Results tagged ‘ Brian Moehler ’
Jeff Bagwell reflected upon his first day on the job as the Astros’ hitting coach with a touch of humor, threatening to pull a LeBron James while also revealing an interesting exchange with Lance Berkman.
The Astros hit enough Friday night to beat the Pirates, against whom they’re 7-0 this year, their best record against the Bucs to begin a season. Jeff Keppinger came up with a clutch homer and Humberto Quintero had two nice hits, but Berkman, who said before the game Bagwell was kind of like the dad you didn’t want to make mad, went 0-for-4.
“He disappointed me tonight,” Bagwell said, joking. “He got no hits.”
Apparently, Berkman found solace in this by bringing up a somewhat sore subject with Bagwell — his hitless streak against a former Reds right-hander named Scott Sullivan.
Sullivan had a nice career with the Reds, pitching the better part of nine seasons in middle relief. Not a headline grabber but certainly a decent pitcher in his own right. But he has one claim to fame — Bagwell absolutely, positively, could not hit him.
When side-armer Sullivan would run in from the bullpen, “I used to tell Dirk,” Bagwell said, referring to former manager Larry Dierker, “‘You’re really going to send me up there again?’”
And again, and again. In fact, Sullivan faced Bagwell more times in his career than any other player, ever.
Bagwell had 31 official plate appearances versus Sullivan, including 24 at-bats. And zero hits. If you look up “Sullivan vs. batters” on the Baseball Reference page, every hitter whom Sullivan ever faced is listed, and Bagwell is first, because his batting average against the former Reds righty is exactly .000. Bagwell has one RBI — via a sac fly — and has drawn six walks off Sullivan, three of which were intentional.
Bagwell’s success — or lack thereof — against Sullivan was so well-known back in the day that Berkman not only still remembers, but still uses it to get Bagwell’s goat.
“He just wanted to make me feel bad,” Bagwell said. “I said, ‘That’s about as low as you can go right there.’”
This was all in jest, of course. Bagwell, who is mindful of the good work Sean Berry did during his long tenure as the Astros’ hitting coach, is doing his best to deflect the attention from himself as the Astros try to salvage what they can during the second half of the season.
But Bagwell did acknowledge his “quick” start.
“I’m retiring,” he said. “I’m 1-0. I’m leaving. I’m going to play for the Heat.”
News and notes from Astros camp:
Felipe Paulino had a setback recently and it appears the tendinitis in his shoulder has flared up again. He’s flying back to Houston to have an MRI and will not make his scheduled start against the Cubs on Tuesday.
Also, righty Brian Moehler has been placed on the 15-day DL with a strained right groin, which he suffered during his last start before the All-Star break. Moehler’s DL stint will be backdated to July 8 and he will be eligible to return on July 23, when the team returns to Houston.
That will clear a roster spot for whomever the Astros decide to start in Paulino’s place on Tuesday.
I probably don’t need to say this out loud, because you can probably figure this out on your own, but the Astros clubhouse was silent after Saturday’s loss in Cincinnati. The kind of silence that usually sparks the old cliche “You could hear a pin drop.” Almost two months into the season, the team continues to search for answers, and it’s doubly frustrating now, because not only is the offense continuing to sputter, but the pitching is failing them as well.
Tough times for the Astros, for sure. They used to dominate in Cincinnati, rarely losing here for the better part of a decade, whether they were playing at the old Riverfront Stadium (known in its later years as Cinergy Field) or at the newer Great American Ball Park. Now, they’re on a nine-game losing streak in Cincinnati, which only a couple of years ago would seem impossible, considering Roy Oswalt’s and Lance Berkman’s absolute dominance at this place and against this team.
The Astros are struggling, no doubt, and it didn’t help that they ran into a red-hot Reds team that seemingly can do no wrong. They’ve absolutely pummeled your Astros in the last two days, having outscored them 27-8.
Brian Moehler took full responsibility for the loss and didn’t tip toe around the obvious.
“My location was just terrible,” he said. “I left some balls over the plate and they didn’t miss them. I felt completely fine, but I just had poor location.”
So now it’s up to Felipe Paulino. Now would be the perfect time to get that first win of the season. A complete game would help, too. Just sayin’.
Not a lot to laugh about these days, but I did get a kick out of this image before batting practice. Oswalt might just have found a new career once he’s gotten this pitching thing out of his system:
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The Astros are going with the unconventional 13 pitchers and 12 position players for the time being, but a quick look at the rotation situation and the schedule shows that this is probably the right thing to do for now.
Bud Norris will miss at least two starts with bursitis and elbow tendinitis, which pushes Brian Moehler into starting duty. Moehler obviously has extensive experience both starting and relieving, but he’s not exactly stretched out for rotation duty. His longest outing of the season is three innings, and that happened in his second appearance on April 9.
So it’s entirely possible that Moehler might be able to pitch into the sixth or seventh inning Saturday, which is where Wesley Wright comes in. He has been starting at Round Rock and is a prime candidate for the long man role Moehler vacated when he overtook Norris’s spot.
The other issue is the schedule. The Astros are in a stretch of 20 games without an off day, the most consecutive games a team can play without a day off, per league rules. They have 17 more days before their next break, which could be taxing for the pitchers. Having the extra arm in the ‘pen is smart, and probably necessary.
Notes from a Thursday morning in Clearwater, where the Astros and Phillies met for the first time this spring:
* Manager Brad Mills said he expects Michael Bourn to be the first of the Astros’ injured players to return to action. We could see Bourn, who’s been out with an oblique strain, play as early as this weekend.
* Mills said Lance Berkman is “feeling good. He had a real good day (Wednesday).” Mills identified this weekend as being a crucial time for the Puma, “to see if the knee keeps not swelling as much. This weekend is going to tell us a lot.” Berkman has been sidelined for most of Spring Training after undergoing a knee procedure.
* Brett Myers said he “felt something” –a pinch in the groin area — while covering first during his start against the Phillies on Thursday. He threw one warmup pitch and walked off the mound, figuring it made no sense to push himself and risk aggravating what he characterized as a minor injury.
“I didn’t want to take a chance,” Myers said, referring to the mild left groin strain that ended his outing with one out in the sixth. “We’ll just see how it is tomorrow. It wasn’t painful to where I said, “Oh…this is serious.”
Mills sounded optimistic after the game as well.
“He was able to at least move and go through the motion to the plate, which tells me it’s minimal,” he said.
* Bud Norris, whose schedule was jumbled when he missed a couple of days with a stomach virus, will likely make his next start in a Minor League game. Mills also said that Brian Moehler will start pitching in relief, even though he’ll continue to be stretched out as a starter.
It’s getting to that point of the spring where the rotation and bullpen are taking shape, and innings are getting scarce for the bubble guys. It’s also becoming increasingly clear that Felipe Paulino has the edge on Moehler for the fifth starter spot (if they indeed start the season with five starters and not four, which they could do with the early off days). That has yet to be announced, but I would believe that if Paulino has one more outing like the one he had in Bradenton the other day, he’s as good as in.
After more than four months of “Astroline,” the weekly radio show as signed off for another season. The last show took place Wednesday night at the ESPN Club on the Disney Boardwalk, and as expected, Jeff Bagwell’s appearance caused chaos (the good kind) and a packed house.
I had to laugh, because most of the calls that came in were more of the “I love you, man” variety and less about actually asking a question. Between the callers and Milo Hamilton heaping accolades and praise on the legendary first baseman, Bagwell barely noticed me mouthing “overrated” from the other side of the table.
I kid. Bags was his usual congenial self and graciously signed autographs for the long line of fans that formed long before he arrived. He also gave some pretty insightful answers to questions from both our Tweeps and the live audience at the ESPN Club.
On if he’s thought about being up for Hall of Fame election next year:
“The only reason I know it’s coming up is because I do read a few things here and there. I’ll stand by what I’ve always said. If I get into the Hall of Fame I’d be very, very privileged. It’s the greatest individual accomplishment you can receive in this game. But more important to me are the text messages and phone calls I get from ex-teammates. I hope I was a better teammate than I was a player. That means more to me than anything — the relationships I’ve had in baseball, the friends I’ve made mean more to me than the Hall of Fame. All that matters to me was what my teammates thought of me.
“My two children — their godparents are Dominican (Moises and Austria Alou). Where else does that happen? That’s what’s amazing about the game of baseball.”
On if there are ever times where he misses playing:
“I miss it, but my last 3 1/2 years, it was more like a job than it was having so much fun. The good news we were winning so that was fun. But it was hard, going out there every night (with a bad shoulder) and thinking, ‘you’ve got to throw this thing?’ That took a little bit out of me.
“I’ll put it this way — I miss being good. I don’t miss being bad, I don’t miss being hurt. I had a lot of fun in ’94 (laughs). (The later years) took a little bit of fun out of the game.”
On if he’d get into full-time coaching:
“Not now. My two kids (ages 9 and 7), there’s no chance they would let me go for that long. Those coaches, they put in so much time. They get to the ballpark at 11 (a.m.) and leave at 11 at night. I would never see my children. At this point, it does not work.
“That said, as everyone has told me, when the kids are 13, 15 years old, they’re going to say, ‘Dad, you’re not that cool and I don’t want to hang out with you anymore.’ Then, we’ll see.”
On his most memorable moment in the big leagues:
“Probably my first big league game, in 1991 in Cincinnati. The Reds were coming off a World Series win and the place was literally shaking. The fans were going crazy. I was nervous. But it was a big day for me, because I finally knew I had actually made it to the big leagues.”
We’re heading back to Houston in exactly a week, but first, there are some more Grapefruit League games to play. Sights from batting practice in Clearwater Thursday:
You’ve probably noticed there are quite a few former Phillies playing for the Astros these days, such as third baseman Pedro Feliz, who drew quite a bit of attention from the Philly media.
Brett Myers caught up with ex-teammates before facing them a couple of hours later.
Feliz and Hunter Pence sign autographs,.
Jason Michaels, another phormer Phillie.
Funny skits and “getting to know you” bits that are played on the scoreboards in between innings have become such a part of today’s Major League Baseball experience that it’s easy to take them for granted.
The process to put it all together, however, is no easy task. It takes incredible organization on the part of the ballpark entertainment crew, considering it has dozens of players and staff to involve in the process and has to get a season’s-worth of content filmed over a span of less than two weeks.
The Astros’ Ballpark Entertainment department is currently in the process of filming several features for the 2010 season: “Fact or Fiction,” “A Closer Look,” “Think Tank,” “Little League Memories” and “Guess the Flick.” Between now and the first couple of days of March, the staff will have recorded spots with every player who is either guaranteed a spot on the 25-man roster or has a chance to make the club this year.
“Fact or Fiction” involves the player making a statement, and then the crowd has to decide if it’s true or not.
“A Closer Look” focuses on things we might not already know about the player — what was his first job? What sport was he good at growing up besides baseball? What movie star do people think he looks like? The final product will include funny motion graphics to illustrate the answers.
“Think Tank” pairs up teammates, who engage in a Q&A word association.
“Guess the Flick” involves playing a scene from a well-known movie, and inserting the player into the scene.
Brian Moehler, Bud Norris and Jeff Fulchino filmed their segments on Monday, and we snuck into the room to get some raw video footage of our own, to share with you. Moehler was hilarious — he acted out a scene from “Dumb and Dumber” and even though I’ve known him for quite a few years, this is the first time I’ve ever heard him get loud. Check out the video to see for yourself.
Moehler also reveals which celebrity people think he looks like, who his most annoying teammate is (I don’t want to name names, but it rhymes with Plum) and that he went to high school with Molly Ringwald (or did he? That’s for you to decide when you play “Fact or Fiction.”)
The Astros ballpark crew — Kirby Kander, Senior Director of Creative Services, Brock Jessel, Director of Ballpark Entertainment, and Joey Graham, Production Coordinator, recently received two Golden Matrix Awards for the 2009 season, including the Best Overall Video Display Award (Best Show in Baseball). This is the fifth consecutive season they’ve won the award, something no other professional sports team has done. Kander, Jessel and Graham also won the Best Interactive In-game Feature for their Guess the Flick segments.
Here are some images from Monday’s shoot, plus a few from the second full day of pitchers and catchers workouts at Osceola County Stadium:
Moehler, talking about Brett Favre and Molly Ringwald.
Norris and Fulchino, being prepped on their video segment.
Fulchino, Mills, Oswalt, Lindstrom.
Byrdak, Wandy throw side sessions.
Catchers lined up, catching the side sessions.
Oswalt throws side session, with pitching coach Brad Arnsberg watching closely.
Lots of position players showed up to work out, even though they don’t have to official report until Wednesday. Here we have Michael Bourn…
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Some observations after Week One of caravan season…
1. I think you’re going to really like Brad Mills. He smart, passionate about baseball and while he’s technically a “rookie” manager, he has plenty of leadership experience, having managed 11 years in the Minor Leagues and coached 11 years in the big leagues. He spent the last six years as Terry Francona’s bench coach and earned two World Series rings in the process. I believe that counts for something — a lot, actually.
Mills feels very strongly that there is a correct way to conduct yourself when you are a Major League ballplayer. He believes in the importance of the veteran players passing along that knowledge to the young players, and he also believes in every player taking the field with absolutely no confusion about what is expected.
I swore I wasn’t going to make any sweeping proclamations about someone taking over a high position with the organization, based on some of my past observations over the last eight-plus years that I now have deemed cringe-worthy (“So-and-so’s GREAT! Capable! Approachable!” Only to find out that well, no, that wasn’t the case. At all.) But I spent a full week around Mills, first in Temple and then in Houston, where we had plenty of time to chat during the long drives to and from about a dozen caravan stops. And I have to say, with no hesitation, Mills clearly gets it.
I walked away from the caravan week with a strong feeling that the clubhouse culture is going to change dramatically soon after Spring Training begins. Toward the end of 2009, there was a feeling of defeat that I have never, ever seen from a Houston club, even in the down years. I don’t know Mills that well yet, but I just cannot envision him putting up with any sort of defeatist attitude from the players.
Plus, he’s a warm-weather kind of guy. He called Francona, who lives year-round in Boston, yesterday to let him know “It’s 75 degrees here and there is not a cloud in the sky.” Just wait until he manages 81 home games without a single rain delay. he’ll feel like he hit the lotto.
2. Of all of the recipients of the Darryl Kile Award over the years, Brian Moehler just might fit the description better than anyone. The award goes to someone who, among other things, is a great teammate who puts the team before any personal agenda.
On our way to a caravan stop on Wednesday, Moehler brought up what a fantastic signing Brett Myers is and how much it improved the Astros chances to be competitive in 2010.
Now, Myers just might have knocked Moehler out of the starting rotation mix and bump him to the ‘pen. That is of little concern to Moehler. The only thing that matters to him is winning, and Myers increases the Astros’ chances to do just that. If it means taking a lesser role on the team, then, in Moehler’s view, so be it.
3. Pitchers and catchers work out in less than a month. The first full-squad workout will take place a few days after that. Here’s what intrigues me the most:
* Jason Castro’s chances to make the team as the front-line catcher right out of the chute. I’m sensing that the club would like for it to happen, but is hesitant to put that much pressure on the kid. Someone brought up a good point — Castro needs to concentrate on his work behind the plate, handling a pitching staff, learning opposing hitters, etc…yet, his odds to make the club will largely depend on how well he hits in March. Is that fair?
* Roy Oswalt’s back: He’s changed up his conditioning routine, cutting back on running and concentrating more on core-strengthening. He said he’ll be ready when the bell rings, but keep in mind that for a player, that bell rings on Opening Day, not the Grapefruit League opener. So don’t expect miracles on March 4.
* Who gets the Opening Day start. If Opening Day honors go to the starting pitcher who had the best year in the previous season, then Wandy Rodriguez getting the ball is a no-brainer. But I’ve come across a couple of people who think there’s an argument to be made for Oswalt, the team’s unmatched ace almost a full decade. If you were Mills, who would you appoint?
In the meantime, here are some shots from the locally-based caravan stops from the last couple of days, plus the baseball dinner…enjoy.
Craig Biggio mingles with residents of the Brookwood Community.
Bill Brown, Mills, Biggio and Moehler (hidden behind Brownie) begin the presentation at Brookwood.
Junction Jack, Moehler and Biggio play an abbreviated game of baseball at Brookwood. I think Moehler struck out Biggio here.
Then it was off to Katy Jr. High…
Later that night, at the baseball banquet…
MVP Michael Bourn, conducting his 1,000th interview of the week (or at least it seemed that way).
Bourn signed a few autographs for some young admirers.
Rookie of the Year Jeff Fulchino and his wife, Carrie.
Darryl Kile Award recipient Moehler, and his wife, Dee.
Bourn, Wandy, Moehler, listening intently to seating instructions before heading to the main banquet room.
The next day, the caravan resumed with a trip to Methodist Hospital…
…Pearland High School..
…and a Grand Slam for Youth Baseball Little League sign-up rally.
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The Astros won’t have much money to play with next year, and I’d like to see what extra they do have spent on pitching. The first thing I would do is pick up the option on Brian Moehler’s contract, which will be worth either $2.3 million if he pitches fewer than 150 innings this year, and $3 million if he exceeds that total. He’s pitched 119 innings so far and assuming he makes six more starts and averages six innings per start, he’ll come in just over 150.
So, for argument’s sake, let’s say the option is worth $3 million. Going over the projected salaries for 2010, four players will take up more than half the payroll — Lance Berkman ($14.5 million), Roy Oswalt ($15), Carlos Lee ($18.5) and Kaz Matsui ($5). Including Moehler’s option, that’s $56 million for five.
Drayton McLane has not set the payroll for next season, but for now let’s estimate it at $95 million. They’ll need about $21 million to cover the arbitration-eligible players. That leaves $18 million to spend on the rest of the team, with more than half the 25-man roster still undetermined. If Miguel Tejada agrees to play third base for $5 million, and Tommy Manzella and Jason Castro make the league minimum as the starting shortstop and catcher, respectively, I would fill the rest of the infield with Jeff Keppinger, who will probably cost a little less than $1 million in arbitration, and Geoff Blum, who the Astros probably could sign now for around $2 million.
The Astros will probably have to round out the bullpen with mostly young guys — Yorman Bazardo, Alberto Arias, Sammy Gervacio, Wesley Wright and Jeff Fulchino (he’ll be 30 next season, but he’s not yet arbitration-eligible, which puts him in the category of “young”). I have no idea what they’re going to do with the closer situation. It’s unlikely they’ll be able to afford to bring back Jose Valverde, who I’m assuming will be looking for a multi-year deal exceeding the $8 million he made this year. The Astros may be forced to try to either convert one of their young relievers into a closer or trade for a young pitcher viewed as a possible future closer.
Michael Bourn, Hunter Pence and Wandy Rodriguez will get hefty raises in arbitration. I do not know what the final figures will be but I have Wandy penciled in for $5 million and Pence and Bourn making around $2 million.There are still approximately two bullpen spots and the two backup outfielder spots to fill. That doesn’t leave a lot of extra money to play with, but whatever wiggle room they have should be spent on a starting pitcher, and I would like to see them once again pursue Randy Wolf.
In Wolf, the team would be getting a veteran pitcher who has had success here and is, most importantly, healthy. They pulled their offer to him last year when the economy went in the toilet, and they took their chances on Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz. That didn’t pan out.
I’d rather spend a little extra on someone healthy and have a rotation that can survive the realities of this organization — the promising pitching prospects are still working their way through the system and will not be ready in 2010. That leaves them with little Major League-ready depth, which means they simply have to strengthen what they do have at this level. A Randy Wolf would be the perfect No. 3 to slide in behind Oswalt and Rodriguez and ahead of Norris and Moehler.
That’s my two cents. What say you?
Random pictures from a weekend of baseball at Minute Maid Park:
Michael Bourn, Sean Berry and Ed Wade have a laugh during batting practice.
Roy Oswalt signs autographs for young fans.
The Astros honor Kaz Matsui for logging his 2,000th career hit…
…And Carlos Lee for his 300th career home run.
Puma addresses a crowd of at least 5,000 on Faith and Family night.
Sights and sounds from the clubhouse Wednesday, postgame:
Manager Cecil Cooper:
“I thought we played station to station baseball…base hit, walk, base hit. Station to station. Sometimes that works.”
Jeff Fulchino, on entering the game with a big lead:
“You try not to treat it any differently from any other time out. You go out there like it’s a tight situation. Throw strikes, get ahead and hopefully the rest will somehow take care of itself.”
Brian Moehler, as expected, was not happy with his high walk total during this start versus the Padres. Moehler is a guy who stays around the strikezone, will give up the occasional solo homer and relies on his defense.
Asked if this was a tiring game, he said, “A more stress-filled game, yes. (But with a big lead), I didn’t feel like I had to be perfect. I just tried to limit the amount of damage.”
Moehler was then asked if competition between starting pitchers on the same team is healthy. The question was in reference to the fact that the Astros have six starters and will go back to five after the All-Star break.
“I think there’s competitiveness, yea,” he said. “In Florida (in ’05 and ’06), I was there with (Josh) Beckett, Dontrelle (Willis), A.J. Burnett. We fed off each other. It’s good to feed off each other.”
Asked about his at-bats, which included a ground ball that turned into a bases-clearing, three-run E5:
“I didn’t strike out,” Moehler said with a smile. “I’m making progress.”
A view of post-win high fives and handshakes, from my seat in the press box:
First up: Coop, who addresses the media from his office.
Moehler and Fulchino chat at their lockers soon after the game was over.
Fulchino talks to media.
Then reporters move over to Moehler.
Geoff Blum is a great postgame quote, which is why reporters usually seek him out, win or lose.
And a couple of shots from batting practice earlier that day:
Jason Michaels, Jeff Keppinger
Humberto Quintero, Miguel Tejada
Here’s what I like about Brian Moehler — he was completely let down by the defense behind him Thursday, but he wouldn’t call out his teammates. The strongest thing he said after the game was “Today we overcame the errors, and Lance had the big hits, and he pulled it out.” When he was done addressing the media, I asked him again if he was upset with the defense, and he just sort of looked toward the ceiling and said he was happy for Berkman, to have gotten those two home runs a day after making a costly error.
Moehler isn’t going to overpower anyone, but more often than not, he’ll give you a competitive outing. After his prior start against the Twins, during which he allowed three solo homers but still logged the win, he pointed out that he doesn’t mind giving up home runs, as long as he doesn’t walk anyone. Simply put, he throws strikes and opposing hitters are going to put the ball in play. Moehler relies on his defense — namely, his infielders — more than anyone on this staff. We see what can happen when they don’t come through.
However, when one of the culprits of the defensive problems from the past few days steps forward with some brutal honestly, it’s refreshing. Here’s what Puma had to say:
“The defense has been terrible. It cost us the game last night, and today it could have cost us the game. We have to figure something out, a little more intensity and a little more concentration. You can’t give teams extra outs in the Major Leagues and expect to win. We have been a good defensive team in the past and there’s no reason we can’t be. This year we just have to do it.”
The success rate of players who are chosen to play in the Futures Game during All-Star Week getting to the big league is ridiculously high — somewhere around 90 percent. This bodes well for the Astros, who will have two prospects participating in the game this year — catcher Jason Castro and pitcher Chia-Jen Lo. Read Brian McTaggart’s report here.
RIP Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. Man, what a day.
Let’s call Saturday’s start a bullpen session for our resident ace, who was out after one inning and 17 pitches because of a one-hour, 37-minute rain delay.
There is no reason why Oswalt can’t pitch as early as Monday. Russ Ortiz is scheduled to start that game. Brian Moehler is scheduled for Tuesday. Who should Oswalt bump?