Results tagged ‘ Bud Norris ’

Central Texas Caravan, Day Two.

The Astros are currently in the midst of a nine-day caravan schedule that has them visiting more than a dozen cities, during which they stop by schools, sporting goods stores and other area stopping points.

No visits are more important, however, than the hospital visits, especially when children are involved.

The Astros spent about an hour and a half at the Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas on Tuesday, but everyone agreed that it probably should have lasted longer. It’s heartbreaking to see what these kids are going through, but heartwarming to see their faces light up when ballplayers walk into the room. It’s especially entertaining to watch a youngster as it dawns on him that yes, that was really Jeff Bagwell who shook his hand and introduced himself.  

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Other news and notes in Astroland:

Bud Norris loves the big leagues, but he still reflects fondly upon his Minor League years, especially when one certain special assistant to the general manager would roll through town for a couple of days.

“We’d see Bagwell lurking around, trying not to be noticed,” Norris said. “But as soon as we saw him, we knew: We were going to get a good dinner that night.”
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Speaking of Bagwell, he’s ready to go under the knife for another shoulder surgery, scheduled for Monday in Scottsdale, AZ.

He’s hoping to alleviate a lot of the pain that has not only returned, but appears to be getting worse.

The procedure will involve shaving the ball of his shoulder down to a perfect circle, drilling a hole in the middle and sticking a metal half-ball on top of it.

“They go into my shoulder and open it up — it won’t be arthroscopic, Bagwell said. “It’s actual surgery. They’ll take out all my bone spurs, there’s one big one in there that we’ve known about for a while.”

Read the full story, which includes more Bagwell insight, here.

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Park Patrol tryouts are scheduled for Feb. 5 from 4 to 7 p.m. CT and Feb. 6 from 9 a.m. to noon at Union Station. You might remember that the Park Patrol is an interactive squad that performs various home game duties, including t-shirt launches, prize giveaways and trivia contests while performing dance routines and “skits” with the Team Mascot.

Park Patrol members will perform these tasks LIVE in the stands, on ballpark concourses and will be featured on the stadium videoboard. They will also make appearances at season ticket holder events, Astros in Action Foundation events, and any approved event in connection with the Houston Astros.

To be considered for the Astros Park Patrol, please contact by phone or through e-mail to Dukeman Productions at 713-838-9855 or Kevin@dukemanproductions.com.

For more information, check out the Park Patrol page on Astros.com.

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Milo, Norris on Astroline together. But only one is the King of Baseball.

Bud Norris has been through a full Major League Spring Training with the Astros, but this year, things will be decidedly different for the 24-year-old right-hander.

A year ago, the California-born Norris, who recently bought a townhouse in Houston, was considered by the front office as a possible future closer. Heading into 2010, however, he’ll be looked at to fill a dire need in a rotation that has a few options but could certainly use a young arm.

He spent two months in the big leagues in 2009 and was shut down with only one or two starts remaining in the season, not because of injury, but because the club is looking for long-term preservation instead of short-term results.

“(General manager Ed (Wade) and (former manager Cecil Cooper) decided it was for the best,” Norris said during his recent appearance on Astroline, the club’s weekly radio show. “I dealt with my workload. My body was getting tired, but it was definitely for precautionary reasons. I wanted to be out there with my teammates and helping them, but at the same token, I knew that for the future, it was something that was needed.”

Norris was Milo Hamilton’s guest on Astroline, which airs every Wednesday on KTRH 740 a.m. and on astros.com and takes place live at Sherlock’s Baker St. Pub on West Gray in Houston. Little did we know, a fun sideshow unfolded at the same time, thanks to Hamilton’s recent honor at the Winter Meetings as the “King of Baseball.” He was given a trophy, in addition to the full King garb — cape, crown and scepter. Enjoy the imagery.

(Programming note — next week’s Astroline guest will be Geoff Blum, followed by Craig Biggio on Jan. 27 and Michael Bourn on Feb. 4)

King Milo and Bud Norris

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Bud signed autographs during commercial breaks.

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Getting ready to go on the air

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On the air

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Milo’s garb even attracted the local news…

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…not to mention the fans!  

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Astros rookies channeling their inner Olivia Newton-John (revised).

For those too young to remember, back in the early ’80s, Olivia Newton-John had a painfully cheesy song called “Let’s Get Physical.” Even worse was the video that accompanied the song — Olivia, working out with men of various shapes and sizes. The workout clothes were tight, neon and spandex.

That brings us to the Rookie Road Trip, an annual rite of passage where veterans buy crazy outfits for the rookies to wear on a travel day. The styles have been wide-ranging over the years, from Hooters outfits to slinky dresses to the attire du jour selected this year.

Tight. Neon. Spandex. Our five rookie models, featured above on the tarmac as the Astros were boarding their flight to Philadelphia, include (left to right) Chris Johnson, Bud Norris, Tommy Manzella, Wilton Lopez and Sammy Gervacio.

(And seriously, thanks to the guys for being such good sports.)

Below: Norris on the left, Johnson on the right. They were posing for family and friends on their way to the bus.

Poor Manzella, fighting a nasty cold while wearing spandex and carrying around a Build-A-Bear. You’ll notice Carlos Lee in the background, laughing at the rookies as they walked by.

Lopez, making the best of the situation. He and Gervacio laughed through the whole process, while it took the others a little longer to loosen up and accept the fact that a little harmless public humiliation is just part of life as a rookie.

Jason Michaels takes a picture of three rookies while waiting in the security line.

 

One more note on this topic: Rookies were also instructed to help out the flight attendants with serving the passengers. Picture, if you will, Sammy Gervacio approaching Ed Wade with, “Can I get you something to drink?”

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On another topic, you’ve probably heard by now that at least 11 members of the Astros traveling party are suffering some kind of cold, flu or sinus problem. The only way to guarantee that list will grow is to put everyone on the same airplane for a three-hour trip to, say, Philadelphia. In that case, I expect the epidemic to get worse before it improves.

Some of the more savvy veterans took health safety matters into their own hands. As I waited for the rookies to come out of the lockerroom in their pink neon, I captured this image of a very precautious Geoff Blum:

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And later, on the plane, I caught this one of LaTroy Hawkins (after I said, “smile, LaTroy,” I realized how ridiculous that must have sounded):

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Some days on the job are more fun than others. This was a great day.

 

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The Astros held their Fan Recipe Challenge Cook Off on Saturday, and you could say I was more than a willing participant as one of five judges.

Yes, I’m a team player, but more than that, I’m perpetually hungry. I also have a weakness for anything loaded with sugar, so when I heard Nancy Doctor’s sourdough cinnamon rolls were on the docket, I jumped at the chance to be a taste-tester.

The Astros were looking for new ideas for menu items to be offered at Minute Maid Park in 2010. So they opened the floor to the fans, and the recipe ideas arrived in droves.

The Astros waded through dozens of ideas and narrowed them down to four. On Saturday at the FiveSeven Grille, the contestants cooked up their tasty delights for the panel of judges.

The lineup:

Sarah Robinson’s “Slammin’ Chicken Sandwich;”
Dawn Harmon’s “Chicken Lettuce Wraps;”
Brad Turcotte’s “Green Chile Cheeseburger;”
Nancy Doctor’s “Sourdough Cinnamon Roll.”

We were asked to judge the items based on three criteria: taste/quality, ability to produce in a stadium environment and creativity.

The winner will be introduced next Friday (Sept. 18) on FS Houston, on the Astros reality-based show “Here’s the Pitch!” hosted by Jennifer Vogel. The show starts at 5:30 p.m. CT.

The first place winner receives 12 game tickets and use of a Luxury Suite for a game next year, plus a Lance Berkman signed ball. And, of course, his or her dish will be served at the ballpark every game next year. Second, third and fourth place finishers received signed bats and four game tickets.

From behind the camera lens: 

The judges, left to right: Astros right-hander Bud Norris, Houston Chronicle columnist Ken Hoffman, myself, Vice President of Guest Services Marty Price and Executive Chef of Minute Maid Park and Aramark Sports & Entertainment Jason Kohler.

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Norris took his judging duties seriously, as you can see here. He was also planning an extra workout to offset the heavy intake of calories (mostly from those delicious cinnamon rolls).

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Dawn Harmon prepares her chicken lettuce wraps.

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 Ken Hoffman tastes chicken lettuce wraps.

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Sarah Robinson gets ready to wow the crowd with her slammin’ chicken sandwich.

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Nancy Doctor prepares her mouth-watering cinnamon rolls.

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Brad Turcotte takes a brief break from preparing his Green Chile Cheeseburger (actually, it’s a turkey burger) to pose for a picture.

 

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The contestants gather for a group shot upon the conclusion of the cook off.

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Astros honor late sportswriter (and friend) Neil Hohlfeld

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Three years ago when the Astros created the Houston Baseball Media Wall of Honor, I figured my friend Neil Hohlfeld would eventually win the award, which is voted on annually by members of the Houston media.

But I never could have imagined that he would receive the honor posthumously, which is why Saturday’s dedication came with a touch of sadness for those who knew and loved the longtime Houston Chronicle sportswriter.

Hohlfeld covered the Astros as the Chronicle’s beat writer from 1979 until 1995 and remained with the newspaper until last summer, when he passed away from a heart attack at the age of 56.

His family was presented with a replica of the induction plaque that now hangs on the broadcast level of the Minute Maid Park press box, next to inaugural winner Anita Martini and last year’s recipient, Gene Elston.

In this photo, president of baseball operations Tal Smith and FS Houston’s Greg Lucas present the plaque to Hohlfeld’s wife, Lynne, and his sons, Joey and Andy. (Neil’s daughter, Maggie, is attending college in Ohio and could not be there for the ceremony.)

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Farewell to Russ Ortiz.

While Russ Ortiz quietly and eloquently addressed reporters about being released by the Astros, I turned to Doug Brocail and said, “I absolutely hate this part.”

Days like Thursday, simply put, stink. We know baseball is a business. We hear it ad nauseum from owners, GMs, managers and players. We get it. But baseball also happens to be a business where the product is people, and that makes times like this tough if you know the person affected.

The process by which a team releases one player and calls up another happens swiftly and efficiently, especially on a “getaway day,” which is code for the last game a team will play in one city before flying to the next.

Once the Astros made the final out Thursday at Wrigley Field, they filed into the clubhouse, and a few key figures immediately convened in Cecil Cooper’s office, with the door closed.

Following a brief phone call involving GM Ed Wade, who was not with the team in Chicago, Cooper summoned Ortiz into his office, and judging from Ortiz’s expression, he didn’t seem terribly surprised that the manager wanted to talk to him.

A somewhat lengthy closed-door conversation took place, with Ortiz receiving the news that he was released. Soon, the door opened, and Ortiz, expressionless, exited the office. “Thanks for everything, Russ,” Cooper said, likely his final formal words to the veteran pitcher.

The clubhouse was quiet — expected, given the loss to the Cubs and the realization that a teammate was just given his walking papers. Slowly, players filtered over to Ortiz’s locker, offering hugs and handshakes and well-wishes for their now former teammate.

Here’s the tough part — talking to the media. Ortiz spoke in hushed tones, but he handled himself with grace and professionalism. He was matter-of-fact when asked for his reaction: “I told them I understood. This is an important time of year…they didn’t obviously feel like they can keep sending me out. I don’t want to pitch like this and not have them confident in me. Even though I never wanted this to happen, it’s part of the game.

“I just wasn’t able to get it done, especially the last 2 times out. I came out for the game (Thursday) feeling I was ready.”

Cooper was direct and entirely correct when he said, “We can’t keep going like this. It’s killing our bullpen. Particularly today was really tough on us.”

Between Ortiz and Mike Hampton, starting pitchers absorbed exactly 6 1/3 innings over the last two games in Chicago, which left the bullpen to account for the other 9 2/3 frames. This couldn’t continue, especially considering Wesley Wright is recovering from a severe case of dehydration, Brocail is just now returning from the DL and Chris Sampson, less than a week off the DL, is again being overworked.

So yes, they can’t keep going like this. And I am sure Hampton realizes he’s on notice as well.

Bud Norris moves into the rotation, but what happens in St. Louis this weekend will depend on a few circumstances. The club first needs to determine if Roy Oswalt will be healthy enough to start Sunday (I have my doubts). Here’s what Wade told reporters via conference call following Thursday’s game:

“At this point, a couple of alternatives that we have. One, if Roy is ready to go Sunday in his start, then that would allow us to slide Norris into Russ’s slot in the rotation. If we have to think of the possibility of giving Roy a couple extra days, we can put him in the Ortiz spot in the rotation and give Norris the start on Sunday.

“If we have to skip Roy, then we’re going to have to reconvene and try to figure out how we cover both his start and Russ’s spot.

“So, there are sort of the moving parts, and they’ll be dictated by how Roy feels once he gets to St. Louis (Friday) and he and (head athletic trainer) Nate (Lucero) have a chance to talk. We’re going to talk on the flight over about the possibility of maybe shifting Roy a couple of days to cover both spots.”

Read McTaggart’s story here.

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Moving on…

The Astros obviously didn’t fare so well in Chicago, but they did score some runs here and there, which may turn out to be good news for your wallet. The Astros recently rolled out a “We Score, You Score” promotion, which gives you one dollar off field box tickets for each run the Astros scored during their four-game series with the Cubs. The offer extends to the first three games of the homestand next week.

The Astros scored 15 runs, so a $39 Field Box ticket is now $24. Check it out here.

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Astros through the years (and the lens of my camera).

During Spring Training, I posted a three-part pictorial series on my blog, where I shared some of my favorite snapshots of the last 12-plus years. Thanks to Facebook, I have a handy place to store those photos, and now fans can peruse at their leisure. They’re posted in the “photos” section near the top of the Astros Facebook page. Check it out and feel free to comment, I hope you get as much enjoyment from them as I have.

You’ll also find every other picture I’ve posted on my blog over the last several months in the photo section. Enjoy!

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Norris, Brocail have arrived to Chicago. Wright was dehydrated.

Bud Norris landed in Chicago early Wednesday morning and arrived to the visitors clubhouse at Wrigley Field several hours before gametime, as did right-hander Doug Brocail, who was actived from the disabled list a day earlier.

Brocail takes LaTroy Hawkins spot on the roster, and to make room for Norris, the Astros optioned infielder Edwin Maysonet to Triple-A Round Rock.

According to MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart, Norris is a candidate to start on Sunday in St. Louis, in place of Roy Oswalt, who is en route to Houston to have his lower back checked out by team doctors.

For now, Norris is available out of the bullpen.  

Meanwhile, reliever Wesley Wright was diagnosed with dehydration, not appendicitis, and was released from the hospital last night. He is not expected to be at the game Wednesday and will instead rest at the team hotel. Wright would not be available for the game anyway, seeing he threw more than 50 pitches Tuesday night.

Wright a starter? Team news and notes, and answers to your questions.

Wesley Wright was sent to Triple-A Round Rock a couple of weeks ago mainly because he wasn’t effective enough on the big league level. But his time spent down on the farm wasn’t designed only for him to “work on things” — he was also sent down to get stretched out to be more than a one-batter or one-inning pitcher.

No, the Astros aren’t converting him to a starter — yet. But don’t count it out as an option down the road.

Wright, who was recalled after Thursday’s game when Felipe Paulino went on the DL, appeared in four games for the Express, including one start. He threw 66 pitches in that outing, a remarkable number considering he had started a grand total of seven games during his Minor League career, five of which arrived in his first season in 2003, as a Class A Dodgers farmhand.

The Astros tabbed Wright as a reliever when they plucked him from the Dodgers organization during the Rule 5 draft in 2007, mainly because they had a need for a left-hander in the ‘pen. But there appears to be a need for starting pitching these days, and perhaps Wright might fit the bill, someday. He’s still in the ‘pen, but the fact that the Astros sent him to Round Rock to get stretched out, build up his innings and work on his pitches is intriguing. Stay tuned.

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Bud Norris is another interesting study. During Spring Training, several Astros evaluators said if Norris, the club’s top pitching prospect, can develop the changeup and effectively use it as a quality third pitch, his future is probably as a starter. If it turns out he is more of a two-pitch pitcher, he could be looked at as a future candidate for the back end of the bullpen, possibly as a closer. As of now, his changeup is coming along nicely, and the Astros are still hopeful he can eventually turn into a top-of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues.

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The Astros, much like Humpty Dumpty, are slowly putting themselves together again. Jose Valverde is back after a two-game rehab stint with Double-A Corpus Christi. He needed a grand total of six pitches — all strikes — to get through one inning of work Thursday night. He’ll be activated before Saturday’s game.

Kazuo Matsui started Thursday’s Corpus game at second base and was hitless in four at-bats but drove in one run. On Friday, he was 1-for-4 and played eight innings. He’ll play Saturday with the Hooks, will be off Sunday and is scheduled to rejoin the Astros for Tuesday’s game in Arlington.

Valverde has been out since April 27 with a strained right calf, while Matsui has been sidelined since May 26 with a strained left hamstring.

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Roy Oswalt says his wrist feels fine and he’s ready to face the Diamondbacks on Saturday. He was pushed back a day because of what he suspects was a touch of tendinitis.

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Geoff Geary accepted his Minor League assignment and will report to Round Rock Saturday. He had two choices: accept the assignment and continue to be paid, or reject it, become a free agent and not be paid the balance of his contract. He’d have to bank on another club willing to sign him and pay him the approximately $1.05 million he’s still owed by the Astros.

In other words, he’s reporting to Round Rock Saturday.

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Thanks for your emails and questions…just as a reminder, you can email your inquiries to askalyson@astros.com. I’ll try to either post answers here or answer you personally. You can also catch my updates on Twitter. My screen name is alysonfooter.

Question:

Recently Jason Castro was moved up to AA Corpus Christi, and rightfully so judging by the numbers he was putting up. How soon will the Astros be moving up some of their other top prospects? To name a few, Jonathan Gaston and J.B. Shuck have both been excellent at Class A Lancaster, and practically the entire starting rotation at Class A Lexington (Seaton, Lyles, Dydalewicz, Bono and Greenwalt) has been doing wonderfully. The Astros have to be happy about some of the things going on in their two A-ball clubs. What can we expect to see from these teams in the near future, and is Castro still on track to possibly get a
look in Spring Training for the 2010 starting job? — Brian S.

Shuck and Gaston are both off to really good starts, and both jumped over low A ball and went straight to High A Lancaster this year after starting their pro careers last year in Rookie Ball. Through Thursday, Shuck, an outfielder, was hitting .323 with 11 doubles, four triples and 17 RBIs over 56 games. Gaston, also an outfielder, has hit an eye-popping 15 home runs over 60 games. He has a .291 average, 16 doubles, eight triples and 42 RBIs.

If they continue at this pace, they’ll get serious consideration for Double-A. Whether comes in the near future or the latter part of season remains to be determined. But it appears the Astros front office is as impressed with these kids as you are.

The rotation at Lexington is getting quite a bit of attention inside baseball circles, but the Astros are not going to rush them through the system. Three of the starting five — Seaton, Lyles, Dydalewicz — were just drafted last year, and the other two — Bono and Greenwalt — are in their first year at Lexington. We’ve heard over and over that the true pitching talent is in the lower levels of the farm system and I think we’re seeing that first-hand now.

The likelihood is that all five stay in Lexington for the season, to build up innings. Promotions aren’t out of the question but there are no plans right now.

As for Castro, tabbing him as the starting catcher out of Spring Training next year might be a stretch. He’ll be given the chance to compete for the job but I’m inclined to believe they might be looking for another stop-gap — a la Pudge Rodriguez — to give Castro more time to develop. I would not be surprised if Castro was called up at some point during the season, and he’s moving up the ladder at a nice pace, but I suspect the Astros will want to give him something close to a full season at Triple-A before they’ll think about making him the front-line starting catcher.

Norris, Towles cut.

The Astros made two roster moves Friday morning, sending right-hander Bud Norris and catcher J.R. Towles to Minor League camp.

Norris will join the Round Rock rotation, but he will be the first pitcher considered if a need arises in either the rotation or the bullpen in Houston.

Towles was edged out when the club signed Pudge Rodriguez, which moved Humberto Quintero to a backup role.

More on this later.

 

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