Odds and ends, news and notes.

News and notes…
Hunter Pence is out for two to three games, including Wednesday’s loss to the Yankees, with a slight strain in his left calf, an injury he suffered while sliding home during the Astros’ game in Lakeland Tuesday.

Right-hander Alberto Arias, recovering from a bruised right hand, will throw a bullpen session on Thursday. Arias was hit by a line drive last Saturday while pitching against the Yankees in Tampa.

Jason Michaels, who is nursing a sore hamstring, has not played the field but has been pinch-hitting. He’s expected to miss one more game, defensively-speaking.

Manager Cecil Cooper was disappointed with the combined defensive efforts of his infielders — Jason Smith, Matt Kata and David Newhan — late in Wednesday’s game.

“These are the people fighting for utility roles,” Cooper said. “I keep calling them out and nobody seems to step up. That’s all I can tell you, we need somebody to step up and nobody’s stepping up. They’re not difficult plays, either. They’re routine playes that we’re not making and should be making.”

The Astros are now 1-15-3, but look at the bright side — in the last two games, two of their starting pitchers have thrown five scoreless innings; Brian Moehler on Tuesday, and Mike Hampton on Wednesday.

Ed Wade has already received one call from a team that has a third baseman available via trade. Wade also sounds confident there will be options at the end of Spring Training, when players on Minor League contracts with out clauses become free agents. I think they’ll take a long look at Chris Johnson but they’re also going to do their due diligence.

12 Comments

At least Smith is hitting the ball. He has to be the favorite right now.

OK. I know there are concerns. The fielding has not been stellar, although I believe it is improving. And let’s face it, the offense is still non-existent. But one thing that is obviously not helping is Cooper’s constant state of being fuming mad. He’s always angry. He’s constantly calling guys out. Could it perhaps be time to have an attitude adjustment or something? Being mad and on edge obviously isn’t helping the situation, and the players in general seem to be much more relaxed about it than he is. What if this were the regular season, and we stunk this bad? How bad would Cooper be steaming then? (Well actually I guess he would be looking for a job.) But is anyone else a bit concerned at Coop’s attitude this Spring? I wonder how popular he is with the players? I just have this feeling that if he got the ax early in the season, the guys wouldn’t be too upset about it.

What worries me is that if someone is steaming mad all the time then it just loses effectiveness and people begin to ignore it. What’s scarier the guy shouting that always shouts or the guy shouting that is normally always sitting quietly in a corner somewhere? I’m worried that the players are going to just start ignoring Coop’s rants when they’re really called for.

Astrosfanatl, I know what you mean about Cooper’s demeanor and calling guys out. He was like that last season too (except less angry). It seems like he’s very quick to point out who let the team down. With Garner, it seemed like he was on their side more or more a part of the team, rather than one of their biggest critics. Maybe he just said less? I’m not sure, but it doesn’t seem like Cooper has any of their backs, spring training or otherwise.

The constant anger is getting old, like Mike said, it’s much more effective when it’s used rarely. And I don’t really know how compatible his angry management style is with some of the leaders of the clubhouse, like Berkman or Lee. If they are openly laid-back about the team’s record in spring training, does it undermine Cooper’s rants about the ridiculousness of the losses?

Carlos Lee is hitting .087, no amount of yelling is going to turn it around, he just has to work through it. Our hitters will come around, it’s the starting pitching that is the question mark, so I was pretty happy with today’s game.

Exactly, Mike. You have to have somewhere to go with it. Choose your battles. I haven’t heard much from Cooper about how well Smith and Gall have been hitting, or about the positive things. Michael Bourn, of all people, is leading the team in walks. If I had a boss who did nothing but fume, and never point out anything positive, what incentive would I have to step up? I just wonder if it’s become so much white noise, and if the players have just tuned him out. They seem to be following Berkman, instead (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing… at least he’s becoming a clubhouse leader.) Do you get the sense that the players and coaches are on the same page?http://houston.mlblogs.com

I definitely do not think Cooper is handling these losses very well, and I agree, I’m not sure calling out the players, day after day after day, is necessary. I’m old school — if the pitching’s OK, I’m OK. I am not worried about the hitting. If I’m running this team and I see Brian Moehler and Mike Hampton throwing five shutout innings in back-to-back against two pretty good teams, I’m not only happy, I’m taking everyone out for ice cream. But that’s just me. And Ben and Jerry.

Oh please……..Coop isn’t the problem! This team is just terrible……. and Coop has a lot of pride……..and is very competitive……..put the blame where the blame belongs…….Drayton, Ed Wade, Ricky Bennett and the players! I wonder how many of us would stay cool managing this disaster of a team!

OK, WHATEVER. Let’s remember, these guys are professionals. This isn’t A-ball, or AA-ball for that matter. Their record this Spring is 1 and 15! HELLO! I’m I missing something here? I would be steamed too if I were Coop. The offense needs to put their big-girl panties on, “step up to the plate” and DELIVER. Next: what about Pudge? I mean, did this story drop off the radar today or what? Lastly; any thought about taking Miguel up on his offer to move to 3rd now (“…should they ask me.”) and trying to find a shortstop? I’m not sure who’s still available. It may be a plausible option now that Boone is out for the season.

Yeah I’m not convinced that this team is terrible. Yes, 1-15 sounds absolutely awful, but Lee, Pence, Matsui, and Blum have yet to come around and I believe at least 2 out of 4 will be decent this season. Not one of our catchers is hitting over .170, Pudge will make a huge difference in this area. Everyone knows the depth in quality Astros pitching is relatively nonexistent, so of course weeding those guys out has been ugly, but the pitchers expected to be on the opening day roster have done pretty well this spring. Moehler, Hampton, and Oswalt have looked great. Capellan’s been amazing and Ortiz has done well too. When the regular season starts and our starting pitchers are Roy O and Hampton, not Nieve and Hensley, followed by Wright and Valverde, not Lumsden and Paulino, I don’t think we’ll have the same outcome. Especially when the guys in the middle of our lineup play past 7 instead of being replaced by AAA hitters. If I recall correctly, the Astros were pretty good after 7 innings last season, staging a lot of comebacks and closing a lot of close games. It’s hard to do that with the players who are often on the field in the 9th inning. These games have been nothing like the games that will be played during the season, I don’t think the record is even close to being representative of our team.

I say put Johnson on full time. I’ve seen some of his defense and if nothing else it’s a bit better than Wigginton’s was, and his offense this spring has been great. Granted, he may be facing a lot of AAA pitchers just getting a spring look, but I’m definitely against TRADING for a new 3rd base platoon buddy for Blum. Spend a little if you have to, but let’s not lose any more pieces to our fragile little team.

Well sonny, so ya wanna be a big league ball player? Make all that payola? Play on the big stage, green grass, fans in the stands, cameras clicking? Cheers raining down on your outstretched ears?

You better produce then…and consistently.

Week 1 of ST – 4 games – 1 win. Week 2 of ST – 7 games – 1 win (exhibition/Panama). Week 3 of ST – 7 games – 0 wins. Week of ST (to date) – 3 games – 0 wins. At this point, despite my earlier post, I would love to see at least some progression in the win column. The weeks are dwindling and the wins are not increasing. Our manager to date…101 wins…91 losses (regular season – Astros). Starting his second full season. Perhaps Cooper is simply still working on his managing repertoire (angry this ST/mild next ST). In my humble and often misguided opinion, I believe that baseball is no longer a sport of play-for-pay but now a sport of pay-for-production. With increased salaries, the average fan and typically wealthy owner expect no less. Funny how bloated finances chases away the key word in the sport of baseball…play.

You are worth your weight in gold. Please don’t ever quit writinig. I wish I knew you!

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