Results tagged ‘ Tommy Manzella ’

Bourgeois or Shuck will grab final outfield spot

Unless the Astros acquire another outfielder in the next week, Jason Bourgeois or J.B. Shuck will begin the season as the fifth outfielder. Bourgeois served in that role for a time last year, and even started 11 games in center field at the end of the season when Michael Bourn went on the disabled list.

The two have emerged as the only candidates to win the final outfield spot after Brian Bogusevic was optioned to Minor League camp on Thursday. Bourgeois has certainly had a strong camp, entering Thursday hitting .314 with four stolen bases. The fact Bogusevic swings the bat from the left side was a bonus for him, but Bourgeois’ good spring couldn’t be ignored.

Shuck is somewhat of a surprise to still be at camp. A non-roster invitee, he’s a career .303 average in the Minor Leagues, but he’s only played 36 games above Double-A. He bats left-handed and can play all three outfield positions.

Astros general manager Ed Wade said the role of a bench player, such as what Bogusevic was going to be asked to play, is difficult for a young player.

“The bat-off-the-bench role is tough for a young guy to roll himself into,” Wade said. “They’re used to get 375, 400 at-bats at the Minor League level and maybe get called up and still be sharp and game ready. It becomes much more difficult when you get four or five at-bats a week at the big league level and understand what the level of preparation is associated with that.

“We’re fortunate here that we have a guy like Jason Michaels who’s done it and can help mentor younger players, if we have a young guy filling that role. We recognize it’s a tough one to fill, and we felt the right thing for us right now was to let Bogie go play and figure that one out down the road.”

When asked about Shuck in that role, Wade said: “It’s held against the same backdrop. That’s a tough job. J.B. makes a really good contact, he can bunt, he’s an above-average runner and can play all three defensive positions. He’s still in the mix.”

The decision to send Manzella to the Minors was somewhat surprising, considering he was hitting .278 this spring and is a polished defensive player. What probably worked against Manzella — last year’s Opening Day shortstop — was his lack of experience at third base and second base. 

His departure leaves four infielders — Matt Downs, Anderson Hernandez, Angel Sanchez and Oswaldo Navarro — battling for two spots. Downs might have the upper hand because he can play anywhere and has swung the bat well, but Hernandez can also be moved all over the diamond and is a switch-hitter. Sanchez is out of options and performed well last year with the Astros.

“We’ve got things to figure out,” Wade said. “One would say your big decisions are made. You’ve decided who your fifth starter is, you’ve decided who your closer it, you’ve decided this, that and the other thing. The fact of the matter is we recognize the importance of the composition of the bench and what opportunities it provides for [manager Brad Mills].

“In call candor, we’re going to be guided by what Millsie feels is appropriate with the composition of the bench because he’s the one that will look down there and make sure that,, as best we can, we’ve provided him the pieces to make effective moves late in the game.”

Taking a shot at the Astros 25-man roster

We are roughly halfway through Spring Training and the roster picture is pretty much as cloudy as it was when camp opened a month ago, and perhaps even more so with the injury to catcher Jason Castro. With so many bodies still in camp, it’s been difficult to determine which players might have the leg up, but that will not deter me.

Here’s my guess on what the Opening Day roster will look like:

CATCHERS (2)

Humberto Quintero

J.R. Towles

Comment: The Astros could still bring in another catcher in time for Opening Day, but for now I’m going to limit my prediction to the players that are still in camp.

INFIELDERS (6)

Brett Wallace (L)

Bill Hall

Clint Barmes

Chris Johnson

Matt Downs

Tommy Manzella

Comment: I still believe Wallace is going to win the first base job. Downs has looked good in camp and could bring some pop and versatility off the bench. Manzella has broadened his defensive scope and has looked good at the plate so far this spring. Angel Sanchez could still play his way into the mix, but his defense is an issue. Anderson Hernandez has played well, too.

OUTFIELDERS (5)

Carlos Lee

Michael Bourn (L)

Hunter Pence

Jason Michaels

Brian Bogusevic (L)

Comment: The only spot up for grabs is the fifth outfield spot. Bogusevic probably has a leg up on Jason Bourgeois because he hits left-handed. He runs pretty well too, but not as well as Bourgeois, who could also play second base.

STARTING PITCHERS (5)

Brett Myers

Wandy Rodriguez (L)

J.A. Happ (L)

Bud Norris

Ryan Rowland-Smith (L)

Comment: The fifth spot in the rotation remains completely up for grabs. Right now, I go with Rowland-Smith over Jordan Lyles, who has looked good but is still 20 years old and has barely had his feet wet at Triple-A. Nelson Figueroa makes the club as the long reliever.

RELIEF PITCHERS (7)

Brandon Lyon

Wilton Lopez

Fernando Abad (L)

Jeff Fulchino

Nelson Figueroa

Mark Melancon

Henry Villar

Comment: At this point, I see Lyon, Lopez, Abad and Figueroa as locks. Fulchino is healthy and pitching well, and Melancon appears to have a good chance. The last spot? Completely up for grabs. The injury to Alberto Arias may give some other guys a chance, and Villar as pitched well. Don’t count out Sergio Escalona or Enerio Del Rosario.

Let the games begin, Astros

The Astros will kick off their Grapefruit League campaign at 12 p.m. CT Monday with a game against the Atlanta Braves at Disney World. It’s the first of 37 games for Houston this spring – including six split-squad games – in preparation for the April 1 season opener at Philadelphia.

“You can go through as much drills as you want, but until you’re really putting another team across the field, you’re never really [sure what you're seeing],” Astros manager Brad Mills said. “We can go through these fundamentals, but they know where we’re going to hit the fungo or know what’s happening. Now the evaluating process ramps up a little bit.”

Here is the Astros’ starting lineup for the game:
CF Michael Bourn
1B Brett Wallace
RF Hunter Pence
LF Carlos Lee
DH Jason Michaels
3B Chris Johnson
C Jason Castro
2B Matt Downs
SS Tommy Manzella

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LHP Wandy Rodriguez will start on the mound. Also scheduled to pitch are Henry Villar, Enerio Del Rosario, Fernando Rodriguez, Lance Pendleton, Sergio Escalona and Wesley Wright.

On Sunday, the Astros played an intrasquad game with Koby Clemens going 3-for-3 with a homer and two RBIs to lead Dave Clark’s team to a 5-1 win over Bobby Meacham’s team. J.B. Shuck went 3-for-3 with a triple for Meacham’s squad.

Here are the stats from the game in which each pitcher threw an inning — Clarkie’s Crushers: RHP Jordan Lyles (K); RHP Jose Valdez (H, K); LHP Patrick Urckfitz (H,1R/0ER); RHP Nelson Figueroa (H); RHP Arcenio Leon (H, 2BB); RHP Ross Wolf; OF Brian Bogusevic (2×3, R); OF T.J. Steele (0×4, RBI); IF Anderson Hernandez (1×2); IF Tommy Manzella (1×3, R); C Carlos Corporan (2×3, RBI, R); OF J.D. Martinez (1×2, BB, R); IF Koby Clemens (3×3, HR, 2RBI, R); IF Jose Carlos Thompson (0×1, 2BB); IF Jay Austin (3×3); Meach’s Mashers: LHP Fernando Abad (2H, K); RHP Sergio De Leon (2H, 2R/2ER, BB); RHP David Carpenter (3H, 3R/3ER, BB, K); RHP Casey Fien (H); LHP Douglas Arguello (2H, K); RHP Cesar Carrillo (H, BB, K); C J.R. Towles (0×3); IF Brian Dopirak (0×3); IF Jimmy Paredes (0×2, BB); OF J.B. Shuck (3×3, 3B); OF Drew Locke (0×3, R); C Brian Esposito (0×2, RBI); IF Jiovanni Mier (0×1, BB); OF Jon Gaston (0×3); IF Oswaldo Navarro (0×2).

Defensively, Anderson Hernandez made a terrific diving stop behind third and was able to throw out catcher Brian Esposito, and Tommy Manzella had a nice game at third base. Also, shortstop Jiovanni Mier was able to complete a double play after second baseman Jimmy Paredes fumbled a ground ball. Carlos Corporan threw out a runner at second base trying to steal.

Here is the day in pictures:

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Above: Outfielder Brian Bogusevic warms up in the outfield.

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Above: The Astros practiced relays and cut-offs on Sunday morning, using players from Minor League mini camp as base runners. Third baseman Chris Johnson is taking a throw as prospect Telvin Nash runs the bases.

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Above: Left-hander Gustavo Chacin gets his work done in the bullpen.

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Above: Manager Brad Mills takes notes during Sunday’s intrasquad game.

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Above: Jordan Lyles throws a pitch in the intrasquad game. He threw a scoreless inning.

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Above: Outfielder J.D. Martinez stands in the batter’s box.

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Above: Former first-round pick Jiovanni Mier swings at a pitch.

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Above: J.B. Shuck gets ready to rip one of his three hits in Sunday’s intrasquad game.

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Above: Cesar Carrillo, a former first-round pick of Padres, prepares to fire a pitch Sunday.

Lineup set for spring opener

Astros manager Brad Mills has set his lineup for the Grapefruit League opener Monday against the Braves in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. As is the case with most road games in Spring Training, several players will be staying behind to get their work in at camp.

Clint Barmes, Bill Hall, Humberto Quintero and Brian Bogusevic are among those not traveling with the team to Disney on Monday, but the Astros are at home Tuesday at Osceola County Stadium. That’s when we should get our first glimpse of the lineup with all the players available.

Here is the lineup for Monday’s exhibition opener against Atlanta:

CF Michael Bourn

1B Brett Wallace

RF Hunter Pence

LF Carlos Lee

DH Jason Michaels

3B Chris Johnson

C Jason Castro

2B Matt Downs

SS Tommy Manzella

Wandy Rodriguez will and pitch two scheduled innings.

Astros position breakdown: shortstop

Our latest Astros position-by-position breakdown takes a look at shortstop, a position the Astros are going to be looking to upgrade offensively in the offseason:

SHORTSTOP

2010 Opening Day starter: Tommy Manzella.

2010 end-of-season starters: Tommy Manzella and Angel Sanchez.

Others who were in the mix in 2010: Jeff Keppinger, Geoff Blum, Anderson Hernandez, Matt Downs, Oswaldo Navarro.

Combined 2010 stats of Astros shortstops: .260 BA/.312 OBP/.321 SLG, 22 doubles, 2 homers, 54 RBIs, 40 walks, 127 strikeouts, 585 at-bats.

Free agents: Anderson Hernandez (Minor League).

Arbitration eligible: None.

What happened: The Astros went into last season ready to let Tommy Manzella show what he could do on offense, knowing all the while he was a Major League-ready defensive shortstop. Manzella struggled with the bat for much of the year, and came out the gate a little shaky on defense. But he got better with the glove as the season went on and blossomed into the defensive player the club had seen throughout the Minor Leagues.

Jeff Keppinger made a few starts at shortstop, but would soon be entrenched at second after the Astros cut ties with Kaz Matsui. That opened the door for Geoff Blum to get in some time at second base, as well. Manzella hit .224 in April and .192 in May before breaking his left index finger diving for a ball in late June and missing more than six weeks of the regular season. With Oswaldo Navarro and Blum the only options at shortstop after Manzella went down, the Astros traded catcher Kevin Cash to Boston for shortstop Angel Sanchez.

Sanchez hit .280 in 250 at-bats and impressed with the Astros with to put the ball in play. He went 4-for-6 and drove in a career-high six runs on Aug. 3 at St. Louis, but had only four RBIs over the next 31 games. Sanchez had only 13 extra-base hits, including no home runs, and proved to be a below-average defender because of his arm and his limited range. That’s why the Astros tinkered with him at second base, but he was still a better offensive option than Manzella.

Manzella, who hit .290 against left-handers, did end the season on the upswing offensively after coming back from his broken finger. He hit .261 in 69 at-bats to finish the season. He and Sanchez were splitting time at shortstop when the season came to an end.

What’s next: Manzella and Sanchez will back next year battling for a spot at shortstop, but the Astros will make it a priority in the offseason to find more offensive punch at shortstop, whether through free agency or a trade. That shouldn’t come as a surprise when you consider the Astros managed only two home runs out of their shortstops last year. And when you consider the outfield is set and the club is committed to Jason Castro at catcher, Brett Wallace at first and Chris Johnson at third, adding offense at shortstop and/or second base makes the most sense.

Bringing in a new player could lead to a platoon situation at shortstop or even at second base, where Keppinger brings limited offensive tools. Depending on which player the Astros bring in, Manzella and Sanchez could be competing for a roster spot next spring.

Who’s on the farm: Jiovanni Mier, the Astros’ No. 1 Draft pick from 2009, is still considered the club’s shortstop of the future, but he’s a few years away. He’s off to a slow start, but he was drafted out of high school and is still making adjustments. He hit .235/.323/.314 in 131 games last season with two homers, 53 RBIs and 15 stolen bases at low Class A Lexington. The Astros are also excited about adding Jimmy Paredes and Jonathan Villar in the two deals they made at the trading deadline. They both are athletic, strong kids who bring speed.

 

Manzella on way to Houston as trade winds blow

Astros shortstop Tommy Manzella is on his way to Houston following a rehab stint at Triple-A Round Rock, but it remains to be seen when he will be activated and what corresponding roster move might be made by the club.

Manzella, out two months with a fractured finger, hit .366 with one homer and five RBIs in 11 games combined between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Round Rock. He’ll arrive in Houston today along with left-hander Fernando Abad, who was recalled following Wednesday’s game when Matt Lindstrom was put on the disabled list.

The Astros close out a 10-game home stand tonight against the Mets before leaving on a 10-game road trip that begins Friday night in Miami against Florida and it appears Manzella will be making the trip.

Houston has informed other clubs that veteran infielder Geoff Blum and third baseman Pedro Feliz could be had in trades, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. The Cardinals have had some contact with the Astros about acquiring Blum, but there is nothing serious in the works.

Feliz, who has been a bust after a signing a one-year, $4.5-million deal, could be a fit for the Braves, who have also been in touch with the Astros and are searching for help at third base in the wake of Chipper Jones’ season-ending knee injury.

Feliz is hitting .221 with four homers and 31 RBIs in 289 at-bats and lost his starting to job to rookie Chris Johnson in July.

Manzella could also be used as insurance if the Astros decide they need to put starting second baseman Jeff Keppinger on the disabled list. He’s missed the last two games with a sprained left big toe, but is listed as day-to-day.

Blum has been starting at second in place of Keppinger and hit a game-tying homer in the ninth inning Wednesday, but moving him without a healthy Keppinger would leave the Astros without a second baseman.

Busy off day for the Astros

Astros pitcher Brian Moehler said Thursday he torn the tendon off the bone in his left groin area during Wednesday’s simulated game in St. Louis and is seeking more input from doctors about what course of action he should take.

Moehler flew to Houston from St. Louis on Wednesday night and was examined Thursday morning by team medical director Dr. David Lintner. Moehler will have to choose between having the groin repaired surgically or trying non-surgical procedures.

“Dr. Lintner said you see more of this in football players and hockey goalies than you do baseball players, and he said a lot of studies are showing now that they’ve had success without surgery,” Moehler said. “We’re going to talk to a couple of other doctors who specialize in that area, and Dr. Lintner wants to know as well and see what they have to say.”

Moehler said Lintner was surprised with how well Moehler was moving around Thursday. He even threw a baseball off flat ground without pain. He plans to work out Friday at Minute Maid Park and rejoin the team when it returns to Houston on Monday.

“I’m not in any pain,” he said. “I’m walking around fine, and that’s very surprising. I thought I’d be in discomfort.”

Moehler admitted there’s a chance he might not pitch again this year.

“My head’s spinning because I don’t know which way to go,” he said. “If I do rehab and it doesn’t’ work, then I’ve wasted six weeks or however long it would take me to get back on the mound. I just need to talk to as many people as people and see what the other doctors have to say.”

The 38-year-old Moehler, who has been on the disabled list since July 8 with a right groin strain, is 1-4 with a 4.92 ERA in 20 games, including eight starts.

Also, right-hander Felipe Paulino is scheduled for a second opinion on his ailing right shoulder and will visit Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., on Aug. 12.

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Major League Baseball made official what was reported Wednesday by announcing Astros’ Minor League players Marcos Cabral, a shortstop, Jonathon Fixler, a catcher, and Danny Meszaros, a pitcher, were suspended 50 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

All three tested positive for Methylhexaneamine and began serving their suspension immediately. On Wednesday, MLB announced pitcher Richard Rodriguez of the Astros’ Dominican Summer League team had been suspended for 50 games for using a performance-enhancing drug.

Astros general manager Ed Wade released a statement about the suspension that was understandably strong:

“The Houston Astros fully support the efforts of the Commissioner’s Office to rid our sport of any type of inappropriate drug use. Our players and staff have been briefed, counseled, educated and warned about what the ramifications and consequences are when they choose, either knowingly or not, to violate the MLB drug policy. And yet, despite the best efforts of MLB and the Astros, we still have individuals who abuse our game by ignoring reality. We are embarrassed by these types of suspensions. They are a smear on our game and our organization, and we will redouble our efforts to make sure the message gets through.”

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Astros general manager Ed Wade, in Corpus Christi to watch the Hooks play on Thursday night, said shortstop Tommy Manzella reported to Corpus Christi to being his rehab. He’s been out six weeks with a fractured left index finger.

The plan is for Manzella to get two at-bats in two games and then increase to three at-bats in two games before playing in a full game. He will then continue his rehab at Triple-A Round Rock. The longest the rehab could last is 20 days, but Manzella hopes it won’t be that long.

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The Astros made official the signing of first-round pick Delino DeShields Jr. during a news conference Thursday at Minute Maid Park. DeShields inked for a signing bonus of $2.15 million, which is around the suggested slot recommendation.

For a complete story on DeShields, as well as pictures and video of the news conference, click here.

Here are a couple of other stories Astros fans should read that posted today at Astros.com:

 

Manzella out 6 weeks, plus lineup vs. Giants

The Astros try to snap their five-game losing streak and nine-game losing streak against the Giants tonight at Minute Maid Park when Barry Zito (7-3, 3.13 ERA) faces Brett Myers (3-4, 3.34 ERA) in the middle game of the three-game series.

Houston received some bad news prior to Wednesday’s game when it was revealed starting shortstop Tommy Manzella will miss six weeks with a fractured left index finger, an injury suffered diving for a ball in the sixth inning Tuesday. Oswaldo Navarro was called up from Triple-A Round Rock to take his place.

Here are the lineups:

ASTROS

CF Jason Bourgeois

2B Jeff Keppinger

1B Lance Berkman

LF Carlos Lee

RF Hunter Pence

3B Chris Johnson

SS Geoff Blum

C Jason Castro

P Brett Myers

GIANTS

CF Andres Torres

2B Freddy Sanchez

RF Aubrey Huff

3B Juan Uribe

LF Pat Burrell

1B Pablo Sandoval

SS Edgar Reneteria

C Bengie Molina

P Barry Zito

 

An appreciation of Tommy Manzella

Tommy Manzella is not in the Astros’ lineup almost every day to hit. That’s supposed to be handled by Hunter Pence, Carlos Lee, Lance Berkman and Pedro Feliz. Manzella is in the lineup to play defense and make the kind of dazzling plays like he did in Thursday’s loss to the Reds.

Manzella started a terrific 6-4-3 double play to end the seventh, going to his right and backhanding a ball off the bat of Ryan Hanigan. He topped himself in the eighth when pitcher Bronson Arroyo hit a grounder over the mound which Manzella fielded in shallow center field and whirled and threw out Arroyo at first base.

You won’t see two better plays this year.

Manzella said he’s getting more used to playing behind the pitchers and knowing what pitches they’re going to throw and where the balls might be hit.

“I’m able to make adjustments and I feel like my range is starting to expand,” he said.

He feels really comfortable playing behind Roy Oswalt, who works at a quick pace.

“That’s ideal,” he said. “The quicker the pace, the better it is for the infielders because we’re all on our toes. Nights like tonight where you know he’s working quick and moving the ball in and out, you almost get in a rhythm with him.”

When it came to turn the double play in the seventh inning, Manzella said he’s been taught a good defensive player makes sure he gets the first out and leaves everything else to the other player. In this case, second baseman Kaz Matsui.

“I’m not trying to be quick and hurry and get two,” he said. “When you see a ball like that, my job is to try to get the ball to Kaz as quickly as I can and he made a great turn and that’s almost like a do-or-die play. It’s a do-or-die with a little bit of caution. I didn’t go crazy. I got to it as quickly as I could and made sure we go the first one, and luckily the feed was good enough to let him turn the double play.”

On the play in which he robbed Arroyo of a hit, Manzella knew Arroyo wouldn’t get down the line as quickly as most of the rest of the lineup, so he changed his approach as the ball skipped over the mound and past second base.

“Maybe with someone quicker running it would have been a bang-bang play, but I had an idea he was running and I was able to take a deeper angle and give myself more time,” he said.

With Michael Bourn in center field and Manzella at shortstop, the Astros have two terrific defensive players.

 

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.”

 

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