July 2011

All-Star week notes: Operation Veteran Appreciation, Social Media Night and the first half of 2011, in pictures.

Beginning with the upcoming homestand and continuing throughout the rest of the season, the Astros have added another program that honors our military veterans: Operation Veteran Appreciation.

For every home game, one veteran is selected to receive two free Astros tickets pre-loaded with $15 that can be spent at the ballpark. These field level tickets are for distinctively designed patriotic seats that let all fans know those sitting in them have served their country:

The Astros are currently accepting nominations for Operation Veteran Appreciation. If you know a military veteran in our community who’d like to be a part of the program, the Astros and Gallery Furniture want to hear about it. Thank a veteran by nominating him or her at Astros.com/operationvet.


Our fourth Social Media Night will take place on Saturday, July 16 in the Budweiser Patio, and now, we’re ready to vote on what we serve for dinner.

Here at the choices:

A. Texas Cobb Salad – Crisp Greens, Grilled Chicken, Diced Tomato, Diced Avocado, Diced Hot House Cucumbers, Blue Cheese Crumbles, Fried Tortilla Strips and Buttermilk Ranch Dressing – served with FiveSeven Cheese Bread

B. Ballpark Beef Nachos – Fresh Fried Tortilla Chips with Tender Sofrito Style Braised Beef, Queso Blanco, Jalapenos, Pico De Gallo, Guacamole and Sour Cream

C. Trio of Sliders – Ballpark Beef with Caramelized Onion & Cheddar, Bar-B-Que Pulled Pork with Dill Pickle Chips and Grilled Chicken Breast with Roma Tomato and Herbed Cheese Spread.

You can place your vote in the poll below, and we’ll tally up the numbers through this blog and on Twitter and announce the winner soon. Even if you are not attending Social Media Night, feel free to vote — ideally, of course, you’ll vote AND attend the event.

What is Social Media Night? It’s a fun night in the Budweiser Patio that includes a player appearance at the opportunity to win autographed prizes. Our guest on Saturday will be infielder Matt Downs.

For the price of $45 per ticket, you’ll receive a ballpark tour, batting practice viewing, a ticket to the game, t-shirt, dinner, dessert and an opportunity to win prizes through our Twitter Trivia contests. Downs will hand out prizes to the Twitter Trivia winners. Prizes will include autographed baseballs and a couple of signed bobbleheads.

(If you are a returning patron and wish to skip the tour, I will be on hand to escort you directly to batting practice. The view party takes place behind the home dugout on the first base side.)

Seating for Social Media Night is limited — just 108 seats available. You can reserve your tickets by clicking here. Hope to see you there!


At 30-62, it goes without saying there weren’t a ton of “highlights” to look back on as the Astros start the proverbial second half of the season. But even in the most disappointing seasons, there are always a few good and/or poignant times to look back on. I sifted through the photos we took in the first half and set aside about a dozen of my favorites, starting with a whole lot of hugging on Opening Day in Philly:

Wandy, Bill Hall

Wandy, Nelson Figueroa (there was definitely a Wandy/man love theme going on Opening Day)

Brothers from different mothers: Matt Downs, Clint Barmes

The Astros clubhouse, on Jackie Robinson Day

I love this picture: a fan favorite from yesteryear, Kevin Bass, and a fan favorite from today, Michael Bourn, gathering for a reception on Jackie Robinson Day

Speaking of yesteryear, we caught up with former catcher Brad Ausmus after he threw a round of BP to Padres hitters in San Diego. Brad was about to leave on a cross-country trip with his family (and Trevor Hoffman's family) to Cape Cod. In an RV. Ah, retirement.

Brrr...Bourn prepares for Opening Day in Philly. It was 80 degrees and sunny with about 20 percent humidity in Houston that day. Just saying.

The beauty part of getting our players on Twitter is now they can take their own pictures and post them, and I can steal them. Which is exactly what I did after Chris Johnson took this Opening Day photo.

When we finally did return from the road to host our 2011 home opener, it was nice to see these two people smiling: Former Prez George Bush, and Astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

The Astros were down by about seven runs when this photo was taken. You have to love Mark Melancon for always keeping the faith.

Melancon's first trip to visit the Navy Seals left quite an impression.

If you watch our television broadcasts even semi-regularly, you've probably heard Jim Deshaies talk about a "3-Rod Night." So it should come as no surprise that J.D. staged this photo of the three Rods -- Wandy, Fernando, Aneury.

Fun on the Today Show set: Melancon, J.R. Towles, Brad Mills, Al Roker, Jenna Bush Hager, Junction Jack, Clutch...a Who's Who of "Lend a Hand Today."

A sweet photo from our visit to Texas Children's...

...and we end with one for the ages: elementary school kids absolutely riveted by an Astros school assembly. (Can't reveal who the emcee was at this particular time be he bore a striking resemblance to radio announcer Dave Raymond.)

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Low draft pick, high expectations: an introduction to J.D. Martinez.

It’s a sweltering 96 degrees in the mid-afternoon hours at Whataburger Field, and the Corpus Christi Hooks, dressed in light blue t-shirts and baseball pants, have begun their day at the office. There’s a slight breeze that comes off the water, but it provides little relief to the suffocating heat that drapes over this southeastern Texas town. The ballpark is quaint and beautiful, but from corner to corner, there is nowhere to go to escape the heat.

Such extreme temps might prompt the average citizen to move a little slower in these parts. But not the Corpus Christi Hooks. There’s work to do — infield and outfield drills, stretching, warming up, batting practice. If they are bothered by the heat, they hide it well. These are young ballplayers, hungry to win, hungrier to play in the Majors. They ignore the elements and push through.

In the middle of the group is J.D. Martinez. He’s bathed in sweat, but he walks with a swagger, oozing confidence and looking very much like the prototypical ballplayer — tall, slender, strong. He’s the Hooks’ cleanup hitter, and if the stars are aligned properly, he’ll someday do something similar for the Houston Astros.


No. 611

Draft Day in 2009 was supposed to be a day of celebration for Martinez, but the one emotion he felt over all others was disappointment. He wasn’t selected until the 20th round — No. 611 overall, and the delay surprised and saddened him.

“I was bummed out,” Martinez said. “I wasn’t as excited as you should be.”

Instead of wallowing in self-pity, he used it as motivation. Every day he tells himself, “You’re not supposed to be where you’re at right now, according to everybody.”

Where is he exactly? Simply, he’s at the top of the organizational ladder, the logical choice to eventually replace Carlos Lee in left field. Martinez started his career in ’09 as a bench player in Greeneville who had little chance to ever crack the starting lineup with any kind of regularity. He ended the 2010 season as the Astros Minor League Player of the Year.


Slow beginning

Greeneville’s Opening Day began with Martinez on the bench. When he did finally get a chance to play, he remembered, “I had a horrible day.” Soon after, Astros Minor League hitting coordinator Mike Barnett (currently the Astros hitting coach) paid him a visit. Barnett noticed a small flaw that was causing Martinez’s swing to drag. They added a little hip flinch, and that one alteration may have changed the entire course of Martinez’s career.

Not long after Martinez’s session with Barnett, a teammate got hurt. Manager Rodney Linares shuffled the lineup and inserted Martinez into left field. He had a good game, so he played there again the next night. He had another good game. In 19 games with Greeneville, Martinez batted .403.

Martinez played for four affiliates in two years and never hit below .300. Not bad for a kid who was told by Linares, “You weren’t supposed to play a lot.”


Multiple Choice

Martinez recalled a hypothetical dilemma Hooks manager Tom Lawless presented to him earlier this season.

“He said, ‘If you were the general manager, what would you do — bring in a guy that can hit for average that’s going to hit .330, .340 at every level but who drives in maybe 80 (runs), or are you looking for a guy who hits maybe .280, .290, that drives in 100?'”

The answer (unless you’re Albert Pujols and can hit .340 AND drive in 130 every year) is the latter. Martinez has bought into the philosophy. Now it’s just a matter of implementing the plan.

His coaches are stressing the need for him to pull the ball more, and to hit for more power. Martinez appears to be ahead of the game in that respect — typically, players are pull hitters first and slowly evolve into being able to go to the opposite field. Martinez has always been good at hitting the ball to right, so in essence, he already has a solid handle on the hardest part of his game.

“It’s something that I’m willing to learn, that I’m excited to learn,” he said. “I can do the average thing. I have an idea how to hit to right field and how to hit to all fields. That’s why I’m able to hit for average every year. But (the Major Leagues) is a different game. It’s almost like you have to give and take. That’s what we’re working on, getting into a good count, not just be satisfied with hitting on the barrel somewhere. They want me to unload on it.”

Martinez chats with roving hitting instructor Ty Van Burkleo during batting practice.


Spring success

Martinez was one of a slew of young players the Astros invited to big league Spring Training this year. Looking back, he said that experience helped him tremendously, not only to get a feel for what life is like at that level, but to also get over the awe factor and realize everyone is playing the same game.

“You idolize these players and think they’re gods,” Martinez said. “Spring Training put it back in perspective. It’s just a game.”

Martinez’s short spring stint with the big club was productive in another way — although he had no chance to make the team, his performance left quite an impression on the Astros’ decision-makers. He played in only eight games, but he was a refreshing addition to an exhibition season that, for the Astros, was a foreshadow of things to come. The Astros are near the bottom in the National League in home run totals, with most of the power coming from one player — Hunter Pence.

Whether Martinez’s numbers will translate to power in the big league remains to be seen. There are no guarantees. But those who are watching him play every day feel pretty confident the 23-year-old will be able to make the transition.

“He’s driving the ball to gaps and hitting home runs, which is what he needs to do,” Lawless said. “I told him, “You can’t play left field and be a singles hitter in the big leagues. you have to drive the ball to the gaps and hit home runs.’ I think he understands that now.”

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Attention Tweeps! Social Media night No. 4 is officially on the docket.

Our fourth Social Media Night will take place two days after the second half of the season resumes, on Saturday, July 16 in the Budweiser Patio.

Matt Downs will be our special guest, making an appearance from 5 to 5:15 p.m. in the Budweiser Patio, prior to the start of the 6:05 p.m. game with the Pirates.

For the price of $45 per ticket, you’ll receive a ballpark tour, batting practice viewing, a ticket to the game, t-shirt, dinner, dessert and an opportunity to win prizes through our Twitter Trivia contests. Downs will hand out prizes to the Twitter Trivia winners. Prizes will include autographed baseballs and a couple of signed bobbleheads.

If you are a returning patron and wish to skip the tour, I will be on hand to escort you directly to batting practice. The view party takes place behind the home dugout on the first base side.

Seating for Social Media Night is limited — just 108 seats available. You can reserve your tickets by clicking here. Hope to see you then!

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Who is that masked man?

Chris Wallace hopes to play at Minute Maid Park someday, although if he does get called up to the big leagues, it won’t be his first time playing in the Astros’ downtown Houston home.

In fact, Minute Maid Park is where Wallace’s baseball career nearly ended just two years ago when he was a junior catcher for the University of Houston.

Wallace, playing in the annual Minute Maid Park-hosted College Classic, took a fastball from Texas A&M right-hander Barret Loux off of the right side of his face. The ball missed Wallace’s eye by inches, but the damage was nonetheless devastating — it shattered his eye socket and cheekbone and broke his nose. The end result was extensive surgery that required four or five metal plates and 42 screws.

If he gets hit in that part of his face again, everything will shatter. Except this time, the damage will be irreparable.

“That’s what they told me,” said Wallace, his face showing only a slight trace of a scar left over from the five-hour surgery.

To ensure this will not happen again, Wallace wears an elaborate face mask when he plays. He hates it, especially over the course of a hot summer, but he also realizes it’s a necessary evil that is a lot better than the alternative.

The alternative, of course, would be to get hit in the face again and have no chance to continue playing baseball, not to mention lead a normal life. So the mask has become as much a part of his baseball life as shin guards and a chest protector. It’s a small price to pay to continue to play and have a chance to debut for the team he grew up watching, especially considering how the Astros have been herding him through the Minor League system at a noticeably rapid pace.

It’s been just over a year since Wallace was drafted in the 16th round in 2010, and already, the Double-A Hooks are his fourth team.

Wallace’s offensive numbers are good, but what has impressed the Astros front office more than the 14 home runs he hit in just 66 games with the Legends earlier this year is how well he handles pitching staffs. It’s what made him stand out on a New York Penn League-championship winning Tri-City team last year, and the Astros are hoping he brings the same type of stability to the Hooks staff.

“Something that stuck out for all of us is his leadership qualities,” Director of Player Development Fred Nelson said.

Nelson recalled a conversation he had with Tri-City pitching coach Gary Ruby last year, after the ValleyCats won the title. Ruby was credited by many for turning around the Tri-City pitching staff, but to Nelson, he said, “The pitching staff turned around when Wallace showed up.”

Wallace, drafted after his senior year of college, is now 23 and slightly older than many of his current teammates in Corpus and former mates in Lexington.

His age likely contributed both to his success at the plate and the club’s decision to have him bypass High A Lancaster all together. While there may be younger catchers in the system who are more highly regarded, Wallace has the club excited.

“He’s a solid citizen, hard worker, a no-nonsense type of guy,” Nelson said. “He has a mental toughness that will give him an opportunity to succeed.”

There’s no telling if some of Wallace’s tenacity is a byproduct of his near-tragic episode at Minute Maid Park two years ago, but perhaps dealing with that sort of adversity added some mental toughness. Wallace was out only six weeks recovering from the bean ball. He spent most of his time with sports psychologist Robert Andrews.

To Wallace, his sessions with Dr. Andrews were his true rehab. Physically, he knew he would be fine. Emotionally, he had work to do. Doubts would creep in. Bad thoughts would rush back.

“I wasn’t sure if I was going to play baseball again,” Wallace said. “How to handle that mentally — he really helped me get all of the doubts out of my mind.”

Wallace continued to see Dr. Andrews, even after he returned to the field. If he had any trepidation he hid it well. He swung at the very first pitch he saw in his first at-bat of his first game back, and homered. He added another one later in the game and wound up 4-for-5 with six RBIs on the day.

One element of the game Wallace has seemingly mastered is dealing with hecklers. The face mask has not gone unnoticed, especially by fans in opposing ballparks. He’s heard it all — Hannibal Lecter, Darth Vader — “anything you can think of that wears a mask, I’ve heard it.”

He tipped his cap to one heckler in particular though, who noticed Wallace’s somewhat gaudy contraption and yelled “Blue 42” and other football playing calls.

“Most guys are not too creative,” Wallace said with a grin. “This one was.”

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Astros lineup 7/8 at Marlins. First pitch 6:10 p.m. CT

Midday notes from the farm: Goebbert, Villar and learning how to be a Major League player.

Third baseman Jimmy Paredes and Hooks manager Tom Lawless

One thing that intrigues me about the Minor Leagues is how the players are coached and managed at this level.

To state the obvious, in the big leagues, the only thing that matters is winning. That means doing the little things to generate runs in addition to the long balls and extra-base hits. Situational hitting. Moving runners over. Driving in a run by hitting that ground ball in the perfect spot that lets the runner on third score easily.

Minor League rosters are loaded with players whose main goal is getting to the Major Leagues. Not everyone will make it. Most will not, in fact. Individual stats become hugely important, and it’s understandable if players in the farm system are more concerned with how they fared at the end of the night over whether or not the team won.

I imagine it would be hard for a Minor League coaching staff to find that perfect balance between teaching these players the importance of doing the little things to win games and tempering their desire to try to knock every ball out of the park while scouts and team execs watch and judge from the seats behind home plate.

This has to be a challenge for Minor League managers. In speaking with Hooks manager Tom Lawless yesterday, it’s obvious that he has to handle different players in different ways, depending on the position they play.

To his middle infielders, he stresses defense, defense, defense. You don’t have to tear the cover off every ball, he tells them. You cannot, and will not, play in the Major Leagues if you cannot catch the ball. You must be able to make every routine play, and if you can’t, there won’t be a place for you in the Majors.

At the more traditionally offensive positions — corner outfield, first base, third base, catcher — Lawless stresses hitting. He has told Hooks left fielder J.D. Martinez — by far the Astros’ top hitting prospect — “You can’t play left field and be a singles hitter in the big leagues.” (Go ahead, Astros fans, get the snarky comments out of your system. I’ll wait.) “You have to drive the ball to the gaps and hit home runs.”

“I think he understands that now,” Lawless added.


Mid-day notes from Corpus:

* He wasn’t on my target list when I arrived to town yesterday, but it bears noting that outfielder/first baseman Jacob Goebbert is receiving rave reviews from the people who work for and cover the Hooks. The 23-year-old is hitting .308 (60-for-195) with 15 doubles, three triples and four home runs with 24 RBIs. He also was named Hooks Player of the Month after compiling a .984 fielding percentage with six outfield assists.

Last night, Corpus Christi Caller-Times beat writer Greg Rajan sent out this tweet: “Jacob Goebbert drew an 11-pitch walk and scored. Dude is a player for @cchooks, but doesn’t get enough respect from #Astros brass.”

* Shortstop Jonathan Villar, obtained from the Phillies in the Roy Oswalt trade last year, has, according to Lawless, “talent oozing out of him.” Villar is just 20 years old, however, and has some maturing to do. “He can make the defensive plays that have the ‘wow’ thing,” Lawless said. “He has to understand that you have to make the routine plays, too. He has plenty of arm, plenty of range.”

During Thursday’s game, Villar made a spectacular off-kilter play that showed that above-average range. An inning later, he fielded a simple grounder and threw wide to first base. So I understand where Lawless is coming from on that one.

* Here’s something I didn’t know: in the Minors, the players often coach first base. Apparently, when the hitting coach prefers to be in the dugout when his team is batting, a player not in the game can serve as the base coach. Jimmy VanOstrand coached a few innings at first Thursday night. Interesting.

* The rules in Corpus dictate that players are not allowed to talk on their cell phones inside the clubhouse. Lawless made one exception to that rule, the day Jose Altuve learned he’d be playing in the Futures Game on All-Star Sunday in Phoenix.

“I said, ‘I figure your phone’s going to blow up today, so you don’t have to go outside every time someone calls,'” Lawless recalled.

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Yes, Jose Altuve is little. But he also might be the Astros’ Next Big Thing.

My first lesson in Baseball Height 101 arrived soon after I started working for the Astros in 1997. My first day of work was about a week before everyone left for Spring Training, so I met practically no one in my first two months, relying solely on headshots in the media guide to learn who everyone was.

I read the player bios incessantly, as it was my responsibility to finish up the media guide, proofread it until my eyeballs bled and send it off to the printer. So on more than one occasion — twice a day, really, for the better part of three weeks — I read this blurb, among others:

Jeff Bagwell
Height: 6-0
Weight: 195
Bats: R
Throws: R

Months later, I met Bagwell. And I remember thinking, if that’s six feet, I’m 7-2. Years later, when I knew him better, I casually brought up the six-foot listing. He laughed and said, “I know, isn’t it hilarious?”

Hilarious is a good word for some of the heights you’ll see as the “official” listings of ballplayers. I think Billy Wagner was listed at 5-11, as was Craig Biggio. Mike Hampton was 5-10.

I soon learned that the general rule of thumb is this: when you’re really, truly, legitimately taller than six feet, you’re listed at what you actually are. If you’re under, well, the listing is usually your real height, plus two inches.

That brings us to Corpus Christi Hooks second baseman Jose Altuve. On minorleaguebaseball.com, Baseball Reference and the Astros media guide, he is listed as 5-foot-7.

In Corpus, however — in their game programs, on their roster sheets, in stories written by their beat writer — the 21-year-old Altuve is referred to as a far more accurate 5-foot-5.

What gives?

“Five-seven?” someone close to the situation in Corpus said. “That’s a Houston thing.”

Altuve, right, stands 10 inches shorter than his teammate (and top outfield prospect) J.D. Martinez.

Altuve’s diminutive size is a common topic around here. He has probably had to discuss his height with just about every media type who has wanted to talk to him since he was signed as a non-drafted free agent at the age of 16 in 2006. With this in mind, I figured I’d get it out of the way early when we chatted after batting practice Thursday.

Altuve smiled at the line of questioning.

“Everywhere I go, people say, ‘Hey, you’re small,'” he said. “I know that. Like I’ve said before, I just want to show that short guys can play, too.”

Before he signed with the Astros, Altuve attended a couple of tryouts in Venezuela, and he heard the same thing over and over again: You play well. But you’re small.

“When I went to the Astros, they said, ‘OK. You’re small,'” Altuve recalled. “I said, ‘I know! I know! Everybody says that.'” But then his new employer followed up with, “But we’re going to give you the opportunity.”

“And they gave it to me,” Altuve said. “They said, ‘Just do what you know how to do.’ I said, ‘This (baseball) is what I know how to do.'”

Altuve will represent the Astros organization on Sunday when he plays for the World Team in the All-Star Futures Game in Phoenix. It will be his first exposure to a Major League ballpark, and he’ll play in front of a crowd that will resemble something close to Major League as well.

It’s likely his height will be a topic of conversation, again. His Hooks manager, Tom Lawless, expects that line of questioning to follow Altuve throughout his career. Lawless is also fully convinced that career will include significant time in the big leagues — sooner than later.

“You can be short, tall, skinny, tubby,” Lawless said. “There are a lot ways to play the game of baseball. It’s not like football or basketball. You have the opportunity, whether you’re 5-foot-4 or 6-foot-4, to play baseball.”

That said, Lawless, who has been managing Altuve since the second baseman was promoted from Lancaster in early June, realizes Altuve will have his detractors.

“I told him a couple weeks ago, ‘People are always going to doubt you because of your size,'” Lawless said. “‘You’re going to have to always bring an energy, play good, solid defense and continue to hit.’ So far, he hasn’t let anybody down.”

Altuve entered play Thursday leading all full-season Minor Leaguers this season with a .391 batting average. He had 17 multi-hit games of the first 28 he played with the Hooks. Against Double-A right-handed pitchers, he’s hitting .363. Against lefties, .343.

“He’s line drive hitter,” Lawless said. “He gets the barrel to the ball. For a short little guy, he has pretty good bat speed, which generates into power. He can hit it out of the ballpark. And it doesn’t matter if it’s right center field, or left center.”

So that’s the baseball stuff. Other reasons you’re going to like Altuve: he’s a friendly kid. Smart. Good sense of humor. Smiles a lot. And he speaks fluent English, which is not a requirement for getting to the big leagues but makes the transition 100 times easier when it gets to be that time.

I (only semi-jokingly) told him I’d lobby for him to get a big league Spring Training invite next year. I also asked him if it intimidates him at all when he hears the top dogs who run the Astros — GM Ed Wade on down — gush about him.

“When I heard things like that coming from the general manager, there might have been a little pressure,” he said. “But I don’t think too much about that. I play hard and just go every day, as hard as I can.”

That approach has created a buzz in Corpus. Eventually, the small man could be making big news in Houston, too.

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Astros lineup 7/7 at Florida. First pitch 6:10 p.m. CT.

June Minor League Players of the Month

By Rachel Frey

Triple-A Oklahoma City

Pitcher of the Month: RHP David Carpenter. Carpenter was called up to the Astros on June 29, but during his time in Oklahoma CIty he earned six saves, and did not give up any runs over 12 innings pitched. He struck out 14 and only walked four batters.

Offensive Player of the Month: OF Brian Bogusevic. Bogusevic also joined the Astros active roster on June 29, but while he was a RedHawk, he batted .284 with five doubles and one homerun. He also drove in 16 RBI over 27 games.

Defensive Player of the Month: OF Drew Locke. Locke played 60 games in the outfield without any errors, and made three assists in 102 total chances.

Double-A Corpus Christi

Pitcher of the Month: LHP Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel had a 3-2 record and 2.18 ERA over 33 innings pitched. He struck out 22 batters and opponents batted for a  .207 average against him. He was also a 2011 Texas League All-Star.

Offensive Player of the Month: IF Jose Altuve. Altuve was on May’s Player of the Month list for his accomplishments at Class A Lancaster. Following his promotion on June 1, he has a .364 batting average with seven doubles, three triples, and three home runs. He was recently selected to appear in the 2011 MLB Futures Game on July 10.

Defensive Player of the Month: OF Jacob Goebbert. Goebbert has appeared in 53 games in the outfield and at first base, and only recorded four errors in 123 total chances. He also has nine assists.

Class A Advanced Lancaster

Pitcher of the Month: RHP Chris Hicks. Hicks made six relief appearances in June, during which he struck out 15 batters. He had a 1.64 ERA through 11 innings pitched, and opposing batters had a .150 batting average against him.

Offensive Player of the Month: IF Kody Hinze. Hinze batted .357 with four doubles, eight home runs, and 25 RBI in 23 games. He was on the California League All-Star team, and has just been promoted to Double-A Corpus Christi on July 5.

Defensive Player of the Month: IF Jonathan Meyer. Meyer has started 70 games in the infield and committed 12 errors in 205 total chances. He has also made 145 assists this season.

Class A Lexington

Pitcher of the Month: RHP Ruben Alaniz. Alaniz had a 2.28 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 5 starts during June. He leads the team with 69 strikeouts this season. Opposing batters had a .198 batting average when he was pitching.

Offensive Player of the Month: OF Emilio King. King scored 14 runs with a .289 batting average and 11 RBI in 24 games. He has a .330 batting average for the season, which leads the team.

Defensive Player of the Month: IF Tyler Burnett. Burnett has played 55 games at first base, while only committing nine errors in 463 total changes. He has also turned 38 double plays.

Dominican Summer League

Pitcher of the Month: RHP Kelvin Santana. Santana had a 1-0 record with 1 save and 0.00 ERA over 5.1 innings pitched. He also struck out 8 batters.

Offensive Player of the Month: C Franny Polanco. Polanco had a .361 batting average with two doubles, and eight RBI over 20 games. He ranks seventh in the Dominican Summer League.

Defensive Player of the Month: IF Yoel Silfa. During 29 games in the infield, he has made 12 errors in 96 total catches. He has started at second base, third base, and shortstop, and turned 12 double plays.

Astros lineup 7/6 at Pirates. First pitch: 6:05 p.m. CT