Results tagged ‘ Michael Bourn ’

Medical updates on Bourn, Lindstrom

Right-hander Matt Lindstrom, who’s been on the disabled list since Aug. 17 with a lower back strain, threw between 30 and 35 fastballs at about 80-85 percent effort in the bullpen prior to Sunday’s game and reported no problems.

Lindstrom was originally scheduled to throw Saturday and begin a Minor League rehab on Monday for Double-A Corpus Christi, but the back began bothering him again and moved back his bullpen session by one day.

“I’m not trying to throw as hard as I can out there,” Lindstrom said. “I was just trying to get a feel for the mound again and stuff. We’re going to continue to reevaluate how I feel and go from there. I’m anticipating an outing with the Double-A team within the next couple of days, so it should be fine. It’s a day-to-day thing. Whenever I wake up I try to see how I feel, but today was a good day.”

This has been a frustrating stretch for Lindstrom, who struggled through back issues and lost his job as closer just prior to going on the disabled list. He’s going to take the day off Monday, but is encouraged his arm feels great.

“I was making really good progress in Philly, and the last couple of days started to feel the spasms come back a little bit and we tried to stay off it,” Lindstrom said. “That’s why we pushed my bullpen back to today. Today I was waking up and feeling a little cranky, but we did the things we needed to do to get ready to throw another ‘pen. It went well.”

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Center fielder Michael Bourn left Sunday’s loss to the Mets in the eighth inning with a strained hamstring. He said he was day-to-day and hoped to be able to play in Monday’s series opener against the Cardinals in Houston, but don’t expect the Astros to rush him to action.

Bourn said he first injured the hamstring beating out an infield hit in the third inning Sunday. He left the game in the eighth.

“It’s alright,” he said. “It got tight on me earlier in the game and that’s why some balls I couldn’t run out. Before it got too bad, I came out. I knew better than to try to keep going in there and to try to run again. You could feel the tightness and it was hot out there. Instead of being dumb, I tried to be smart.”

Bourn’s single Sunday gave him an eight-game hitting streak. He’s batting .382 during the streak with a .432 on-base percentage and five stolen bases. His infield hit was his National League-leading 32nd of the season.

 

Bourn named to All-Star team

Astros CF Michael Bourn will be making his first All-Star Game appearance after being selected as a reserve by NL manager Charlie Manuel of the Phillies, the organization that drafted Bourn in 2003 out of the University of Houston.

Bourn, 27, leads the league with 25 stolen bases and is well on his way to winning another NL Gold Glove Award, an honor he won last year for the first time. He’s hitting .260 with one homer and 20 RBIs from the leadoff spot with 48 runs scored and a .336 on-base percentage, and he carried the Astros by hitting .311 in April while much of the club was struggling offensively.

He also leads league in outfield assists, infield hits and bunt hits (tied).

All three Astros starting outfielders now have All-Star nods on their resumes. Right-fielder Hunter Pence went last year, and left-fielder Carlos Lee went for the Astros in 2007.

The Astros at the halfway point

After 81 games — midpoint in their 162-game schedule — the Astros are 32-49, which puts them on pace to go 64-98, which would be their worst record in club history. I once thought the club was a shoo-in to reach 100 losses, but it is 15-15 in its last 30 games and has been playing better for the most part.

Will that continue? A lot of it will depend on what happens by the end of this month and the trade deadline. If the Astros trade Roy Oswalt, who pitched terrific on Friday, for some prospects, and perhaps even Brett Myers, they will be in a full-fledged youth movement and there figures to be some growing pains.

The Astros are already committed to rookies Chris Johnson at third base and Jason Castro at catcher, and it appears 26-year-old Angel Sanchez will get substantial playing time at shortstop until rookie Tommy Manzella returns from his broken finger. If the Astros do get some top-notch prospects for Oswalt, the second half of the season will be worth watching if the future of the club is on display.

This is one of the few seasons in last 20 years the Astros are pretty much out of it at the All-Star break, due in large part because sluggers Carlos Lee, Lance Berkman and Hunter Pence struggled collectively to begin the season. At the end of the season, they could wind up having decent numbers, but their inability to hit — along with Pedro Feliz and Kaz Matsui — early in the year buried the Astros.

Lee is on pace to hit 20 homers and drive in 82 runs, which would way below his career averages, not to mention he’s hitting .238. Berkman is hitting .240 and has seven homers and 35 RBIs at the midpoint, but he did miss the first two weeks of the season. Pence? He’s on pace to hit .257 with 22 homers an 77 RBIs.

On the mound, Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez — the top two pitchers in the Astros’ rotation — are on pace to lose 20 games. That’s a shame for Oswalt, considering he’s delivered 14 quality starts in 17 outings and has a 3.32 ERA. He’s stuck at 142 career wins, leaving him two shy of Joe Niekro for the club’s all-time lead. Whether gets a chance to get it or gets dealt will be one of the biggest story lines for the second half of the season.

Here’s predicting the Astros play better in the second half of the season and avoid 100 losses, whether it’s from the veterans stepping up at the plate or the infusion of youth paying dividends.

Here are my Astros awards at the midpoint:

Astros Player of the Year: Michael Bourn. He’s hitting .264 with one homer and 20 RBIs from the leadoff spot with on on-base percentage of .340, but he’s stolen 25 bases, is among league leaders in outfield assists and is on his way to a second Gold Glove.

Astros Pitcher of the Year: Matt Lindstrom: He’s got 19 saves in 23 chances for a team that has only 32 wins. He’s posted a 2.97 ERA and proven to be a terrific pickup from the Marlins. He’s got a chance to make the All-Star team. A case could certainly be made for Oswalt or Myers.

Astros Rookie of the Year: Wilton Lopez. The durable reliever is 3-0 with a 3.98 ERA in 30 games. At the end of year we may be giving this to Chris Johnson or Jason Castro, but they haven’t been around long enough at this point.

 

 

Astros finally getting some breaks

A ball bounces over the head of left fielder Carlos Lee and leads to two runs in the ninth inning. Prior to this week, that would have done in the Astros. They would have went down quietly in the ninth and been saddled with another less.

But there’s been a different feeling at Minute Maid Park the last few days. Blown leads late in games are being turned into victories, and somewhere along the line there’s a hint of momentum and — dare are we say? — confidence.

“That’s important going forward,” first baseman Lance Berkman said. “We’ve got to believe that no matter what the circumstances in the game are we have a chance to win it and we’ve got a good feel over the last three games and just keep it going.”

After losing 14-4 in the series opener against Washington, the Astros won the final three games of the series, twice rallying in the bottom of the ninth after closer Matt Lindstrom blew saves in the top of the inning.

Thursday’s wasn’t really Lindstrom’s fault as much it was bad luck. A blooper by Willie Harris bounced over Lee’s head and resulted in an RBI and eventually the go-ahead run in the ninth, but the Astros got a huge break in the bottom of the inning when Cristian Guzman misplayed a two-out fly ball off the bat of Berkman to allow the tying run to score. Lee hit a two-run homer, and the Astros were winners.

Again.

“We knew we had three more outs and we were going to give it our best, but and we came out with the victory,” center fielder Michael Bourn said.

They are 20-34 at the one-third mark of the season and on pace to go 60-102. They’re tied with slumping Arizona for the worst record in the National League, but perhaps they’re getting things together. Berkman, Lee and Hunter Pence combined to go 5-for-14 on Thursday with two homers and are all swinging the bat better.

Maybe what we’ve seen the last three days is the real Astros.

 

 

Bourn to serve one-game suspension

Astros center fielder Michael Bourn will serve a one-game suspension and miss Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays after settling his appeal of the discipline he received from Major League Baseball for his actions in a game May 8.

Bourn may be in uniform and participate in the team’s pre-game routine, but MLB rules will prohibit him from being in the dugout or clubhouse when the game begins. Bourn can watch the game from the stands or suite level, but is not permitted in the press box or television/radio broadcast areas.

Bourn was originally suspended for two games and fined an undisclosed amount for his aggressive actions, including making contact with umpire Alfonso Marquez, during a game against the Padres in Houston. He was appealing the suspension.

The suspension will be served on a day the Astros face Rays left-hander David Price (6-1, 1.81 ERA). Bourn is hitting .288 with a league-leading 15 stolen bases this year, but he’s batting just .227 against left-handed pitchers. Jason Michaels started in center field Sunday. <p>

Astros lineup Sunday vs. Giants

The Astros try to salvage the final game of their three-game series in San Francisco when they face the Giants this afternoon. Houston will once again have a challenging pitching matchup, with left-hander Barry Zito (5-1, 1,90 ERA) on the mound. Brett Myers (2-2, 3.52 ERA) will pitch for the Astros.

Astros manager Brad Mills has Jeff Keppinger at the top of the lineup, giving Michael Bourn a day off. This is the Astros’ first game against a left-handed starter since April 23. Jason Michaels is starting in center field and hitting second.

Here are the lineups:

ASTROS

2B Jeff Keppinger

CF Jason Michaels

1B Lance Berkman

LF Carlos Lee

RF Hunter Pence

3B Pedro Feliz

SS Tommy Manzella

C Kevin Cash

RHP Brett Myers

GIANTS

CF Aaron Rowand

LF Andres Torres

3B Pablo Sandoval

C Bengie Molina

1B Aubrey Huff

SS Juan Uribe

RF Nate Schierholtz

2B Matt Downs

LHP Barry Zito

Bourn to appeal suspension

Astros general manager Ed Wade said center fielder Michael Bourn plans to appeal the two-game suspension and fine handed to him Tuesday by Major League Baseball, which means the Gold Glove winner would be available to play tonight against St. Louis.

Bourn has been suspended for two games and fined an undisclosed amount for his aggressive actions, including making contact with umpire Alfonso Marquez, during the bottom of the ninth inning of Saturday’s game against the San Diego Padres at Minute Maid Park. Bob Watson, vice president of on-field operations for Major League Baseball, made the announcement.

“I called Michael this morning to make him aware of the suspension and fine and he was going to contact the Players’ Association to file an appeal,” Wade said. “They’ll schedule a hearing out of New York at some point in time, either face-to-face or by some type of video conferencing, and until that point comes Michael will be available.”

Wade believes the punishment was too severe.

“I talked to Bob Watson last night and he made me aware we were probably heading in that direction,” Wade said. “We feel the contact was coincidental and Michael did not intend to bump Alfonso Marquez. We disagree with the severity of the punishment and hopefully it gets reversed or reduced at some point in time.”

 

Emptying the Astros notebook

Tommy Manzella, who has started 10 games at shortstop this year, was out of the starting lineup Wednesday in what manager Brad Mills said was a scheduled day off. Manzella is hitting .206 this season and took some extra batting practice before the game against the Marlins.

“The more swings I take, the closer I am to getting there,” Manzella said. “I’m not one to think you have to overwork, or even when you’re going good, you have to take a million swings to keep it there. Right now, I’m trying a bunch of different things, not to change anything I’m doing, but trying things that will click to get my swing back to where it is when I am successful.”

Manzella keeps detailed notes about his swing when he’s in a groove so he can go over them when he’s struggling. He says the swing feels the same as it does when he’s going good.

“I might be making a minor adjustment to where I’m doing something different, but it’ exactly how I felt when I was going good,” Manzella said.

Jeff Keppinger started at shortstop in place of Manzella. It’s his fourth start of the season at shortstop, and he’s started seven games at second base.

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The Astros’ bench has come up huge in recent games, with Jason Michaels winning Sunday’s game in Chicago with a pinch-hit sacrifice fly in the 10th inning and Kaz Matsui coming off the bench to push the winning across with the bunt in the eighth Tuesday. Michaels added a pinch-hit homer in that game.

And on Wednesday night, Geoff Blum delivered a pinch-hit, two-run triple in the seventh to win the game.

“Those guys are doing a really good job,” Mills said. “You feel for those guys that don’t get a whole lot of playing time, but when they come through like that you’re thrilled to death for them.”

Mills has a soft spot in his heart for players who are called upon to come off the bench in big situations. He played four years in the Majors and was primarily a bench player, so he knows how important it is to keep them fresh and informed of their roles.

“I’ve had the opportunity to see things done in a certain way, see how it works with the places I’ve been like with [manager] Terry [Francona] with Boston the last six years and how things have been successful,” said Mills, who spent the previous six years as Boston’s bench coach.

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Center fielder Michael Bourn, who led the National League with 61 stolen bases last year, stole second and third base in the first inning Tuesday and scored on a ground ball by Lance Berkman. Bourn can tell teams are keeping a closer eye on him this year.

“Last year they wouldn’t care if I was going, but now they stay in and pick,” Bourn said.

Bourn walked to lead off Wednesday’s game and promptly stole second, giving him three steals in two days. He only had one stolen base prior to the Marlins series. And he also ran his way out of a key rundown between second and third in the sixth inning.

Part of the reason Bourn hadn’t run much in the first two weeks of the season was because the Astros were often playing from behind and were in need of some big innings. Mills has given Bourn a green light to run when he sees fit.

“He’s made a big step in understanding when to go and when not to go and when he’s able to get a jump and when he’s not able,” he said. “That’s huge when base runners can make that turn and get that realization. That’s really huge.”

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Humberto Quintero got the start behind the plate for the Astros on Wednesday against the Marlins. It was the seventh start of the season for Quintero, which matches the seven starts for J.R. Towles. Quintero responded with his first homer of the season.

Mills said the reason Quintero was in the lineup Wednesday was so he could catch Bud Norris, who pitched so well when Quintero caught him five days earlier in St. Louis. Towles caught Norris in his first start of the season.

“That’s the reason he’s in there,” Mills said. “Bud threw the ball so well in St. Louis that I felt, ‘You know what? Let’s give Q another shot with him.’ It’s nothing against J.R. or anything. He’s been swinging the bat well and doing a good job behind the plate.

“We’re still in the phase of seeing what works and what doesn’t work and who fits where and why.”

 

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.

Saturday morning Astros update: Oswalt feels fine

The Astros finally got some good news on the injury front Saturday when center fielder Michael Bourn returned to the lineup after missing a week with a strained oblique muscle. Bourn, who batted lead-off, said he was completely over the injury and didn’t expect it to be a problem.

Elsewhere on the injury front, both Brett Myers and Roy Oswalt said they were fine and as of now they’re still expected to make their next starts. Oswalt will be examined in Houston on Monday after leaving Friday’s game with a strained left hamstring. Myers left Thursday’s game with a strained left groin, but should make his next start Tuesday.

“No problems, guys,” Oswalt told reporters Saturday morning.

Jason Bourgeois (hamstring) isn’t scheduled to return this week, and shortstop Tommy Manzella (strained quadriceps) could be close to playing in a Minor League game, he said. Also, catcher J.R. Towles is nursing a strained left hamstring and right-hander Yorman Bazardo had an MRI on his shoulder Saturday morning. 

“Everybody’s improving,” manager Brad Mills said. “We’re more concerned about Tommy’s lateral movement. On quick bursts, he still feels it. He’s able to hit and take some ground balls, but any sharp, quick movements [are an issue] and he’s going to need that.

“We’re going to extend him a couple of days until he feels like he’s able to do that. His pain level is much better. It’s s step in the right direction, but we’re waiting. Same way with Jason. He still feels it. We’re not even able to get them some at-bats in the Minor League facility.”

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When Oswalt and Myers return to action, Mills said he didn’t expect to try to use a designated hitter to protect them from running the bases and aggravating their injuries. But they might have to use the DH to get more at-bats for Manzella, Towles and Bourgeois.

“We have talked about that,” he said. “As of right now, we’re not planning to use the DH. A lot of that is going to have to depend on Tommy Manzella and J.R. Towles and Jason Bourgeois. We might have to give those guys some at-bats at designated hitter, so that becomes more of an issue.

“The situation of [pitchers] hitting and running the bases is more we’d like to see them put some bunts down and be able to move runners. I’m not concerned about how they run to first base or the bases or whatever. They’re smart enough to know they can’t really let it go swinging the bat and let it go running as well. It’s going to come down to those three guys and injuries more than anything else.”

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