Astros lineup 5/27 at Dodgers. First pitch 3:10 p.m. CT.

Astros lineup 5/26 at Dodgers. First pitch 9:10 p.m. CT.

Astros lineup 5/25 at Dodgers. First pitch 9:10 p.m. CT.

On Lyon’s comeback, Social Media Night and your Astros creating a national buzz.

When Brandon Lyon stood at his locker in Arlington last June and explained the details of the surgery he faced the following week, I remember thinking, “it’s over.”

The issue wasn’t so much that Lyon had a rotator cuff that needed fixing or a labrum that was partly responsible for the cyst that delayed his start to the 2010 season. My skepticism came from the mere fact that the surgery he was to have, which involved moving a biceps tendon back to its proper slot, had never been performed on an active pitcher.

It wasn’t a new surgery by any stretch. But the success rate of a Major League pitcher returning to the mound after undergoing this particular procedure?

There wasn’t one, because no one had attempted it. Until Lyon.


Because Lyon is locked into a rather expensive contract and will be paid $5.5 million this season, the last one of his three-year contract, I knew the Astros would be very patient with him during Spring Training. But in all honesty, I wasn’t expecting much.

We are now over the quarter-mark of the season, and I am more than willing to admit this about Brandon Lyon: I was wrong, wrong, wrong.

He’s allowed three runs, total, and none since April 23. He’s had seven appearances in May, all scoreless. Opponents are hitting .143 against him this month.

There was little question about Lyon’s role as closer heading into the season. Given the severity of the surgery he had, there was no way the Astros could possibly believe with 100 percent certainty Lyon would be able to resume the duties of arguably the most important piece of a bullpen.

The Astros did the right thing in giving that job to Brett Myers, who has done a good job as closer and provided stability to a young bullpen. But Lyon’s contributions should not go unnoticed. He appears to be on his way to a very solid comeback season.

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We’re just over a week away from our second Social Media Night, featuring third baseman Chris Johnson (@cjastros23). For those who aren’t familiar with these events, they take place on the Budweiser Patio and include a slew of perks: a game ticket, batting practice viewing, t-shirt, dinner, dessert and an opportunity to win signed baseballs during Twitter Trivia.

Johnson will be with the crowd in the Bud Patio from 5:10 to 5:25 p.m., in advance of the 6:15 start time against the Reds. He’ll hand out the prizes during Twitter Trivia and will pose for photos with the winners (which I will email to you directly).

Tickets are $45 and can be purchased here. Hope to see you there!

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Cool links:

One of the many qualities about Astros radio announcer Dave Raymond that makes him so unique is his ability to take two items that seemingly have absolutely nothing in common and find a parallel.

Exhibit A can be found in his new blog, Everybody Reads Raymond. Ninety-nine times out of 100, you’d be hard pressed to draw comparisons between Charles Dickens and Myers. But our man Raymond finds a way.

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If you’ve been watching the Astros closely this season, you’ve probably noticed most of their games — regardless of whether they won or lost — have been, as I like to say, highly entertaining.

The games have, for the most part, been close and even in losing situations, they’ve been winnable in the later innings. In layman’s terms, that means this team is a fun one to watch.

Scott Miller of CBS Sports, among others, has taken note. Hence, “Astros draw buzz by being competitive.”  Check out the photo they picked to illustrate. No surprise there.

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“Look at the Lens!” The Regulators make video debut.

While perhaps it’s true the Regulators haven’t quite reached rock star status, they’ve carved out quite a niche for themselves here in Houston, and more specifically, at Minute Maid Park.

“Regulators” is the nickname for the Astros bullpen. Brett Myers came up with it a while back and began referencing the name in his tweets,  and just like that, the name caught on.

The Regulators, all eight of them — Brett Myers, Wilton Lopez, Wesley Wright, Brandon Lyon, Fernando Rodriguez, Enerio Del Rosario, Rhiner Cruz, Fernando Abad — took part in the video shoot that will run during the television broadcasts on FS Houston.

Producer Wave Robinson coordinated the session in a room near the Astros’ clubhouse and in the process of receiving 100 percent participation, captured the pitchers having quite a bit of fun. They followed directions pretty well, all things considered, even if they had to be reminded more than a couple of times to “LOOK AT THE LENS.”

In this video, you will notice Myers accessorized his Astros uniform with snake-skin boots. That’s almost as entertaining as watching Abad and Lopez react to seeing themselves on the TV monitor. (You know the fans who sit behind home plate on their cell phones and wave to whomever is watching at home? Kind of like that).

Enjoy the behind-the-scenes view of today’s video shoot:

Part of the shoot included the pitchers looking down at the floor…

…and slowly lifting up to look straight into the camera.

Myers added some spice to his uniform with snake-skin boots.

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Astros lineup 5/23 vs. Cubs. First pitch 7:05 p.m. CT. Roof closed

Guest blog: MLB’s Honorary Bat Girl and Buses for Baseball

By Brittany Lamas

Monday afternoon I met Kim Goodwin, and she quickly became a hero of mine. This year’s Honorary Bat Girl of the MLB, Goodwin is a breast cancer survivor, and an amazing person.

Diagnosed in 2009, Goodwin, a dance teacher, continued to teach her classes during her treatment at MD Anderson, even through chemo therapy and radiation.

Goodwin’s father was diagnosed with stage four esophageal cancer a few years ago as well, so when she was diagnosed she said her first thought was, “There’s a reason.”

After beating the disease, she decided to return to MD Anderson as a volunteer who engages with patients as they begin their treatment.

“I meet them on their very first day,” Goodwin said. “I talk to them about the process and how I continued to work and live during my time here.”

Goodwin and her family have been huge Astros fans her entire life, she even has an Astros Breast Cancer Awareness hat she wore to every single day of radiation and chemo she did.

As for winning the “Honorary Bat Girl” contest? Goodwin said she didn’t realize it was a contest at first.

“I follow a lot of Astros media,” she said. “I stumbled upon the entry form and it just said ‘Tell your story’ so I wrote it all up and submitted it. It wasn’t until later I realized that people were going to vote on it to win.”

Here is Goodwin and Co. down on the field for batting practice. She also threw out a first pitch.

MLB Honorary Bat Girl Kim Goodwin enjoys batting practice from the field. Goodwin is a breast cancer survivor and volunteer at MD Anderson.

Third Baseman Chris Johnson signs Goodwin’s Official “Bat Girl” shirt during batting practice before the Cubs game.

Goodwin and family watch batting practice from the field. Die hard Astros fans, the family goes to spring training every year.

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Also on Monday I sat in on the Buses for Baseball, sponsored by the Player’s Trust. The event designates a bus to bring under privileged children to a game as personal guests of the players.

On Monday, Minute Maid welcomed 50 students from Treasure Forest Elementary. The students enjoyed a special meet and greet with several Astros, seats behind the bull pen, and $10 loaded on their ticket to spend in the ball park.

Photos:

Students exit the bus at Minute Maid headed to a player meet and greet sponsored by Buses for Baseball and the Player’s Trust.

Wesley Wright sign autographs at the Buses for Baseball meet and greet.

Jed Lowrie and other Astros players sign baseball hats at the Buses for Baseball event.

Brittany Lamas is a junior at the University of Texas majoring in Journalism. 

Not-so-undercover: Luhnow moonlights as gameday usher.

Jeff Luhnow’s foray into the world of ushering and ticket-scanning at Minute Maid Park wasn’t quite as dramatic as something you’d see on “Undercover Boss,” mainly because he wasn’t in disguise, and his nametag said, fittingly, “Jeff.”

There was no mistaking Luhnow as he greeted fans at the South Home Plate entrance when gates opened on Tuesday for the Astros-Cubs game. There was no recognizing him, either, apparently. Fans barely batted an eye as Luhnow scanned tickets and greeted fans with a friendly “enjoy the game.”

He fielded not a single question about who he’s selecting in the upcoming draft. No one asked him who’s starting the second game of the doubleheader in Denver on Monday. In fact, Luhnow was recognized exactly once, by a regular at Minute Maid Park who puts up the “K” signs in the outfield at just about every game.

Extreme closeup of Luhnow’s gameday bling

Other than that, it was just another atypical day at the office for the general manager. Except now he has a new appreciation for the gameday employees who are on their feet for several hours every night, tending to fans to ensure the ballpark experience is an enjoyable one.

“It gave me a lot of empathy for our ushers and ticket takers,” Luhnow said. “It’s exhausting. And I only did it for two hours. They’re here all night.”

Luhnow is one of several members of the Astros’ senior management staff who are participating in a new program called “Share the Experience,” where high-level executives spend part of their day working around different elements of the gameday operation.


When staffers were asked to participate, Luhnow signed up right away.

His debut as a ticket-scanner went smoothly, for the most part, with only one minor catastrophe. The barcodes for one cluster of five tickets printed out on a computer wouldn’t scan, so Luhnow had to manually punch in the numbers for each one.

“A high pressure situation,” Luhnow confirmed.

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Astros lineup 5/22 vs. Cubs. Roof closed. First pitch 7:05 p.m. CT

Did you miss the Jeff Luhnow chat? Here’s the transcript:

Jeff Luhnow: Hello everyone! Pleasure to be on chatting with you again. A few items before I answer questions… 1. I am not going to reveal who we are taking in the draft, for obvious reasons, and because I don’t know. I can’t really get into specific opinions about draft eligible players either, so bear with me.

 JL: Also, if I get distracted it’s because something is happening in the game and I will let you know. Ok, so here goes…

JL: I predict the Astros will have a very strong draft and add significant talent to our system. There are myriad of factors that play into making the decisions. Our scouts’ expert evaluations, medical reports, psychological profiles, video analysis, performance history, etc. The tough part is putting it all together in a way that makes sense and allows you to compare players.

johnny14k:    Q: Can you tell us who is pitching in Denver on Memorial Day?
 JL: We have a doubleheader that day and as a result, we are able to bring up a 26th player. I can’t tell you exactly who will pitch that day, but I’m sure Zack Levine can take a stab at guessing, and he may be right. We won’t decide until a few days before and it will depend on how things are going over the weekend in LA and who is available and rested.

keithanator:    Q: Will we see Wesley Wright more? I’ve liked the tenacity in that guy. Kid’s got an arm.
JL: I agree, Wesley has been very solid. He has appeared in 21 games, second most on our team. I’d expect you to continue to see him at that rate. Millsie loves his lefties!

mr.smith:    Q: who has been the biggest surprise this season?
JL: I really don’t think anyone has surprised significantly one way or the other. Brett Myers’ leadership in the bullpen has been a pleasant development, but not completely a surprise. Some of the player struggles have been disappointing, but given the youth and lack of experience, not altogether surprising. Cardenas just hit one over Buck’s head for a double. I saw Cardenas as a high school shortstop playing next to Chris Marrero in the Miami area. He showed a lot of promise back then.

jermster:    Q: JD Martinez and Brian Bogusevic are struggling at the plate. At what point do you see sending a player down to the minor to work things out?

JL: That’s a tough question to answer. I believe both of them can work through any issues and turn the corner without being sent down. Let’s hope I’m right. If our team is suffering significantly due to any player, we will take steps to mitigate that, but one of the things I’ve enjoyed about this team is the fact that when one guy struggles, others tend to step up. I hope that continues.

mizztexas:    Q: What is the locker room like these days? A lot of young camaraderie, I hope.
JL: I’d say the players are loose, which is a good sign. There’s quite a bit of camaraderie (I had to look up how to spell that btw). I love going down there after a win. Music is blaring, guys joking around having fun. All around a pleasant place to be. The other night after our comeback victory against Texas with a huge crowd…that was fun.

cougarm:    Q: How difficult is it to evaluate prospects in Lancaster due to its strong offensive tendencies?
JL: It’s tough, but that’s why we have good scouts and coaches. The numbers can help you make adjustments, but you need the scouts and coaches to tell you the real story…how the player is handling the adversity and how he’s making adjustments.

ssydnor:    Q: do you think about promoting Fernando Martinez or Brett Wallace to the bigs?
JL: All the time. Also Moore, and Bixler, and Paredes, and Ruggiano, and Valdez, and Keuchel. There are several players in Oklahoma City that deserve a shot up here. Many will get a chance later this year.

brian6980:    Q: With the unexpected success this season, will players like Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers still be moved if the right offer comes along?
JL: We are four games out after 1/4 of the season. That’s not bad. We are young. Any move we make will be considerate of our current situation as well as the future. We want to win as soon as possible, but we also have to be realistic and not pass on a good opportunity to make ourselves significantly better for the future. Nice knock by CJ.

lclpls:    Q: what are your thoughts on Byron Buxton as a potential option with the No. 1 pick?
JL: Remember I can’t comment on specific players. I’ve heard of him…lots being written about him. A Google search will likely tell you quite a bit!

ssydnor:    Q: any chance we could see Myers traded by the deadline due to him being so great? I think he’s worth a lot.
JL: Think about where we’d be if our bullpen wasn’t doing its job. Much of that credit goes to the chief regulator. Ten saves. Our team is not anywhere near as good without him. Other guys have been very good too. It’s a good place to be.

JL: Nice walk for J.D.

dan410:    Q: Jimmy Paredes is having a terrific season at OKC, but I fear that since he’s blocked by Altuve at 2B,
he doesn’t fit into the future of this team. Do you use him as a potential trade-chip? Or maybe move him back to 3B where he can get playing time?
JL: Jimmy is hitting for a high average, but he still has some work to do (look at the walks and strikeouts). He’s a big league prospect and his time will come. He’s taken well to returning to second base and he profiles well for that position. That foul by Castro was certainly close…

arank12:    Q: Hey Jeff, how much have you enjoyed scouting for the No. 1 pick this year?
JL: I enjoy scouting period…but it certainly is interesting when you are looking for the top guy in the draft. In some ways it’s easier because you don’t need to worry about what everyone else is doing, but in other ways it’s tough because there are so many good baseball players in the draft. I enjoyed… OH MY CASTRO BOMB!!!!
JL: I’m happy now…I will answer a few more questions thanks to JC.

ssydnor:    Q: There are a ton of Triple-A guys worth a callup. If J.D. keeps it up he could get sent down, who would you call up?

JL: There are many factors that go into a call up. First, roster status (on 40 man or not), position, handedness, manager reports, likely playing time, etc. It’s a complicated puzzle and we typically have several people involved in the decision (the manager, myself, the farm director, the assistant GM, the AAA manager) and we discuss the various options.

arank12:   Q: How have you enjoyed your time in Houston so far?

JL: I had high expectations of Houston and this city has exceeded them. This is a terrific city and highly underrated. I’m OK with that. Let’s keep it as our secret. There is a ton to do and fabulous restaurants everywhere, great neighborhoods, and fun, exciting sports teams. I can see myself here for a looooong time -)

dan410:    Q: Do you think Jonathan Singleton has a shot at being the opening day 1B next year?
JL: That’s probably a bit quick, but I would never rule anything out. He is a future big league player, it’s just a matter of the right time and place. Patience, Dan!

StephenAshcroft:    Q: What is being done about the one-year contracts that Altuve, Martinez, Schafer, Lowrie, Johnson, and Castro currently have. Those players could be great pieces to build around.
JL: We are developing a plan to keep our valuable assets and build around them. There is a tradeoff between certainty and flexibility, and we will consider all options. All of those are players we like and want around, so you should feel comfortable rooting for them as they will be here for a while.

arank12:    Q: How have you liked George Springer’s production so far?
JL: Let’s see, you mean the guy who hit four dingers in four at-bats a little while back? I like it. He’s got tools and he’s exciting. Atta boy Bud, K’d DeJesus.

karlinlj:    Q: Have you been putting in long nights getting prepared for the draft?
JL: The heavy lifting has been done by Bobby Heck and his staff…the area scouts are the unsung heroes of any organization. Those guys drive thousands of miles and work non-stop for many months leading up to the draft. Oh, oh, two men on.

ssydnor:    Q: :Last year George Lucas would chat during the game will we see that again this year
JL: George Lucas from Star Wars? That’s awesome! I’d invite him to my box to chat! If you mean Greg Lucas, I don’t know but I will ask him. He seems too busy running around to sit still and chat!

karlinlj:    Q: Is your preference starting pitching or a position player?
JL: Yes. (a la Kevin Goldstein)

dan410:    Q: Do you project Domingo Santana to be your RF of the future? He’s got such a high ceiling.
JL: He certainly does. For us to be deep, the way we need to be, we can’t have just one RF of the future, but he would be on my list. Exciting talent.

cbstro1:    Q: Hi Jeff. Thanks for doing this chat. With the draft coming up in just two weeks, would you mind sharing what factors you consider when deciding whether you should draft a high school or college player?

JL: You’re welcome. It’s all a matter of risk and reward…younger players are inherently more unpredictable, hence carry more risk. But if you wait too long, all the good young players would be gone, so you have to take chances. A balance is probably the best approach. Grounds crew just came out after one out…ooops!

karlinlj:    Q: Have you seen the film “Moneyball”?

JL: Of course! I see all Brad Pitt’s movies. Haha. I read the book the day it came out and I saw the movie soon after it was released. Good entertainment. Michael Lewis is a good author. You should read The Big Short. Wow.

karlinlj:    Q: Would you be willing to give us a hint on the new uniforms for next season? Color maybe?
JL: Kathleen Clark is sitting right next to me. If I said anything (and that assumes I know anything), she would throw me off the balcony here…don’t want her to get mad. She’s done terrific work since joining us and I trust her 100%. So should you!

brian6980:    Q: With the new logo color scheme coming next season, are there plans for any changes to Minute Maid Park?
JL: I don’t know. I wonder about the hill out there. Just saying. And just my opinion, so don’t start any rumors. (Levine/Campbell/McTaggart I know you guys read this stuff so stand down)

TimothyDeBlock:    Q: I’m a little late to the chat and this may have already been asked, but what’s been your biggest challenge so far as General Manager?
JL: Hi Tim. I would say time management, but that’s the case with every senior executive role. I love my job, so it’s just a matter of focusing on the priorities and not sleeping very much…happy to do that though. I consider myself very privileged to be a steward of this awesome franchise.

ssydnor:    Q: Do you see Norris becoming our staff ace in the years to come? I saw his almost no-hitter last year against the Cards and that showed me he should be our number one starter and staff ace.

JL: Bud has the stuff to be a top of the rotation guy. He should continue to get better and yes, I do think that is a possibility for us. Carlos with an RBI knock. Do y’all realize how good Carlos has been recently?

julz7777:    Q: Is that a brewski you’re sipping on in the Instagram photo? I’m at work and could use one right now…
JL: It’s an iced tea. That’s one of the drawbacks to working in baseball…I used to enjoy a frosty beverage at the game…no longer. Now I have to wait until I’m home, usually close to midnight, and then I’m usually so spent. But who’s complaining!

JL: Bogie with a walk. For all JD and Bogie’s struggles, they both get on base. CJ up with ducks on the pond.

JL: OK, everyone, this has been awesome but I’m now 20 minutes over my promised 30. I will leave you with the good guys up 3-0. Great questions and I promise I will do this again soon. Keep the faith and ROOT, ROOT, ROOT!

JL: OMG CJ BOMB!!! Ok, goodnight!

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