Results tagged ‘ Berkman ’

On Erstad, Brocail, Berkman and Sampson.

Cecil Cooper was planning for a while to play Darin Erstad in right field and rest Hunter Pence on Thursday, but he admitted he had second thoughts after Pence homered and doubled during the previous night’s game with the Dodgers. In the end, Cooper decided to stick with his original plan.

“It takes guts to take [Pence] out after last night,” Cooper said. “I hope [the fans] don’t boo me tonight.”

The decision was more about Erstad than Pence. Erstad had only 10 at-bats heading into this game and no starts.

“We need to get Erstad a start,” Cooper said. “That’s the reason we’re doing it. He needs to get four at-bats, or three at-bats in a game so he can feel comfortable. When a guy gets that, he usually starts to feel better. Then, when we use him in key situations, he’s ready.”


Considering Alex Rodriguez just had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip, I couldn’t help but wonder if Chris Sampson was headed for the same fate. Why can one player play through a tear in his labrum and the other can’t?

So, I asked Ed Wade about that, and he compared Sampson’s tear to peeling an orange. If you peel it slightly back but don’t break it off, it snaps back into place. As long as the labrum doesn’t tear further he should be OK, but there are no guarantees that it won’t.

“I guess it’s degrees of tolerance more than anything,” Wade said. “He’s had soreness and then there was the bang-bang play [at first base] where he fell back. He tweaked it again and that’s when they told us it was incumbent to get the MRI.”

Sampson will probably have the tear looked at again when the season is over, and at that time, he might opt to have it surgically repaired. That’s a long way away however, and for now, he’ll pitch through it.
“He might have episodes over the course of the season where he’s too sore to pitch,” Wade said. “Or back-to-back days at different times might be a problem. We don’t know at this point. It’s going to be up to him to let us know how he’s feeling.”

Right now, Sampson is still enjoying the effects of a pain-numbing cortisone shot he took earlier this week, so it’s safe to say he’s feeling just fine.


At some point Wednesday, Doug Brocail was scheduled to make a Minor League rehab appearance. But he said he was going to try to talk Cooper and pitching coach Dewey Robsinson out of it, and apparently, it worked. Brocail will throw a simulated game
Friday instead and if that goes well, there is no reason why he shouldn’t be activated on Sunday when he’s eligible to come off the DL.

“What if he had gone there to Round Rock and thrown six pitches, or five?” Cooper said. “He’s not a guy that’s going to sit down after six pitches and get up and go another inning. It didn’t make a lot of sense. He’s going to do it here, and we’ll see if we can get him activated soon after.”


Lance Berkman’s homer Thursday night was the 292nd of his career, which moved him ahead of Craig Biggio for second place on the club’s all-time home run list.

So now, Berkman is sandwiched in between Biggio [291] and Jeff Bagwell [449].

“I’m honored to be in the same company as the two franchise icons,” he said.

As proud as he is to have played with Bagwell and Biggio, Berkman is OK with the fact that he is NOT an original Killer B. He is actually quick to remind us that he was playing at Rice when the whole Killer B thing first started in 1996.

It’s for that reason that Berkman doesn’t quite understand the buzzing sound played over the loudspeaker from time to time when he bats, and come to think of it, neither does hitting coach Sean Berry, one of the founding fathers of the first wave of Killer B’s. [That group included Bagwell, Biggio, Berry and Derek Bell].

Overheard: Brad Ausmus, acknowledging that this is the Dodgers’ only trip to Minute Maid Park this year: “This is the last time I’ll never play here.”

During Spring Training, we polled several key figures from the last 10 years on their favorite Minute Maid Park memories. We’re rolling them out slowly over the course of the season. First up, Roy Oswalt. Check it out here [scroll down]:

From the camera archives:
The Astros are a close bunch. Puma demonstrated this while preparing to do an interview with radio announcer Dave Raymond. Puma’s like that close talker from Seinfeld. Dave acted like he was uncomfortable but I think he secretly liked it.


Here they are at a more comfortable distance:


I have no idea what Ed Wade and Randy Wolf were talking about, but being the nosy photographer I am, I snapped this and drew my own conclusions. Wade’s a big fan of Wolf; it wouldn’t surprise me if he made another run at him next offseason.

Rotation shaping up. Puma still day-to-day.

Looks like we have the order of the starting five, barring injury, major meltdown or unforeseen disaster:

Roy Oswalt

Wandy Rodriguez

Brian Moehler

Mike Hampton

Russ Ortiz


This is based on the order of the rotation as we head to Opening Day. I do not know if the Astros will pitch Ortiz on his scheduled day or if they’ll wait until the first time they actually need their fifth starter, which is April 15.

All we know now is Oswalt will pitch every five days no matter what, with the remaining four falling in line around him. Off days may simply mean the other four will get an extra day of rest between starts. We’ll see.

Lance Berkman isn’t in the lineup Tuesday and since the Astros won’t be using the DH on Wednesday either, it’s more likely we won’t see Puma’s name in the batting order again until Thursday, when the team plays the Double-A Hooks in Corpus Christi. However, Cooper may insert Berkman into a game in the next couple of days just to get him an at-bat or two.


Time to break out the voodoo doll.

This morning I told Cecil Cooper that the odds were overwhelmingly in the Astros favor, considering they were playing two games that day. That pretty much doubled their chances to win, right?

In a nutshell, no. The Kissimmee side lost to the Philies, 5-2, and those who traveled to Tampa to play the Yankees lost, 3-1.

So the Astros are 1-13-1. How bad is it? It depends on who you ask. Coop is having a hard time with this, but if you go into the clubhouse, you’d find a much different take on this Grapefruit League season. You would actually find people who don’t even know the Astros have won only one game.

Lance Berkman, who is aware of the record, reminded Coop about the 1998 Yankees, who won 114 games during the regular season and nearly swept their way through the playoffs.

How is that team similar to your 2009 Houston Astros? According to Berkman, quoting his good friend Yankee pitcher Andy Pettitte, the ’98 Yankees had “the worst Spring Training in Yankee history.”

I can’t find what the Yankees record was that spring, but I’ll take Berkman’s word for it. Berkman also issued a friendly reminder to his manager: “We are 0-0.” Meaning, once Opening Day gets here, this nightmare of a spring season will be forgotten.


Posted on the bulletin board in the Astros’ clubhouse was a note indicating everyone is going to Disney on Sunday. Everyone — as in every position player and every pitcher scheduled to pitch. Usually a handful of players will stay behind and work out at the home facility. Not this time; Coop is obviousy steamed, and Sunday’s game with the Braves is going to be a group effort in its most literal sense. We’ll see how that goes.


Russ Ortiz wasn’t happy with himself after his start against the Phillies.

“I was terrible,” he said. “I was just bad.”

Ortiz allowed three runs over 3 2/3 innings, walked three and struck out two.

“I didn’t come here just to go through the motions,” he said, when asked if he felt like his chances to make the club were diminished after this outing. “I came here to throw and throw well, and be healthy. Whatever happens, happens. I’ve said it before, yea, I want to be on the team, and my goal is to be on the team first and foremost.”

Jose Capellan is scheduled to start Sunday’s game in Atlanta. This is getting interesting.

And so it continues.

Cecil Cooper was typically quiet after the Astros’ loss to the Braves on Tuesday. He’s running out of things to say, and who can blame him? The Astros have lost 10 in a row, and as Cooper pointed out, you couldn’t even blame this last one on the “kids.”

The lineup looked largely like the one projected for Opening day: Matsui, Bourn, Berkman, Lee, Pence, Boone…with one of the projected starting pitchers, Brian Moehler, on the mound. And still, the Astros just weren’t very good.

“This was veterans today,” Cooper said. “We didn’t hit, and we didn’t execute our pitches. I don’t have any answers about why this is happening, unless someone put the hex on us.”

Cooper concluded with, “this is bordering on ridiculous.”

The Astros are now 1-10-1 and haven’t won since the first game of the spring season. Ridiculous indeed. They’ll try again in Sarasota Wednesday, and guess what? Berkman, seen here balancing a bat on his nose, is finally making a road trip. I sense the tide turning already.


Roy marches on, Carlos heading to Fla. Fanfest, and frozen yogurt.

Random news, notes and thoughts:

One of the many traits I inherited from my dad is a penchant for yelling at the T.V. during tense sports moments. I can vividly remember him lying on the couch yelling at the television — and the Reds — during tough times in the 1970s and ’80s. Later, when I was in college, I found myself doing the same thing while watching my Cincinnati Bearcats play basketball.

And again last night, watching Team USA play Team Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic.

Watching Roy Oswalt’s pitch count rise as he labored through the fourth inning was kind of like watching John Franco try to nail down a save for the Reds in the second half of 1989. You want desperately to jump on the field and yell “stop the madness,” but you can’t, of course, because you’re at home, watching on T.V., and no one is interested in your opinion.

I had no problem with Roy hitting the 70-pitch limit if he was cruising. But by the time he hit his 65th pitch, he was clearly gassed, and in my estimation, Team USA manager Davey Johnson was a tad tardy on yanking him.

I talked to Oswalt about that today and he just laughed at me, which did ease my mind a little bit. He insisted he had a direct open line of communication with the coaching staff and that he had told Johnson and pitching coach Marcel Lachemann he wanted to get to at least 60 pitches in this outing, if not a little more.

The good thing is that Oswalt has six days off before his next appearance. He’ll throw two bullpens this week and will be back on the mound Saturday in Miami for round two of the Classic. He says his body was tired after the outing, but his arm is fine. Whew.


Carlos Lee contacted Cecil Cooper today and told him he was headed back to Spring Training camp and wanted to get into the game on Tuesday. Lee’s Team Panama was bounced from World Baseball Classic competition after just two games, and apparently, the burly left fielder is ready to return to his day job.

“He’ll be in the lineup tomorrow,” Cooper said after Monday’s game in Viera.


Cooper, on Jose Capallan, who pitched three scoreless innings: “He’s pitching himself right into the picture. He’s done exactly what we asked him to do: throw strikes, change speeds, pitch down in the zone. He’ll keep getting stretched out.”


On Felipe Paulino, who allowed six runs over two innings: “Not very good. He seems to have no feel for pitching. A couple of breaking balls were good, but it did’nt look like he had a good feel. His command was not very good.” 


A reminder: Astros FanFest this year will be held in conjunction with the exhibition game played against the Indians at Minute Maid Park, following the Florida portion of Spring Training. The date is April 4. When I receive more details regarding activities and autograph schedules, I will be sure to pass that along. But you can count on pretty much the entire team — plus several alumni — participating.

I had mistakenly thought FanFest was a two-day event, but it’s only one…please make note in your calendars, and sorry about the confusion.

From the Inbox:

Why isn’t Lance Berkman getting more playing time? It’s obvious he needs to work on his swing, and two innings every few days just doesn’t seem to cut it. I can’t understand Cooper’s thinking. My prediction: they will finish in last place! —

Elizabeth W., Dallas

When Cooper mapped out the travel schedule for his veteran players for the spring, he had Berkman marked down for no more than three road games all month. That’s why you haven’t seen much of him. Berkman is working out daily at the home complex and is of course playing in most home games, but is it enough? I realize Cooper wants to go easy on his veterans, but at the same time, the hitters have work to do in terms of getting their timing down at the plate. The only way they can do this is to face live pitching regularly, and it bugs me that Berkman is missing all of these road games. And there really isn’t any excuse for him not going to the Braves complex for a game or two, considering it’s less than 30 minutes from the Astros’ complex.

I have to disagree with you that they’ll finish in last place. I don’t know how good they’ll be, but they won’t finish lower than the Pirates. That I can promise you.

Who wants low-fat frozen yogurt after the seventh inning stretch? I do…and I’d bet I’m not alone. Who can I contact to request/encourage this addition to the ballpark menu? — Tracy B., Houston

A cool refreshing snack without the high-calorie guilt? Count me in! I liked your idea so much I forwarded it to the Astros customer service. And let this serve as a reminder to everyone out there — you send your questions, concerns, compliments and complaints to I can assure you they read each and every one of them and respond to the best of their ability.

Bagwell in the house.

It’s always good to see Jeff Bagwell, and it’ll be fun to him around for the next week or so. The retired first baseman, now one of general manager Ed Wade’s 27 special assistants [OK, that’s a slight exaggeration] will float between the Minor League and Major League complexes and he plans to be in uniform for the Astros’ Grapefruit League opener at Osceola County Stadium on Wednesday.

“I’ll probably see some of the Minor League kids and go straight over there on Thursday,” Bagwell said. “I’ll be at the game tomorrow, walking around. It really depends on what Matty tells me I’m going to do.”

That would be Matt Galante, who is — you guessed it — a special assistant to Ed Wade.


I don’t know about you, but talking to Darin Erstad about blowing his nose is making me sort of uncomfortable. Not nearly as uncomfortable, however, as I was talking to Kaz Matsui about his Spring Training problem this time last year. Still, having to ask Erstad what he’s going to do the next couple of weeks when he has to blow his nose, but can’t, was both humorous and nauseating.

Incidentally, Erstad does have a backup plan. I’ll let you use your imagination on that one.


The mood in camp today was a little more upbeat than normal. Brandon Backe is starting to get the color back in his face, which was good to see. Doug Brocail was his typically chatty self, and seems to be working through his tendinitis issues.

Lance Berkman told me he asked Ed Wade [jokingly] for a two-year, $20 million extension. Wade joked back that the only extra money they’re spending on him is for his retirement party.


I’m hearing Miguel Tejada may not play in the World Baseball Classic after all. Playing time may be an issue, and the Dominican Repulic team may be considering asking Tejada to play out of position. We’ll find out soon enough because final rosters are being announced tonight on MLB Network, but it sounds like he’s reconsidering his decision to play.


I’m still in the process of trying to figure out how this blog thing works, and as you probably have noticed, I haven’t quite gotten the hang of the picture posting part. But I really can’t let my shot of Tim Kurkjian in yesterday’s blog be the only picture I post. So here’s a shot of Berkman, pretending to be mad that I’m taking his picture. He does this often. Instead of ignoring the photographers like all of the other players, Lance can’t help himself. Here, he is saying “Would you please put that dang camera away?” Strong words from the Puma.

Thumbnail image for 0224_berkman.jpg

Oswalt in typical form…Astros on TV.

Roy Oswalt enjoyed facing his slugging teammates as the batting practice pitcher on Saturday during a session that included a few broken bats, a few laughs and a bunch of good-natured trash talking.

You can imagine the lively scene as Oswalt threw to Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee, but at the same time, Oswalt was careful about where his pitches were going, so as to not hurt his own teammates.

“It’s just all in fun,” Oswalt said. “I’m not going to throw in on the guys. Just in case I hit one of the guys I don’t want to knock him out for the season as far as breaking something.

In terms of trash-talking, Oswalt was clearly enjoying the fact that his hitting teammates hadn’t seen live pitching since last September. Advantage, Oswalt.

“I had the upper hand,” he said. “I ran up a few balls here and there, just to keep them honest. I don’t want them to be leaning out over there, but not too far in. But I’m not throwing on the inside part of the plate.”

Random news and notes:
Good news — a ton of Astros spring games will be on television this year. ESPN will broadcast the Astros-Braves game at Disney next Thursday (Feb. 26) at 12:05 p.m. CT., and FS Houston will broadcast four games: March 20 vs. Cincinnati, March 23 vs. Florida, March 24 vs. the Mets and March 25 at St. Louis. Also, when the Astros return home, the April 4 exhibition game with the Indians will also be on FS Houston.

The Yankees games usually sell out, and this year is no exception. The game between these two teams at Osceola County Stadium on March 18 is standing room only.

I’ve had a lot of questions about FanFest…it will take place the weekend of the exhibition games with the Indians, April 3 and 4.


Hampton’s OK, Lee’s on his way

It was good to see Mike Hampton walk into the clubhouse today, but it was somewhat chilling to hear how scared he was while going through the ordeal. Even though he knew he was probably going to be fine, he was pretty on edge until he, and his heart, got that clean bill of health. Hampton threw an abbreviated bullpen Wednesday and shouldn’t be held back from anything down the road, which is good.

It was nice to hear Ed Wade be so definitive about Pudge Rodriguez. He’s been up front with the club’s disinterest in the free agent catcher, but every time I heard another rumor about the Astros being one of the teams Pudge was considering, I had to wonder. The news of Toby Hall having an MRI on his shoulder prompted me to say to Wade, jokingly, “So maybe now you’re going to make that offer to Pudge?” To which Wade responded, “We are not signing Pudge. Let’s put that to rest right now.”

So, consider the topic officially resting. Until Pudge says he’ll play for the league minimum.

Leftover news and notes:
Every player on the 40-man roster submitted urine samples for scheduled drug testing. This is different from random testing, of course. But the rules are the same, and, might I add, somewhat unpleasant, considering players have to be watched when they submit their samples. I remember having a conversation with Lance Berkman last year about his support of blood testing, and I reminded him that his very own union argued that blood testing was an invasion of privacy. He said something along the lines of, “You want to talk invasion of privacy? Ever had any watch you [use the bathroom?”]

My answer, thankfully, was no.

Carlos Lee is due to arrive to camp Thursday morning. It’ll be interesting to hear how he explains not reporting on time. I want to believe that he truly just had the date wrong, but I’m struggling.

Chris Sampson, fully recovered from offseason elbow surgery, is still a few days behind his teammates activity-wise, but he’s expected the throw off the mound Monday or Tuesday of next week. Also, Jose Valverde is experiencing no ill effects from the skin irritation on his right arm.


Berkman speaks. What else is new?

Today was so draining that by the time I walked to my car to leave for the day, I felt like I had just walked out of my last final exam in college before Christmas break.

Miguel Tejada, Carlos Lee and Mike Hampton kept us plenty busy on Tuesday. We received great news on Hampton [he’s heart-healthy and cleared to rejoin the team], listened to Tejada speak about his recent troubles [not that he offered any useful information, except that he addressed his team and apologized] and found out Lee was a no-show, which irked select teammates [Lance Berkman] but didn’t come as a huge shock to anyone.

I kind of like the quiet atmosphere when it’s just the pitchers and catchers in camp, but it’s sure nice to have Berkman around again. Not only because he’s just a fun guy, but he is, if you haven’t noticed yet, a reporter’s best friend, offering honest, forthright and often hilarious takes on life as a ballplayer.

Berkman is not furious with Lee for not showing up on time. But clearly, he’s irritated.

“On one hand, it’s Carlos, Berkman said. “That’s just the way he is. He’s a great teammate, we love having him in here and obviously he’s a tremendous RBI guy. But part of you certainly is like…he and myself and Miggy and may be a couple other guys, we’re going to be looked to to carry the load. I think it’s a good example for the young guys and everybody else to be here when everybody gets here.”

Lee’s excuse? He had the report date wrong. That’s a little hard to believe, but I’ll reseve judgment until I talk to him Thursday.

Back to Berkman. The day he reports to camp is usually the day he addresses reporters for as long as they need him, and boy, does he offer good insight. I liked what he said when asked if he felt Drayton McLane was doing everything possible to be a champion in Houston.

Basically, Berkman’s contention is that only one team does whatever it takes, year after year, to win a World Series: the Yankees. A slam on the Astros? Not really. Berkman was simply pointing out that the Yankees have unlimited funds, and the Astros do not.

“[The Yankees] are sort of operating in a dream world up there, where their revenue stream is certainly a lot different than ours is,” Berkman said. “You can’t fault Drayton for being responsible with his finances, and he owns the team and he can whatever he wants with it.”

Berkman then pointed out that McLane is always willing to add a part mid-season, “whether it be a Randy Johnson or a Carlos Beltran” or someone else to help them get to the playoffs.

“Do I feel like Drayton is doing everything he can in the free agent market to bring a championship to Houston?” Berkman asked. “Maybe not. But do I feel like he’s more than willing to pull the trigger on a trade if he thinks it’ll help us win? Absolutely. He’s a good balance.”

That said, Berkman sees the window closing on his own chances to win a World Series. He turned 33 last week, and feels like he has three or four “really good years and we’ll see how it goes after that.”