Results tagged ‘ aaron boone ’

Spring Training locker assignments: who sits where?

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The Astros’ Spring Training locker room is basically sectioned off into two sides — one for the pitchers, and one for the position players. For the most part, they’re placed numerically, with a couple of exceptions.

For as long as I can remember, Roy Oswalt has always had the first locker when you walk into the clubhouse from the main hallway. I never understood why he wanted to a) be that close to people walking in and out and b) make himself that geographically accessible to the media, but I figured he had his reasons.

It dawned on me this morning that his area has a little more leg room than the rest, and considering this is how he passes the time in the early morning hours before workouts start, it makes perfect sense:

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On the other side of the clubhouse, position players are also lined up numerically, for the most part. One exception is this row, which has always been saved for what I like to call the “high rent district.” This year, it’s Berkman, Lee and Feliz. In the past, that row has been occupied by the likes of Bagwell, Biggio, Kent, Ausmus…you get the drift.

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Hunter Pence’s locker, and Hunter Pence.

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Bud Norris‘ locker is right next to Oswalt’s, which should make for some interesting dialogue as the spring wears on. Oswalt is a man of few words, and Norris…well, let’s say he’s a very conversational young chap.

That’s not to say Oswalt doesn’t have his chatty moments. He’s come a long way since his rookie year in 2001, a time that I refer to as his “deer in the headlights” phase. Players are usually unpolished when they get to the big leagues, and Roy was no exception. Who can forget the night he set the club rookie win record? With about eight cameras in his face, Roy was asked how it felt to pass Jim Deshaies for the rookie record. Oswalt: “Who’s Jim Deshaies?” J.D., who was standing nearby: “Guess I should probably introduce myself.”

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Other camp observations:

General manager Ed Wade is looking forward to watching Tommy Manzella man the shortstop position this year. Because Wade has been with the Astros only about two years, he’s had to rely on his staff to give their insight as to Manzella’s development.

“Our guys say he’s a tick above average in range, a tick above average in hands, and has an average arm,” Wade said. But the real selling point was this: “They said, if you had to get one more out in the ninth inning, you want the ball hit to Tommy Manzella,” Wade said. “I was told he’s been ready for about two years to play defensively in the big leagues. He definitely gives us solid range and a good arm. We’re going to miss Miggy (Miguel Tejada), but our range has improved with Tommy.”

Someone asked me what young player I’m most intrigued by this spring, and while Jason Castro is still first on my list, Manzella is a close second. I really wish Manzella had been given more playing time after he was called up last September, but I have to assume we’ll be watching him regularly when the Grapefruit League season starts next week.

One thing I like about spring games is watching the young guys play. They’re fast and have something to prove, so they really pour their energies into the games, whereas the veterans take is slower, knowing Spring Training is a time to get back in the swing of things without having to worry about winning or losing a job.

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I always consider the final day before position players arrive to Spring Training as the calm before the storm. Although plenty of position guys — about half of the squad — have already shown up and are working out regularly, they don’t hit the fields with the rest of the team until the first official workout, scheduled for Wednesday.

I anticipate a pretty busy morning, which will include (not necessarily in this order): a team-only meeting with manager Brad Mills, who will address his new club for the first time; a more expansive team meeting, which include a few words from owner Drayton McLane; and a media crush at the locker of one Lance Berkman, who apparently was due to arrive in Kissimmee at 5:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday. (Not sure why this mattered but it was reported as such by the Twitteratzi).

***UPDATE:*** Puma sighting at 5:30…right on time. Spring has officially sprung.

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And finally, good luck and congrats to Aaron Boooooooone, who is officially retired and has joined ESPN’s Baseball Tonight crew.

 

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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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Baby alert, broken noses and a visit from Booooone.

Interesting notes from Astros camp…

Chris Sampson’s wife, Heather, is thiiiiiis close to delivering the couple’s second son, but apparently, she’s even closer than originally thought. The Sampsons were anticipating a delivery sometime during the July 31-Aug. 2 range, while the team is in St. Louis, but it looks like the little guy doesn’t want to wait that long.

Sampson flew home to Houston today to be with Heather, who was experiencing early contractions yesterday and appears to be ready to deliver. We’ll keep you posted.

****Update: Sampson was placed on the 15-day DL with muscle spasms in his right shoulder. The transaction is retroactive to July 10, which means he’ll be eligible for activation on July 26. To replace Sampson on the roster, the Astros purchased the contract of right-hander Chad Paronto. He’ll be in uniform for Saturday’s game in Los Angeles. (No news on the baby). 

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Speaking of babies, congratulations to the Booooooooones — Aaron, and his wife, Laura — who welcomed daughter Bella James on Wednesday. Aaron will join the Astros in Houston on Thursday to begin his comeback from his March 27 heart surgery. The last time we spoke with Boooooone — in mid-June, during the Astros trip to Arizona — he said he’d love to play again this year and mentioned a September return as a very real possibility.

That would require him to spend at least a month rehabbing in the Minor Leagues, and it appears that the timetable is working in his favor. I love the idea of Booooone playing with the Astros in September, especially if they’re in a playoff race. Rosters will expand to 40, so no one would have to be sent out in order to make room for Boone, and he would be a tremendous presence in the clubhouse during the stretch run.

He’s been through everything — division races, October baseball (who can forget his Game 7 homer that won the pennant for the Yankees in ’03?) — and there’s no doubt the Astros could only benefit from that kind of veteran presence during such an intense time.

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Brandon Backe sought a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews after Astros team doctors diagnosed a tear in his rotator cuff, and Andrews recommended Backe rest for another few weeks before making any definitive decisions regarding surgery.

If Backe, who was released last month, does decide to eventually have the surgery, the Astros will still be on the hook to pay for it. As of Friday, however, he’s going to rest and rehab route.

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Medical marvel Doug Brocail (left, with Jason Michaels) will begin a rehab assignment Monday in Round Rock and will make a second appearance with the Express Wednesday. He’ll then move on to Double-A Corpus Christi, where he will pitch on July 25, 26, 28 and 30.

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Strange news from Round Rock…Triple-A catcher J.R. Towles broke his nose in a tractor mishap during the All-Star break, but he is still able to play.

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News from Astros.com…

Puma sits out with calf strain

Sampson DL story

And finally, for the ladies…

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Tough day. Good to see Boooooone. Get well soon, Sean.

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It was somewhat ironic that Aaron Boone happened to be visiting the Astros on Wednesday, the same day the Astros made another one of those serious announcements about the health of someone in uniform that had nothing to do with hamstring strains or shoulder tendinitis.

A little over six weeks ago, Boone, age 36, told the world he was having open-heart surgery. Today, 43-year-old hitting coach Sean Berry let us know he has a tumor on his kidney that is likely cancerous, and will have to be removed soon.

If there is a silver lining to Sean’s condition, it’s that this cancer is extremely treatable and should be 100 percent gone once the tumor is removed. He might even be able to do it laproscopically, which would require just a short recovery time.

“You always hear this is the one you want to get,” Berry said. “After they cut it out, I should be 100 percent fine. No chemo, no radiation.”

You can read here about Dave Clark’s inadvertent contribution that caused Berry to detect the tumor early.

Here’s hoping Sean gets through this quickly. He’s a great guy, a great coach and a great friend to many. Not to mention one of the original Killer B’s.

As usual, Puma summed it up nicely:

“It’s almost surreal,” Berkman said. “It’s just weird because a week ago, that never even enters your mind. Then we knew he wasn’t feeling well in Atlanta. He said it was kidney stones. I’ve heard of people having those before. It’s farily common and very painful. When I came in today we saw a meeting at 4:15, and the furthest thing from my mind was anything like that.

“I thought maybe they were going to chew us out or something, whatever. Then I knew immediately it was something not good. Then you get a sick feeling in your stomach. You just can hardly believe it.

“We’re encouraged by the report. Not that cancer’s ever not a big deal, but if you’re going to have cancer it sounds like this is a better situation than most. They can operate on it and it doesn’t sound like he has to have chemo, so that’s good news.”

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Meanwhile, it was nice to see Booooooone. I heard he was showing off his scar to his teammates so I thought it couldn’t hurt to ask him to show it off to the media. I didn’t think he’d go for it, but boy was I wrong:

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Dave Clark organized a fun session of batting practice with the coaches while the team was in Atlanta. Little did he know how important that session would be to Berry in the end.

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Not only is Sean Berry the best hitting coach Hunter Pence has ever had, according to Pence himself, but he’s also a mentor. Pence took this one hard. 

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Good luck, Booooone.

 

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Before we get to the baseball stuff I’d like to take a moment to wish Aaron Booooone the best of luck tomorrow. He’s having the heart procedure that he told us about last week, and I’m sure we can all agree that we want nothing but the best for him and his family.

Be well, Aaron.

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Back to business. The Astros have an offday Thursday, and manager Cecil Cooper has made it clear he doesn’t want anyone doing anything baseball-related. Days off are few and far between in baseball, and seeing this is the last one of the spring,

Cooper wants his players rested and relaxed when the team returns to work Friday.

“Tomorrow is the last offday, period,” Cooper said. “This is the last time they’ll have to rejuvenate.”

That said, Miguel Tejada is the one exception — he has a busy day ahead of him, seeing that he’ll be flying to Washington, D.C. to receive his sentence for lying to congressional staffers about the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.

Tejada pleaded guilty to that charge prior to his arrival to Spring Training, and from everything that has been reported since then, the shortstop is likely going to receive probation, and no jail time.

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Russ Ortiz has a touch of the flu, and apparently, he’s not the only one. Darin Erstad showed up to the Astros’ clubhouse Wednesday morning feeling ill, and he was immediately sent home.

That’s one of the worst things about Spring Training — when one gets sick, it seems like everyone does. It’s risky to spend so much time in such close quarters, whether it’s the locker room, training room, weight room or even the eating area where players are served breakfast and lunch. I remember a few years back, early in the season, when it seemed like everyone was sick, all at once. I recall Lance Berkman walking around the clubhouse wearing surgical gloves and a mask to protect himself from the germs.

(Does that surprise you? I mean, who else would do that?)

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Here and there: Humberto Quintero was scheduled to catch six or seven innings at a Minor League game Wednesday, in order to make up for some of the playing time he’ll miss with the arrival of Pudge Rodriguez. …Roy Oswalt threw a side session at his junior college in Mississippi and is slated to start Friday against the Phillies. …Brandon Backe threw eight minutes on flat ground Tuesday, the first time he’s been cleared to do anything since straining a side muscle several weeks ago.

Tough day in Kissimmeee.

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When the majority of the team walked into the press conference room on Wednesday, I knew it was something awful, and then when I saw Aaron Boone sit at the desk in the front of the room with Ed Wade and Cecil Cooper, I felt absolutely sick.

Boone has a heart condition that he’s been dealing with for about 15 years, but after undergoing a routine physical at the beginning of Spring Training with locally-based team physician Dr. Mike Link, it became apparent Boone’s condition had become more dire.

Boone will, in the very near future, schedule surgery to have his aortic heart valve replaced. He is upbeat about this and seems to be handling it well, but this is scary — for Boone, his family, his teammates, and pretty much anyone and everyone who knows him.

Boone’s one of those guys whom everyone likes. He’s funny, easy-going and people seem to just gravitate toward him. Here’s hoping he makes a full recovery and is back on a baseball field sometime down the road. Even more importantly, here’s hoping he makes a full recovery and lives a long and happy life.

To me, he’ll always been Aaron Boooooooone.

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