Learning on the job requires hard work from players and patience from us.
The Astros took on a dramatic new look after they peppered the field with rookies following the trade deadline, and when they started winning a few games as the calendar flipped to August, the Astros — though not contenders — became interesting to watch again.
But young players require patience, and as you can see, waiting out the growing pains can be a frustrating and arduous process.
Rookies are fast, enthusiastic and full of energy. They also can, at times, look lost at the plate, confused on the basepaths and overmatched at their positions defensively. It’s tough to watch, sure. But it’s part of the process. One great game might be followed by two bad ones. The remainder of this season is about learning on the job, and some of the blunders and mental errors that so frustrate the average fan will serve as great teaching tools for manager Brad Mills and his coaching staff.
Mills was a little more agitated than normal after the Astros dropped the opener in Florida on Friday. The final score — 9-0 — suggests this game was a blowout, but for six innings, it wasn’t, and Mills saw many key plays that, had they been properly executed, could have resulted in a much different outcome.
Instead, all the Astros mounted was a pile of missed opportunities, and Mills spent a portion of the pregame period on Saturday talking with various players about how things could have been done differently.
For example: Jason Castro was on second with one out in the sixth inning, and it was J.A. Happ’s job to bunt him over. The only problem was Happ’s bunt rolled toward first base, and Castro was out on a 3-5 fielder’s choice. The bunt should have been toward third.
In the second inning, Brett Wallace’s task was to simply make contact, which would advance Chris Johnson, who had doubled with one out in the inning. Instead, Wallace struck out.
Mills doesn’t use these teaching opportunities to point fingers. This isn’t about calling someone out or needlessly embarrassing a player. But if there are missed chances — missing the cutoff man, throwing to the wrong base, etc. — that are preventing the Astros from getting over that proverbial hump, it’s Mills’ job to address it, talk about it, and plan for a different outcome next time.
Here and there:
Brian Moehler, in his second attempt to return to the field after a lengthy groin injury, is scheduled to fly to Houston on Sunday and throw a bullpen session on Monday. If that goes well, he will begin a rehab assignment with Round Rock on Tuesday. He’ll have a 60-pitch limit in that start.He’ll then rejoin the Astros in Philadelphia on Thursday and throw another bullpen session in anticipation of a start for the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks on Sunday in San Antonio.
Congratulations to Mills and his wife, Ronda, who celebrated their 32nd wedding anniversary on Saturday. We were wondering how Mills, who went into coaching and managing almost as soon as his playing career ended and has been working in baseball for more than 30 years, could have possibly found time to get married in the middle of a season. Most baseball weddings occur in November.
Turns out, Mills got married before the baseball career started — he and Ronda wed right before his senior year of college at the University of Arizona.
Life can be pretty routine for those running the home and visiting clubhouses at big league ballparks, but the Marlins’ visiting clubhouse staff has found a way to keep things interesting as teams roll in and out of Sun Life Stadium throughout the season.
Hanging on the wall near the entrance are five pictures of the visiting team — “action” shots they take the first day the team is in town, which are then hung up the next day.
I found some of the Astros’ shots mildly amusing, like this one of Wandy Rodriguez and Anderson Hernandez (I guess it was a good thing Wandy wasn’t pitching this game).
If you’re familiar with Rex Jones, the mustachioed half of the intrepid Astros’ athletic training staff, then you’ll probably like this extreme close up:
Postgame notes from the Astros’ 6-3 loss to the Marlins Saturday night;
Johnson is hitting .319 in August and .361 against right-handed pitching this month.
Rodriguez tied his season high with 10 strikeouts. It was his sixth career 10-plus strikeout game.
Astros starting pitchers have posted a 2.54 ERA over the last 12 games.
The loss was the Astros 11th in their last 12 games played at the Marlins’ ballpark. They haven’t won a series here since May 9-11 in 2005.
And finally, we end with some candid images taken during the few afternoon hours it didn’t rain:
Geoff Blum, pointing out that former pop princess Tiffany indeed performed “I Think We’re Alone Now” (which was playing when this picture was taken) at a mall in the 1980s.
Michael Bourn in the cage.
Carlos Lee grooving to aforementioned Tiffany tune.
Blum, Mills, Bagwell
Castro, Wallace warm up.
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