Results tagged ‘ Chris Johnson ’

Note to self: More pictures of Pence in plaid pastels.

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Plenty of reactions poured in after we posted this picture on Twitter of Hunter Pence and his stylish sport coat he wore to the Pink in the Park Brunch and Bazaar on Thursday:

Many of you liked it, many did not. But I was struck by the number of comments that arrived in the form of “So-and-so called. He wants his blazer back.”

The complete listing of so-and-so’s:

Milo.
Craig Sager.
Tim Meadows (so he has something to wear in The Ladies Man 2).
Walt Frazier.
Buddy Holly.
The 1970s
Jim Deshaies (who has a similar eyesore called the “Guaranteed Win Jacket”).
Deion Sanders.

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Braves closer Billy Wagner has been gone from the Astros for seven years, but he still has close ties to several in the organization. As he made his rounds through Astros territory during batting practice Friday, he said to former teammate and current hitting coach Sean Berry, “I announced my retirement today. I’m done.”

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I thought he was kidding, and I’m pretty sure Sean did too, initially. Apparently, Billy’s serious. He told Bobby Cox he’s done after this year, regardless of whether he reaches his goal of 400 saves (he’s currently sitting on 387).

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While I’ve been all over the country throughout my years working for or covering the Astros, I haven’t done a whole lot of international travel. In fact, most of my times crossing any  borders have been work-related, and very sporadic — a few roadies to Montreal in the late 1990s and Spring Training exhibition trips to Venezuela (2001) and Mexico City (2004).

I’m about to add the Dominican Republic to the list and even though it’ll be a really quick trip, I’m looking forward to finally seeing it for myself.

The Astros are officially opening their brand new Dominican Academy in Boca Chica on May 10, and I’ll be tagging along with the front office contingent for the ribbon-cutting ceremony and celebration. The Academy has been up and running for a while, with approximately 35 players currently preparing for their season, which is scheduled to begin at the end of May.

At the opener, the Astros will play the Phillies’ Dominican Summer League club in a five-inning exhibition game following the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Not sure how much live Tweeting I’ll be able to do down there from my cell phone, but we’ll post plenty of pictures and videos in the blog soon after our return later that evening.

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Injury update:

Chris Johnson (strained rib cage) has been hitting off a tee and hopes to start hitting in the cage in the near future. He still feels the pull in his midsection but says he’s making decent progress. Johnson is eligible to come off the DL on May 4.

Lance Berkman was held out of Friday’s game after tweaking his groin during his last at-bat on Thursday. Manager Brad Mills is hopeful Puma will be able to play Saturday. With two day games scheduled for this road trip, Mills opted to give Berkman the night game off with hopes he can finish out the series in Atlanta.

Wandy Rodriguez tested out his sore back with a short throwing session with pitching coach Brad Arnsberg before batting practice and appears to be on track to start Saturday. Wandy was scratched from the opener in Atlanta when he came down with back spasms before the final game of the homestand.

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Sights from a beautiful spring evening at Turner Field:

Michael Bourn, Hunter Pence

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Pedro Feliz, Tommy Manzella

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The gigantic JumboTron in the outfield

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Lee leans.

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Pitchers stretch.

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Humberto Quintero.  

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Random notes on Opening Day, Astroline, old friends, fathers and sons.

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People in baseball like to use the cliche “it ain’t brain surgery,” along with “it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon” and “that’s baseball” and other well-worn phrases that often make me wish there was a banned cliche list, sort of like the banned substance list that has become a staple in our game.

Anyhoo, “it ain’t brain surgery” is wholly appropriate when breaking down the Opening Day starter pitching conundrum, or lack thereof. After Monday’s offday on Monday, manager Brad Mills reset the rotation so that Roy Oswalt would start the first game back against the Red Sox on Tuesday.

Counting the days and assuming Oswalt will receive his normal four days of rest from here on out, he would be on schedule to start April 5, which just so happens to be Opening Day.

The announcement isn’t official, but, as we’ve already gone over, this ain’t brain surgery. April 5 is shaping up to be a day I’m quite looking forward to, for three reasons:

1) I’ll be watching a game that doesn’t involve the words “Grapefruit” or “split squad” and won’t involve 37 pitching changes (at least let’s hope not);
2) It’ll be a game that actually counts in the National League Central standings;
3) It’ll feature two of the league’s top pitchers: Oswalt, and San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum.

And here’s more good news: there are still tickets available. I think a lot of fans just assume that Opening Day is sold out months in advance, but if you hop on astros.com, I think you’ll find some seats to your liking.

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Arnie on Astroline

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Hopefully by now you’ve caught at least one of the many Brad Arnsberg interviews and videos that have been posted throughout the spring. If you have, you’ve probably noticed the Astros’ new pitching coach is a pretty animated guy. It also takes no time at all to realize he not only has a deep passion for what he does for a living, but he also isn’t afraid to express it.

Arnsberg will talk pitching for a full hour on Wednesday with Milo Hamilton during “Astroline,” the team’s weekly radio show that is winding down another offseason of Hot Stove talk.

The show airs live from the ESPN Club at Disney’s Boardwalk in Orlando at 7 p.m. CT, 8 ET. You can listen on the club’s flagship station, KTRH 740, or streamed live at astros.com. The number to call into the show with questions is 713-212-5874, or you can do it the new-age way and tweet me.

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It was a fun, lively day at Osceola County Stadium on Tuesday, partly because a ton of people from Red Sox Nation showed up to watch their make a rare appearance in Kissimmee. You could say that the two clubs are geographically incompatible given the hundreds of miles between Kissimmee and Fort Myers, but a home-and-home series was irresistible to the schedule-makers who noted the obvious Astros-Red Sox ties.

Mills was Terry Francona’s bench coach for six years in Boston before he was hired to be the Astros’ skipper, but the two actually go all the way back to their college days, when they were teammates at the University of Arizona.

Several prominent Red Sox players, including Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis, asked specifically to be on the trip, despite the three-hour bus ride, because they wanted to say hello to “Millsie.” And you could tell throughout the morning that Mills was excited to see his old team. He’s a high-energy guy by nature, but I detected a little extra kick in his step on Tuesday (especially after his current team shut out his former team, 3-0.)

Another interesting storyline involved Astros third baseman Chris Johnson and his dad, Red Sox first base coach Ron Johnson. Francona, working with only a portion of his Major League staff thanks to a split-squad schedule, assigned the elder Johnson to coach third base in this game, so that he could be next to his son.

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“It’s Spring Training, and we’re trying to get some stuff done,” Francona said. “But there is time to realize the human side, and it’ll be fun to watch.”

Chris Johnson maintained a low-key demeanor about his dad’s visit to Kissimmee, but Ron Johnson was the total opposite. He was bursting with both pride and excitement as he talked about coaching next to his son.

“This morning, I got up around 5:30, and I was the only guy, I guarantee you, that said, “OK! We’re going to Kissimmee today! Three-hour drive! This is great!” Johnson gushed.

Here’s an image of father and son exchanging lineup cards with the umpires:

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How John Rocker helps me find my way to Flushing.

Back in the old days (10 years ago), I never could remember which train to take to get to Shea Stadium. It’s one of those things where you think you’ve got it memorized, but then in the year that passes between trips, inevitably, it fails to stick in the memory.

Then the 2000 offseason arrived. Braves pitcher John Rocker went on his now famous tirade to Sports Illustrated writer Jeff Pearlman about everything he didn’t like about New York. He was mean, bigoted, fierce…and, turns out, strangely helpful.

Obviously, I’m not condoning Rocker’s behavior, which I found offensive and deplorable, and embarrassing. But he started that famous line of hatred with “Imagine having to take the 7 Train to the ballpark…”

And from then on, I never forgot which train to take to Shea. All thanks to Rocker, who was rightfully booed out of just about every ballpark he appeared in after his tirade and thankfully has been out of baseball for years.

But he did leave one lasting impression, inadvertently so.

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Trying to not lose my cell phone and coat while pulling my computer bag behind me was challenging enough, but at the same time, I also attempted to snap a couple of shots of the outside of Citi Field, the brand new home of the New York Mets. You can see MLB.com writer Brian McTaggart and radio announcer Brett Dolan in the shot, and you’ll notice they’re not waiting for me to catch up to them.

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Inside, the ballpark is pretty impressive, and not just because anything would be a gigantic upgrade from the eyesore that was the old Shea Stadium. Citi Field has all the charm of a new ballpark — nice field and scoreboard, plush accommodations in the clubhouse and club levels — and overall, I give it a thumbs up, although I’ll spare you my whining about the ridiculous guessing game I had to play trying to get to the press box.

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More random shots:

Dave Clark, who hopes to have a shot at the permanent manager’s job once the season ends, chats with pitching coach Dewey Robinson.

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Chris Johnson says hello to Steve Sparks, who is filling in for Jim Deshaies in the TV booth this weekend.

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I have no idea what Aaron Boooooone was doing in this shot but it always cracks me up that he cannot resist giving some kind of strange pose when there’s a camera around.

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Hunter Pence grants a pregame interview to FS Houston’s Greg Lucas.

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Roy Oswalt is one of the most bored men on earth right now. It’s one thing to be a starting pitcher with nothing to do for the four days in between starts. It’s quite another to be shut down for the year because of a bad back and having NOTHING to look forward to, other the pending opening of his new steakhouse this fall.

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You’ve heard us talk/write plenty about Assistant GM Bobby Heck, who was brought on staff a couple of years ago to take over the Astros’ scouting department. Now you know what he looks like. That’s him on the right, talking to TV announcer Bill Brown.
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From the Twitter files:
Why is Blum still starting over Chris Johnson? I can see Tejada over Manzella, he has a shot at 200 hits. But Blum? Really?

I’ll be honest — I have no idea. These days, when I post the lineup on Twitter, I cringe, because I know I’m about to be hit with a stream of responses wondering why the kids aren’t playing.

I understand that Dave Clark wants to give Tejada every chance to reach 200 hits on the year, and I grudgingly agree.

I’m not suggesting Clark bench the veterans indefinitely. But in a three-game series, I see nothing wrong with simply mixing in Tommy Manzella or Chris Johnson or Edwin Maysonet for just a game here and there.

The current regular Astros lineup has contributed to a likely fifth-place finish. I seriously doubt one or two kids are going to mess up that chemistry.

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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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