Results tagged ‘ Cecil Cooper ’

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.


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.


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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Astros pass first test of second half. Next up, Cardinals.

The Astros should have won the game Sunday and exited Los Angeles with three wins over the Dodgers, but despite the disappointment following their 4-3 loss in the finale, they were able to draw some positives.

True, they had to “settle” for a split, but considering that split came against agruably the best team in the National League, the trip cannot be deemed a failure.

I’ll be honest, after the Astros did what they were supposed to do against the Pirates and Nationals just before the All-Star break, I thought the good times might be coming to an end, or if not an end, a slow crawl. But the Astros passed their first test, one that begins a challenging stretch against some of the league’s best — the Dodgers, Cardinals and Cubs, to name a few.

“Everyone in here knows we should have won this game,” Russ Ortiz said following Sunday’s loss. “But we’re a mature enough clubhouse to not let this affect us. We hit well this series and we pitched well against the best lineup in the league.”

Speaking of Ortiz, I think we witnessed a bit of a breakthrough — maybe a better word is truce — between the veteran right-hander and manager Cecil Cooper. When Coop went to talk to Ortiz after Ortiz gave up a base hit to Andre Ethier with two outs in the sixth, Coop seemed to be wavering between pulling the plug and letting Ortiz finish what he started.

With his arm around Ortiz’s waist, Coop said, “Hey, this is your guy to get. So go get him.’

“And,” Coop said later in his office, after Ortiz coaxed a 4-3 groundout from James Loney, “He went and got him.”

The vote of confidence meant a lot to Ortiz, who as you probably remember lashed out at the manager, through the media, for yanking him prematurely during his last start before the All-Star break.

Sunday’s communication between pitcher and manager is a positive sign that the ugliness from the last altercation has been dropped.

“(Cooper) said, ‘This is your guy,'” Ortiz said. “I knew if I made my pitches, I could get him out. (Cooper) had (asked me how I was feeling) a couple of times already. To be able to finish off the inning was big, not only confidence-wise for me but confidence-wise for (Cooper). It was a good thing for him to come out and tell me this is my guy, and then to be able to get him out.”


Bits and pieces, odds and ends and ramblings from the road trip:

* If Puma wasn’t a baseball player he’d be a country singer (assuming he can actually carry a tune; jury’s still out on that one). His reasons:
You never really have a bad day at work
You get to sing for a living
If you forget the words, you can just stick the microphone out to the crowd and let them sing it for you.

* I asked Puma if he’d ever consider giving up switch-hitting and just hit left-handed full-time. He said switch-hitting is something he’s done his entire life, and facing lefties from the left side of the plate is simply awkward at this stage of the game. Had he done it before, he might consider it, but he doubts he’d be very good at it now.

I don’t blame him. So much of playing baseball is based on muscle memory, on repetition, on reacting rather than thinking. To try to learn something new at this stage of the game — Puma just celebrated the 10-year anniversary of his Major League debut — is probably asking a little too much.

* Kind of a slow weekend in terms of celebrity sightings at Dodger Stadium. Of course, nothing can top spotting Rob Lowe in the Diamond Club area after an Astros-Dodgers game a couple of years ago, but the scoreboard will always capture a dozen or so A-listers on any given weekend. This time, I counted three — Larry King, Calista Flockhart and the kid from Two-and-a-half Men.

* Sat in front of Russ Ortiz and his soon-to-be eight-year-old daughter on the flight home. Let’s just say baseball took a backseat to High School Musical and Miley Cyrus. Awesome.

* A tip of the cap to head athletic trainer Nate Lucero, who celebrated the 19th anniversary of his 21st birthday on Sunday.

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Maysonet called up, Cooper addresses team issues.

Edwin Maysonet messed up a bunt attempt in the eighth inning Thursday night and afterward his Triple-A manager, Marc Bombard, called him into his office and said, “You’ve got to start working on your bunting, especially up there.”

Maysonet didn’t initially understand what “up there” meant. Turns out, it meant the big leagues. Maysonet was called up to replace Jason Smith, who, hitless this season, was designated for assignment after the Astros’ loss to the Brewers.

This is Maysonet’s second call to the big leagues. He was also part of a group of Minor Leaguers who was called up last year when rosters expanded to 40 in September.

Maysonet was hitting .309 with seven doubles and five RBIs for Round Rock at the time of his recall. He’ll fill the same role as Smith — a backup infielder and pinch-hitter.


There have been a lot of whispers about a contentious relationship developing between the players and manager Cecil Cooper, and Cooper addressed the topic before Friday’s game with the Rangers.

Cooper insisted his repoire with the players is fine and downplayed the notion that he’s lost the clubhouse. Here is what he said:

“When you struggle, all sorts of things happen. I’m sensing that’s probably what’s happening. I don’t think it’s a bad relationship. If it is, I don’t think it’s really on me. I think my door’s open. I expressed it all the time. I’m open, I move around amongst my players every day, if there are issues they should be addressed. I don’t feel there are.

“You have to be open, you have to be available and guys have to speak their minds when there’s something going on. There’s only so much you can sense or feel. They have to express themselves.”

Lately, however, the players have been expressing their feelings, largely off the record, to reporters, and not Cooper. They were not happy when Cooper opted not to bunt when the Astros had runners on first and second in the ninth inning in Chicago last Saturday, and some were irked with how he handled the lineup card mixup the other night during their game with the Brewers. Several wondered why it was a player, and not Cooper, who reached out to explain the mixup to Michael Bourn, who did not initially understand why he was being called back to hit again, after he had led off the game with a base hit.

On going to the media with their concerns, and not directly to him, Cooper said this:

“Then I’d say they’ve got a problem. They need to come and talk to me. That’s what I say to that. They need to talk to me. If I had an issue with someone, I would talk to that individual. I would hope they’d have enough confidence and feel good enough to come and talk to me. It’s not like I’m not around. It’s not like my door’s closed. It’s not like I don’t move in and out
of the clubhouse. It’s not like i’m not approachable. I would hope they would come talk to me.”