August 2009

Rough night for Bazardo, Hampton. Carlos hits 300.

The Astros had their eye on Yorman Bazardo as early as last offseason, when they offered him a Minor League contract and an invite to big league Spring Training. But Bazardo received what he felt was a more enticing offer from the Phillies, took that one, and spent the spring in Clearwater.

Bad mechanics and poor numbers led to the Phillies releasing Bazardo about a week before Opening Day. His representatives went back to the Astros, who briefly considered sending him to extended spring in Florida. With too many players there already, they instead assigned him to Triple-A Round Rock.

Bazardo, working with Express pitching coach Burt Hooton, started the season in the bullpen and eventually moved to the rotation. Prior to his callup to the Astros on Friday, he became one of Round Rock’s best performers.

Bazardo was brought up to the big leagues to serve as the long reliever, but his first outing Saturday night was long only in terms of pitches thrown (41) and minutes on the mound. His performance was wholly unimpressive — one inning, three hits, five runs (three earned).

Quite frankly, I was surprised to see Bazardo in the game, considering beforehand, manager Cecil Cooper said he was going to try not to use him. Bazardo had started for the Express three days earlier. “Probably not tonight,” Coop said of Bazardo’s availability. Definitely (Sunday).”

A right knee sprain forced Mike Hampton out of the game in the second inning, which necessitated Bazardo’s hasty entry. After the game, Coop took full responsibility for what happened next. “I’ll take the heat for that,” he said. “I talked to the young man, Bazardo, about not pitching today and we got into a situation where we needed him. He sucked it up.

“The kid just pitched (three) days ago — 75 pitches. Today would probably have been a side day. I was hoping to get through a couple of innings with him.”

Said Bazardo: “It’s obvious my stuff wasn’t there today. I tried to get out of the inning. Hopefully, next time I’ll do better with two, three days of rest. I’ll be fine.”

It’s important to note that while Bazardo is young, he’s not exactly inexperienced. He’s been with the Marlins, Tigers and Phillies and failed to stick with any of those organizations. The Astros felt he had enough to offer to take a chance on him, and it’s likely they didn’t envision him working his way onto the big league staff this quickly.

It’s probably prudent to remember that Bazardo is not the true “prospect” that Bud Norris is. In my opinion, it’s important to keep those two separate when talking about the future of this rotation. That said, I’d like to see Bazardo pitch, fully rested, many more times before passing judgment. 

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News and notes:

Puma is getting antsy to return to the field. Asked by reporters about his sore calf, he responded: “If a grizzly ran out of that room right there, I could beat all you guys up the stairs.”

Hampton has a lateral meniscus sprain in his right knee and left the ballpark to have MRIs on both of his knees. The Astros expect to have the results Sunday.

A tip of the cap to Carlos Lee, who became the third Astro to log his 300th career home run (also Pudge and Puma). Even better, the fan who caught the ball gave it back to him, in exchange for a signed bat. “The woman who caught it, it was her son’s eighth birthday,” Lee said. “So, Happy Birthday Hunter.”

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Another wives gala in the books, another rousing success.

The minute the last out was made during Wednesday’s game between the Astros and Giants, a small group of dedicated workers began the daunting task of transforming Minute Maid Park from a baseball field to the site of the biggest charity event the Astros host every year.

The annual Black Ties and Baseball Caps Astros Wives Gala was held Thursday night, but with a special theme — it was the 20th anniversary of the annual soiree, and a celebration of the more than $4 million it has raised for the Houston Area Women’s Center since the first one in 1990.

Chaired by Michelle Quintero, wife of catcher Humberto Quintero, and Pamela Michaels, wife of outfielder Jason Michaels, the gala was attended by nearly every Astros player and staff member. Emceed by Milo Hamilton, hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised through extravagant silent and live auctions, which offered everything from a trip to Napa Wine Country to autographed items signed by members of the Astros, current and retired.

The event included a special tribute to Patty Biggio, who, along with Nancy Caminiti, chaired the very first Gala 19 years ago and hand-picked the beneficiary of the proceeds — the HAWC, which provides a safe environment for abused women and children. Great cause, great night. Enjoy the pictures.

Milo Hamilton gives a tip of the cap to Patty Biggio, and of course, hubby Craig.

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Geoff and Kory Blum

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Michael Bourn and radio announcer Dave Raymond

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Lisa and Doug Brocail, Roy and Nicole Oswalt

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Radio announcer Brett Dolan and his wife, Betsy

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Jessica and Darin Erstad

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Left to right: Michelle Quintero, Pamela Michaels, Drayton and Elizabeth McLane

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Five studly guys who took the “Baseball Caps” part of the gala title to heart. Please excuse the Tigers fan on the left.

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Jason Michaels, taking pictures of his wife on stage during presentations.

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Carlos and Mary Lee.

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Morgan and Jeff Keppinger and Dee and Brian Moehler.

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Brian Moehler has a laugh with Jeff Keppinger. 

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Jason and Pamela Michaels.

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Hunter Pence and his date, Heidi.

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Pence, Milo and auctioneer Vikki Vines.

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Pudge Rodriguez holds court with some young Astros fans.

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Puma exchanges pleasantries with the Toy Cannon, Jimmy Wynn.

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Radio announcer Dave Raymond and his wife, Tish.

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Wandy Rodriguez and his wife, Luz.

 

 

 

 

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Wesley Wright and his girlfriend, Sherell.

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Ask Alyson: How do players spend their free time on the road?

We traveled from Nashville to St. Louis this past weekend to watch our Astros battle the Cardinals. While we were in St. Louis, we took in a few of the local sights (Arch, City Museum) and restaurants. This got us to wondering how often the players, while on the road, get away from the ballpark and hotel to see and do things. Obviously, game and flight times make a big difference.  But, for example, the Astros had a day game with the Cubs on Thursday, traveled to St. Louis, and didn’t play until Friday night.  Would it be likely for some of the players to rent a car and go out to eat on Thursday?  Visit the zoo at Forest Park on Friday morning?  Play nine or 18 holes of golf? — The Whitmans, Nashville

Good question. There is definitely an abundance of down time on the road, and that can be a good thing or a very boring thing, depending on what city you’re in.

Teams leave a city immediately following the last game of the series. The buses depart from the stadium 45 minutes after the game is over, and usually, the team is in the air within two hours of that last out. So, to use the last road trip as an example, the Astros played a day game in Chicago last Thursday and traveled to St. Louis that evening.

Typically, players take it easy during the day. You’ll see a lot wandering around downtown, shopping, picking some stuff up for their kids. (In cities like Chicago, it’s not unusual for five or six players to walk into the clubhouse with pink bags from the “American Girl Place,” located near the team hotel.)

In cities like Washington D.C., a lot of players take advantage of the free time to tour the historical landmarks and museums. In some of the less exciting cities, players usually hang out in their rooms, go to lunch with a few teammates and head to the ballpark around 2:30 or 3.

A lot of players and broadcasters also play golf if there is an offday on the road.

During the summer months, lots of players bring their families on the road with them. The California trips are also well-attended, considering so many are from there, and you’ll see a lot of families go to cities like Chicago and New York. Chicago is especially a draw, considering most Cubs games are played in the afternoon, which provides a rare opportunity to actually go out for a nice dinner.

Once you’ve been in the big leagues for a while, the travel gets a lot less exciting than it seems from the outside. And for players with young kids, well, road trips are good for one thing…sleep.

Do you know where Aaron Boone will start his rehab assignment?  Will he spend any time with the Corpus Christi Hooks? — Nick

Boooooooone is expected to begin his rehab assignment on Monday in Corpus Christi. He is expected to remain with Corpus until the third week in August, when he is slated to go to Round Rock.

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On the radio the other day, I mentioned that I’d like to see Jason Castro be considered for a September call up when rosters expand the first of the month. I probably should read the Astros game notes a little closer, because spelled out very plainly in black and white a couple of weeks ago was this blurb:

Astros minor league catcher Jason Castro has been selected to be one of the two catchers to represent the United States in the upcoming 2009 IBAF World Cup. Members of the USA roster will report to Cary, NC on Sept. 1 and will arrive in the Czech Republic on Sept. 6.

This is a pretty big deal, and a huge feather in the cap of both Castro and the Astros. I’m guessing the experience will be amazing, even if it does eliminate Castro’s chances to get a small taste of the big leagues before the season’s over.

I guess we’ll have to table the “Castro the Astro” headlines until February.

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Faith and Family Night, featuring MercyMe, will be held at Minute Maid Park on Saturday, August 22.

Each ticket package offered includes a game ticket and concert voucher and packages are subject to availability. For fans who already have tickets to the August 22 game, concert vouchers may be purchased at the Minute Maid Park Box Office for $10.

Click here for more information.

“Kids Free All Summer” runs through the next homestand, which ends Aug. 23. Kids 14 & under get in free with the purchase of one adult tickets. Two kids per adult.

For you non-kids, try the Bud Light Young Professionals Pack: a ticket in the FiveSeven Patio bar, eight wings or nachos, a 16 oz. beer or soda, Astros souvenir mug — for $48. Offered every Saturday. 

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Support Houston Fire Department. Bid on game-worn caps.

The caps that the Astros wore on July 10 to honor the Houston Fire Department are now autographed and available to the highest bidder. The team is hosting both an on-line and in-stadium auction of the caps, with all proceeds going directly to the Firefighters’ Protection Fund.

The caps designated for the in-stadium auction were worn by the nine players who visited nine firehouses a couple of weeks ago. Starting Monday and running through the seventh inning on Wednesday, five of those caps are available for bidding at the Astros Authentics store located on the main concourse behind home plate: Pudge Rodriguez, Hunter Pence, Cecil Cooper, LaTroy Hawkins and Doug Brocail.

From Friday through the end of the seventh inning Sunday, four more caps will be available, in the same store: Chris Sampson, Russ Ortiz, Miguel Tejada and Geoff Blum.

The rest of the autographed caps are being auctioned off on Astros.com. From now until Sunday at 6 p.m. CT, you can bid on a slew of caps, including those worn by Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee.

A sampling:

Pence:
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Puma:

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News and notes from a Monday at Minute Maid Park:

* Aaron Booooooone, who had what at the time looked to be season-ending heart surgery, is on the comeback trail. He’s been working out with the team for a couple of weeks, and next Monday, he’ll head out on a Minor League rehab assignment with his eye on a September return to the Astros. If the Astros were to activate Boone after rosters expand to 40 on the first of the month, they would not have to send anyone to the Minor Leagues to make room for him. He would not be eligible to be on a playoff roster, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves — just seeing him on the field in a live game would be huge, considering five months ago he was pretty sure his career was over.

* Berkman did some light jogging Monday and is hoping he’ll be ready to come off the DL when he’s eligible on Friday. “I felt OK,” he said. “It doesn’t  100 percent, but it might be good enough by then. We’ll see.”

(Wow, just glanced at the list of players who have been on the DL this season. It goes like this: Backe, Boone, Brocail, Moehler, Quintero, Valverde, Brocail, Geary, Matsui, Paulino, Blum, Hampton, Sampson, Erstad, Berkman, Hawkins.)

* Oswalt (lower back strain) had a setback while throwing off the mound Monday. He is hoping to start Saturday, but he’ll be re-examined by doctors before a determination is made. He’s already been deemed unavailable for Tuesday — Felipe Paulino gets that start.

Just my opinion, but why not DL Oswalt? I realize that makes him ineligible to start until the following week, but considering what Oswalt is dealing with, I can’t imagine he’s going to be in any condition to start Saturday. If they DL him tomorrow, he can be the roster spot that is cleared for Paulino. If not, the Astros have to send someone to Triple-A and quite frankly, they can’t afford to get rid of any relievers at this point.

(Update — after the game Monday, the Astros send Sammy Gervacio to Triple-A and called up Paulino. I still stand by my original opinion).

* Wandy Rodriguez (hamstring) played catch Monday and is still a little sore. The team really has no updates except to say he’s day-to-day. The offday Thursday will help the Astros shuffle some things around rotation-wise, which might buy Wandy some time.

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And finally, enjoy these pictures from today’s pregame ceremony, honoring Craig Biggio and his 3,000th hit as the top moment in Minute Maid Park history:

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Left to right: Drayton McLane, FS Houston Sr. VP and GM Steve Tello and 26-year Astros season ticket holder Jerry Zamzow.

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News and notes from Saturday at Busch Stadium:

Wandy Rodriguez left his start after four innings with a strained right hamstring, but after the game he said he did not think he would have to miss his next start. “It doesn’t hurt that much,” he said. “I don’t think I’m going to miss a start. By how I’m feeling today, I don’t think I’ll miss a start, but we’ll see how I feel tomorrow.”

The last time through the rotation, the Astros have had only one starter go more than five innings — that would be Brian Moehler, who threw 6 2/3 in the opener at Busch Stadium on Friday. Kudos to Jeff Fulchino, who took the loss Saturday but undeservedly so — he soaked up three innings following Rodriguez’s departure and allowed one unearned run that scored due in part to an Humberto Quintero passed ball.

Roy Oswalt will throw Monday and will then determine whether he’s healthy enough to start Tuesday. My guess is no. That will necessitate the services of Felipe Paulino, who would likely be called up to make the spot start that day. The unfortunate part is that Oswalt would probably be ready by the weekend, but if the Astros disable him, he won’t be eligible to come off until the middle of the following week.

A good point was raised in the press box Saturday: over the course of a week, the Cardinals gained Holliday and the Astros lost Berkman. Slice it any way you want — this lineup just is not the same without Puma.

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