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Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, director of decision sciences Sig Mejdal and special assistant to the GM/scouting Mike Elias each received their 2011 St. Louis Cardinals World Series rings prior to Wednesday’s game at Minute Maid Park.
Astros bench coach Joe Pettini, who was former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa’s right-hand man for 10 years, received his in the clubhouse a few moments earlier.
The rings were presented by Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. and general manager John Mozielak in Luhnow’s booth. For Luhnow, it’s 10th ring in either the Minors or the Majors while with the Cardinals.
“We work hard in this industry, we work long hours and the reward is when you get win a championship,” said Luhnow, who was hired from the Cardinals in December and quickly brought Mejdal and Elias to Houston. “The celebration and being able to get hardware like this is why we do this, why we’re in this industry. I was glad to be a part of it, and I can’t wait until we do the same thing here in Houston. That’s my ultimate goal.”
DeWitt, who hired Luhnow into the industry in 2003, was pleased to be able to present his former employees with the hardware.
“We’re really pleased to be herd and these guys did such a great job for us,” Dewitt said. “We’re happy to come up here and personally present it. It’s a great honor for us to come do it, and they deserve it.”
Dewitt expects Luhnow to be successful in Houston.
“He’s had a great start with the Draft,” Dewitt said. “We’re all very impressed with that. We hated to lose all of them, but that will speak well for Houston over the years. I’m sure [the Astros] will have a good team before long.”
Elias worked under Luhnow from 2007-11 and as area scout and later as manager of amateur scouting with crosschecking responsibilities. Mejdal worked with the Cardinals from 2005-11, most recently as director of amateur draft analytics.
“It’s a great reminder of the five years with the Cardinals and everything we exprerineced there,” Elias said. “They gave me my first opportunity in baseball – Jeff, Sig, Mo and Mr. DeWitt – and this is probably the best keepsake you could have from something like that. There’s a lot of pride in wearing it.”
The Astros worked out on the stadium field at the Osceola County Stadium complex for the first time Friday morning in anticipation of Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener against the Washington Nationals.
Before the players began to stretch, manager Brad Mills addressed the team and lauded non-roster outfielder Brandon Barnes for presenting him earlier in the morning with a Transformers watch. Mills’ watch was shattered and he suffered a black eye Wednesday when a ball came through the netting behind the cage and struck him.
“That’s pretty good for a young kid to do that,” Mills said. “I told the guys if we screw up on the time today, it’s Brandon’s fault, because of the Transformers watch.”
Here’s the latest on the Astros:
- LHP Sergio Escalona, who injured his throwing elbow swinging a bat last week, will be shut down for a few days, Mills said. Escalona had an MRI on Thursday, which showed no structural damage.
- Mills announced the next two starters in his rotation following Livan Hernandez (Saturday), J.A. Happ (Sunday) and Jordan Lyles (Monday). Wandy Rodriguez will start Tuesday against the Mets, and Bud Norris will start Wednesday against the Phillies in Clearwater.
- Among the relievers scheduled to pitch behind Hernandez on Saturday are Brett Myers and Brandon Lyon, who will be pitching in a game for the first time since May. Myers will throw one inning in his debut as Astros closer (he won’t pitch the ninth, however).
- The batting order has yet to be announced, but Mills revealed his starters for Saturday’s game against the Nats: Chris Johnson (third base), Jed Lowrie (shortstop), Jose Altuve (second base), Carlos Lee (first base), J.B. Shuck (left field), Jason Bourgeois (center field), Travis Buck (right field), Castro (catcher) and Jack Cust (DH).
- Third baseman Jimmy Paredes, who’s nursing a sore left wrist, took batting practice left-handed Thursday, but is still not cleared to swing right from the right side of the plate.
- Castro, who missed all of last year following knee surgery and then had foot surgery in December, will catch only three innings Saturday. Mills said he’d like Castro to catch three more innings Monday and then perhaps four on Wednesday, depending on how he feels.
Add Astros manager Brad Mills to the list of people that like the idea of baseball perhaps adding another team to the playoffs.
Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association are working toward a Thursday deadline to expand the playoffs by adding two additional Wild Card teams overall, creating a one-game first-round playoff in each league, beginning with the 2012 postseason.
“It’s going to be good for the all the fans,” said Mills, who spent six years as bench coach of the Red Sox before coming to Houston. “Even though you’re adding one more spot, you’re creating a lot of interest for more teams in both leagues. I’m definitely in favor of that. If I’m not mistaken, it’s going to be a one-game playoff, and those are always fun.”
By the way, the Astros would have made the playoffs in 1995 had the two Wild Card teams in each league been in effect.
Astros left-handed relief pitcher Sergio Escalona, who injured his elbow swinging a bat early in camp, was examined by team doctors Thursday and was scheduled to undergo an MRI, manager Brad Mills said.
Escalona’s elbow didn’t respond as well as the Astros would like following his live batting practice session Wednesday.
“Escalona’s arm, after he threw yesterday, just wasn’t where he feels it needs to be and really our doctors and staff feels it needs to be,” Mills said. “We’re going to get him some more tests on that to see where he’s at, so he’s probably not going to throw for a while with that.”
Here is the day in pictures:
After listening to speeches from owner Jim Crane, general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager Brad Mills, 63 Astros players hit the field for the first full-squad workout of the spring. The Astros have a week to get up to speed before opening Grapefruit League play Saturday against the Washington Nationals.
Among those on the field for the first time Sunday was Carlos Lee, who’s in the final year of his six-year, $100-million contract and likely his final season in Houston
Lee, 35, batted .275 with 18 homers and 94 RBIs in 155 games last year, and he hasn’t put up the same kind of numbers the last two seasons as did during his first three years in Houston when he hit .306 and averaged 29 homers and 107 RBIs.
“Last year, I started really slow, but I kind of figured it out and worked hard on my hitting and had a great second half,” he said. “I did what I’m capable of doing. Hopefully we take off in the same condition I was last year hitting the ball like I normally do.”
Here is the day in photos, with an emphasis in smiles and autographs:
Minor League pitching coordinator Jon Matlack took some extra time following workouts Friday to have a one-on-one, hands-on session with 21-year-old right-hander Jordan Lyles on one of the pitching mounds.
“We’re just tweaking some things that people have seen in my delivery that maybe there’s more energy I can put into it and the velocity would be greater,” Lyles said. “We were really bouncing thoughts off of each other and he was asking me what am I thinking, what am I doing. He’s trying to get the most out of my frame and my delivery.”
Matlack was a three-time All-Star hurler in a playing career that spanned 13 seasons. He also served as Detroit’s Major League pitching coach in 1996 and spent eight seasons as a Minor League pitching coach with the White Sox and Padres. The Tigers let him go in August.
For more on Lyles and the rest of the news of the day, including some health updates and what Cesar Cedeno is up to, click here.
And don’t forget to read my feature on newcomer Kyle Weiland.
Here is Friday in pictures:
The second day of pitcher and catcher workouts went off without a hitch, with Astros manager Brad Mills getting his first look at pitchers like Rhiner Cruz, Livan Hernandez and Paul Clemens when they threw in the bullpen for the first time.
“Watching the guys throw, that’s always the biggest thing,” Mills said. “I thought Rhiner Cruz threw the ball really well. I thought Bud Norris threw the ball well and Paul Clemens, too. Livan’s command of his pitches was pretty impressive. The guys are doing the things to get themselves ready. Today was a much better day. Guys knew better where to go and what to do.”
General manager Jeff Luhnow was impressed with Clemens, who came to the Astros in the Michael Bourn trade.
“He’s got a big arm,” he said. “We’re going to develop him as a starter. My philosophy for the better arms is until they prove to us they don’t have three pitches and don’t have command to start, we’re going to start them, and it looks like [Clemens] has got everything he needs.”
Let’s get right to the photos:
With social media phenom Alyson Footer sitting this trip out, I thought I would take the opportunity to step into her shoes and post some batting practice pictures:
The Astros are getting down to business. The team will play a six-inning intrasquad game following Sunday’s morning work before opening Grapefruit League play on Monday against the Atlanta Braves in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
While none of the regular players will participate in the intrasquad game, it will be interesting to see manager Brad Mills‘ starting lineup for Monday’s game. Mills has said the lineup is set, and it could give us our first glimpse what the lineup will look like when the regular season starts.
The most intriguing thing to me is who will hit second. There really is not a prototypical No. 2 hitter in the starting eight position players, so we could see Clint Barmes or Bill Hall there for now. Perhaps if Jason Castro gets going at the plate, he could be the guy at some point.
But there’s little doubt Mills is ready to see his players in game conditions.
“You can evaluate all you want, and all of a sudden it comes to a screeching halt come Monday,” he said. “It goes into a separate gear, and the reason it goes into a separate gear is you’re on the field, playing another ballclub. You can evaluate all you want now but you can be fooled by Spring Training and September. You try to put all the things together and do what you can.”
Here are the upcoming pitching rotations:
Intrasquad game home team: Nelson Figueroa, David Carpenter, Ross Wolf, Jose Valdez, Jorge De Leon and Arecenio Leon.
Intrasquad game away team: Fernando Abad, Casey Fien, Cesar Carrillo, Douglas Arguello, Patrick Urckfitz and Jordan Lyles.
Monday vs. Braves (road): Wandy Rodriguez, Henry Villar, Enerio Del Rosario, Fernando Rodriguez, Lance Pendleton, Sergio Escalona and Wesley Wright.
Tuesday vs. Braves (home): Brett Myers, Brandon Lyon, Jeff Fulchino, Fernando Abad, Mark Melancon, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Gustavo Chacin, Patrick Urckfitz.
Wednesday vs. Tigers (split squad): J.A. Happ, Wilton Lopez, Gustavo Chacin, Ross Wolf, David Carpenter, Jorge De Leon.
Wednesday vs. Yankees (split squad): Bud Norris, Douglas Arguello, Jorge Valdez, Casey Fien, Jordan Lyles, Cesar Carrillo.
And finally, here’s the day in pictures, with an emphasis on some of the guys from Major League camp:
Above: The Astros pulled over a few Minor Leaguers from mini camp to be used as base runners during rundown drills. Here Bud Norris talks with outfielders Telvin Nash and Jay Austin prior to the drill.
Above: A group of catchers set up to catch some bullpens.
Above: This is catcher Ben Heath, a fifth-round pick last year from Penn State who swatted 10 home runs in 61 games in his professional debut.
Above: To get an idea of how big outfielder Telvin Nash is, here he is standing to Brett Wallace. Nash, a third-round pick in 2009, is listed as 6-2, 220. He hit 13 homers last year in 213 Minor League at-bats, mostly at Class A Greeneville.
Above: Infielder Tommy Manzella flies around the bases during a drill Saturday.
Above: Astros players take a much-needed breather after a grueling base-running drill.
Above: Hall of Fame radio broadcaster Milo Hamilton arrived in camp and was greeted by several players, incliuding Jason Michaels. Hamilton, who is in his 62nd Spring Training, returns for his 27th season as the radio voice of the Astros. He has been broadcasting Major League Baseball since 1953, and his 57 years in the Major Leagues is second only to Vin Scully’s 62.
Above: Michael Bourn has been working hard on his bunting this spring.
Above: My man Brett Myers fires a pitch during a bullpen session Saturday.