Blum face-plants, Puma heals, Lloyd Dobler sings.
During batting practice Friday, I got to talking to Geoff Blum about what he was like as a kid, and it came as no surprise to me that even at an early age, he kept things loose and light-hearted while participating in organized sports. As a young baseball player, Blum usually found ways to keep it real, all the while cracking up his teammates, and, mostly likely, himself.
No one has been better for this Astros team during these trying times than Blum (although Cory Sullivan is definitely a close second). Realizing the worst thing a team can do right now is take itself too seriously — which usually results in over-thinking yourself right out of contention — Blum seems to always know the right time to try something goofy and stupid (in a good way) to keep things loose.
Blum’s most recent crowd-pleasing caper was probably something you have to see in person to really appreciate it, but here goes:
Pretending he wanted to lend a helping hand to the batting practice pitcher, Blum jogged up to the mound with a bag of BP balls, tripped himself (on purpose), face planted on the ground and sent a dozen baseballs flying in every direction.
He’s done this twice, the last occurring Friday morning during BP at Wrigley Field. Thinking Blum actually did trip over his own feet, the Bleacher Bums in left field let out a big roar, as did a group of six-year-old Cubs fans who were on the field to get autographs. Good stuff.
Lance Berkman will begin a Minor League rehab assignment on Saturday in Round Rock, the first of two expected appearances by the Big Puma this weekend. If all goes well in the first game, he’ll play again on Sunday.
Monday is a scheduled off day for the Astros, and although no one is saying it out loud, the hope is that Puma will be ready for activation from the DL when the team opens an extended homestand on Tuesday.
Puma’s injury took longer to heal than expected due to a series of setbacks, so it’s understandable why the team wants to play it conservatively. “Let’s take it a day at a time,” Mills said. “Please.”
MLB.com talked exclusively with Berkman, which you can read about here.
Also on the rehab front, Sammy Gervacio will begin a rehab assignment in Round Rock on Monday. He’s slated to pitch Monday and Wednesday.
Hopefully by now you’re following our Twitter account solely dedicated to one-liners from Astros players, coaches and broadcasters (the latest J.D.-ism: “The Astros were like Larry King: 0-for-8.”)
I’m always on the lookout for witticisms from people in and around the game, and thanks to Facebook, I found another one. You might remember Norm Miller, who played for the Astros from 1965-73 as part of a 10-year big league career. These days, he’s an author, having just released a book titled “To all my fans…Norm Who?”, and he’s also jumped on the Facebook bandwagon. As a result, I’ve heard from him quite a bit during the Astros dismal start to the season.
“I played on a team that lost 8 in a row so we flooded the field and couldn’t play for two days,” he posted. “Came back and lost number 9. Then we ran black cats out on the field, lost 10 in a row. Then we drank more beer and won. Go figure.”
Staying with the social networking theme, Chris Sampson has started Tweeting. His first tweet arrived after the Astros finally ended their winning streak:
“Just walked in to Mills’ office to take the gorilla off his back after congratulating him on his first win as Astros manager.”
Follow Sampson here…
Postgame comments from Mills after the 7-2 loss to the Cubs:
On leaving Felipe Paulino in during the seventh inning:
“He had (thrown) 86 pitches to start the inning, and he had given up four hits. He was still throwing the ball well, he just lost a little command.”
Mills saw some progress from the hitters:
“There were a lot of balls hit on the button today. Good at-bats by Carlos (Lee). He hit the ball hard. Keppinger continues to swing the bat well. Good at-bats from CJ (Chris Johnson), too.”
Lloyd, Lloyd all null and void
Since Harry Caray passed away more than a decade ago, the Cubs have continued their long-standing tradition of hosting a celebrity conductor to lead the crowd in “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch. Over the years, a few big names have been scheduled during the Astros’ series (Jeff Gordon comes to mind), but for the most part, to be frank, the guests have been kind of, well, lame, from an out-of-towner’s perspective.
We enjoyed a dramatic reversal of fortune on Friday, however, when actor John Cusack made an appearance in the broadcast booth to conduct the sing-a-long. I enjoyed exchanging some of the more well-remembered lines from the classic ’80s flick “Say Anything” with a lot of you on Twitter during the game that day (“I gave her my heart. She gave me a pen”) and I admit I got a little camera happy when Cusack, a.k.a as the forlorn but lovable Lloyd Dobler, showed up in the booth.
Other shots from an unseasonably warm and beautiful April afternoon at Wrigley:
That’s actor/musician Jared Leto. Kind of hard to miss him in a crowd.
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