Corpus Christi before finishing the year at Triple-A Round Rock. T.J. Steele had turned some heads before injuries slowed him down last season, and players like Jon Gaston, Jay Austin and J.D. Martinez could be ready for the Majors soon. Martinez was named the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year after he hit .341 with 40 doubles, 18 homers and 89 RBIs combined between Class A Lexington and Double-A Corpus Christi, where he finished the season. He was named the South Atlantic League’s Most Valuable Player and was a midseason and postseason All-Star.

Bourn could be done for the season

The Astros’ lineup for Friday’s game in Pittsburgh once again didn’t include Gold Glove center fielder Michael Bourn, who’s nursing a strained side muscle. Bourn suffered the injury Sunday and hasn’t made enough progress to do any baseball-related drills.

Bourn admitted there’s a chance he might not play in the team’s final nine games of 2010.

“It’s a chance,” Bourn said. “I hope I’m able to, but at the same time I’m not going to rush it either. I’m going to play it by ear. I’m going to get up in the morning and not try to do anything strenuous.”

Here is the lineup:

CF Jason Bourgeois

SS Angel Sanchez

RF Hunter Pence

LF Carlos Lee

2B Jeff Keppinger

3B Chris Johnson

C Humberto Quintero

1B Brett Wallace

P Brett Myers

Bourn to miss a few days with injury

Astros center fielder Michael Bourn said he will miss at least “a couple of days” after being forced to leave Sunday’s win over the Reds in the seventh inning with a mild right lower oblique strain. The club is listing him as day to day.

“He’s probably going to have to take a rest at least [Monday] and maybe a couple of days,” Astros manager Brad Mills said.

Bourn, who has reached base in 27 consecutive games in which he’s had a plate appearance, grabbed for his lower back when he fouled off a pitch in his at-bat in the seventh inning. Mills and assistant athletic trainer Rex Jones came to the plate to check on him, but he convinced them to let him stay in the game.

“He saw me and I said ‘Let’s go ahead and get out of here,’ and he was very demonstrative against coming out of the game,” Mills said. “That led me to think that maybe it wasn’t an oblique, it was something else. After the next swing, it wasn’t tough to make a decision.”

Bourn fouled off the next pitch and again grabbed his lower back before heading for the dugout.

“I just felt it the first time and I thought I could still go, but after the second time I knew I couldn’t go,” he said. “I told them I couldn’t do it anymore. They told me it would be day to day and I suspect it’ll be a couple of days at least.”

Bourn is hitting .346 with a .421 on-base percentage since Aug. 21.

 

Bourn second-guesses himself

Michael Bourn reached base four times in five at-bats by going 2-for-3 with two walks and a stolen base on Monday against the Cubs, but he was more focused on what could have been. He led off the fourth with a stand-up double to right-center, but the speedster admitted he should have been on third with a triple.

He was thrown out at the plate moments later when he tried to score on Hunter Pence‘s grounder to third. Bourn knocked over Cubs catcher Geovany Soto, cutting his lip in the process, but the catcher held onto the ball for what turned out to be a crucial out in a 5-4 losss.

“We could have scored more,” Bourn said. “I feel like I messed up on a crucial mistake. I feel like I should have been to third. It was a bad baserunning error. It happens. I tried to make up for it and go home and shouldn’t have went.

“Sometimes I’m a risk-taker, but I should have done the opposite. I should have went to third and should not have went home. I try to learn from my mistakes. We lost by one and that could have been the deciding factor.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 74 other followers