Results tagged ‘ Cooper ’

Wandy pulled too early?

I realize hindsight is 20-20 and it all ended well, but I can’t help but be bothered that Cecil Cooper didn’t leave Wandy Rodriguez in for one more inning on Sunday in Atlanta.

Rodriguez has been the Astros best pitcher this year — by a landslide. He either has truly turned a corner and is finally living up to expectations — at the age of 30 — or, he’s just on a really, really hot streak that could end at anytime. Whatever the case may be, had Cooper sent him out for a sixth inning — and there was no reason not to, considering Wandy had only thrown 86 pitches and had logged more than 100 in two of his last three starts — it would have sent a strong signal to his left-hander: I trust you, I believe in you, and even though you haven’t been at your best today, I need one more inning from you and I know you’ll come through.

Instead, Coop yanked him after five, turned to a taxed bullpen that was without the services of Chris Sampson and Tim Byrdak, and ended up with the win. But at what cost?

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Look for Doug Brocail to officially go on the disabled list today. Coop played it conservatively yesterday for reasons I can’t figure out, saying they’ll just have to wait and see how Doug feels today. See how he feels? The man needed a cart to exit the field yesterday. We know how he feels. He feels like he can’t walk.

Brian Moehler will be activated from the disabled list in time to start today in Washington, so it would seem logical that the Astros would simply DL Brocail to make room for Moehler on the 25-man roster. That’s the short-term solution, but the bullpen is hurting and needs help. The Moehler-Brocail transaction might not be their last. We’ll see.

Alyson Footer is on Facebook and Twitter 

Odds and ends, news and notes.

News and notes…
Hunter Pence is out for two to three games, including Wednesday’s loss to the Yankees, with a slight strain in his left calf, an injury he suffered while sliding home during the Astros’ game in Lakeland Tuesday.

Right-hander Alberto Arias, recovering from a bruised right hand, will throw a bullpen session on Thursday. Arias was hit by a line drive last Saturday while pitching against the Yankees in Tampa.

Jason Michaels, who is nursing a sore hamstring, has not played the field but has been pinch-hitting. He’s expected to miss one more game, defensively-speaking.

Manager Cecil Cooper was disappointed with the combined defensive efforts of his infielders — Jason Smith, Matt Kata and David Newhan — late in Wednesday’s game.

“These are the people fighting for utility roles,” Cooper said. “I keep calling them out and nobody seems to step up. That’s all I can tell you, we need somebody to step up and nobody’s stepping up. They’re not difficult plays, either. They’re routine playes that we’re not making and should be making.”

The Astros are now 1-15-3, but look at the bright side — in the last two games, two of their starting pitchers have thrown five scoreless innings; Brian Moehler on Tuesday, and Mike Hampton on Wednesday.

Ed Wade has already received one call from a team that has a third baseman available via trade. Wade also sounds confident there will be options at the end of Spring Training, when players on Minor League contracts with out clauses become free agents. I think they’ll take a long look at Chris Johnson but they’re also going to do their due diligence.

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.

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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.

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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.

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Wanted: wins. Gall saves the day.

Prior to Saturday’s game, manager Cecil Cooper was fuming about the Astros being shut out two times in eight games. As I watched the ninth inning between the Astros and Cardinals later that afternoon, I wondered how Coop would react to the Astros being shut out three times in nine games, which, if an historical account of Grapefruit League stats actually existed, could very well have proven to be a record.

Thanks to John Gall, we don’t have to pretend to research that little factoid. With two outs in the ninth, Gall doubled home Chris Johnson, which allowed the Astros to lose 5-1 instead of 5-0. It’s the little things that keep us going, no?

So even though the Astros haven’t won since their first game of the Grapefruit League season — save for their win over Panama, which doesn’t count as a win in the league standings — there are a few positives to draw from this game. Mike Hampton looked OK, and he said he feels like he’s getting better every time out. Hampton allowed two runs over three innings, but he breezed through his first two frames, retiring six consecutive batters.

Russ Ortiz, my pick to be the fifth starter, didn’t do so well. He allowed three runs over 2 2/3 innings and admitted later he didn’t feel comfortable for very much of this outing.

“I was just off,” he said. “Timing-wise, I was just late. I was trying to force everything, trying to catch up.

“The first inning, I was fine. I came out the second inning and I was just off, from the get-go. You get frustrated and start thinking too much, at least that’s what I did. You’re almost kind of thinking when you want to throw [inside], I tell myself,

‘Make sure it’s in,’ instead of just, ‘OK, fastball in, here it is.’ With those thoughts in your head, you’re fighting an uphill battle.”

The next time through the rotation, Ortiz can expect to start a game, rather than enter in the middle as he has his first three spring outings.

I know it’s only Spring Training, but the Astros could really, really use a win right about now. Sunday in Bradenton would be a good time to start.

Not such a good day in St. Lucie.

Sunday’s game in Port St. Lucie was played in cold and windy conditions where even the most harmless of fly balls turned into home runs. That didn’t make manager Cecil Cooper feel any better, though, considering the Mets scored 13 runs and his Astros scored only once.

“They did a pretty good job on the other side,” he said with a laugh. “I just know I’m getting a little tired of seeing it. We need some good games thrown in there somewhere. It was a tough day.”

Fernando Nieve made his debut, and although he didn’t give up any runs, he worked himself into two bases-loaded jams over the course of two innings of work. Nieve admitted he was “a bit wild” with his breaking pitches, but he also said he made an adjustment and overall felt pretty good about the outing.

“I weas excited to pitch and then today, I felt good,” he said. “I didn’t have any pain in my body. But sometimes you try to show too much in the first game, the first outing. This was my first outing and everything is going well.”

Still, cooper would like to see more from Nieve, one of a handful of pitchers auditioning for the fifth starter spot.

“We still have some command issues,” Cooper said. “He escaped [trouble] but he has to have a little better command. Next time out, I hope it will be better for him.”

Booooooooooone.

After talking with Miguel Tejada today, I can see how important the World Baseball Classic is to him and how relieved he is to be back on the roster. He has tremendous pride in himself, and his country, and I cannot imagine how hard it would have been for him to watch his fellow countrymen representing the Dominican Republic during the Classic while he sat home, in a manner of speaking.

I think it also bothered Tejada, a tremendous “team guy,” to be portrayed as someone who turned his back on his team after being asked to step into a role he was unfamiliar with. I don’t blame him at all for not wanting to play first base, a position he’s never played for as long as he’s been in the big leagues, but I’m sure to some outsiders it made him look a bit selfish. Now that it has been established that he’ll play a little shortstop, a little third base and also DH here and there, this appears to be a win-win situation for both sides.

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Seeing Aaron Boone reminds me of a funny incident that happened during the 2003 World Series. As you probably remember, Boone hit the pennant-clinching walk-off home run in Game 7 of the ALCS that year, and instantly, it was the “in” thing for fans to yell “Booooooooooooone” every time he stepped into view.

So it’s either Game 1 or 2 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium, and my pregame assignment was to write about the anthem singer. On this particular night, the featured performer was “American Idol” runner-up clay Aiken. After the PA announcer introduced him, I heard a small chorus of boos, and I included that little nugget in my story.

Aiken had a strong, strong fan base at the time. What I did not know is that this group had a name — the “Claymates.” When I woke up the next morning and checked my email, I had about 50 messages, sent in the middle of the night, from these “Claymates,” who were furious — FURIOUS — that I had suggested Aiken had been booed prior to singing the anthem. According to the Mates, the fans weren’t saying “boo.” they were saying “Boone.” As in Aaron Booooooooone.

So let me get this straight. The PA announcer says, “and now, to honor America with the singing of the national anthem is American Idol’s Clay Aiken” and everyone responds with “Booooooooone?” Riiiiight.

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For those of you wondering if the Astros are interested in the recently-released Adam Eaton: no. We didn’t even have to ask; Ed Wade volunteered the information unprovoked. “We have no interest in Adam Eaton.” So, there we have it.

Here and there:
Proud papa Cecil Cooper was brimming with pride Saturday morning as he talked about his 15-year-old daughter, Tori, singing the national anthem prior to the Rice-Texas A&M game at the College Classic at Minute Maid Park that night. Although Cooper couldn’t be there, the Astros set up a live stream on his computer so that he could get the in-house feed from Minute Maid Park. If all goes well, Tori will have an opportunity to sing prior to an Astros game this summer.

Continuing an Astros tradition, Wesley Wright threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Kissimmee Little League Opening Day ceremonies Saturday morning at Oak Field.

 

From the Inbox:

Drayton McLane has shown willingness to spend money if the team is in contention around June. With Ben Sheets saying he might not pitch until June, what are the chances that if we are in contention that Drayton pulls out the check book, providing Sheets proves he is healthy? — Taylor, Blackwell

It depends on what Sheets will command on the open market at that time, given he’s healthy and ready to contribute on a Major League level. I have my doubts that Sheets would be back to form before the season is over. But if he is, I’m sure he’ll be expensive. Knowing what we know about the economy and the hard line the Astros have taken with their now $107 million payroll, I wouldn’t count on seeing Sheets here mid-season.

 

Day one in the books. Glad I remembered the sunblock.

Random news, tidbits and thoughts after my first day of Spring Training…

Roy Oswalt’s arm in better shape than it usually is this time of year, because of the World Baseball Classic. Oswalt, the likely ace of Team U.S.A., will leave Astros camp on March 2 to train in Clearwater, which means he’ll probably make only one start with the Astros before he takes off. Oswalt has been throwing to the baseball team at his old school, Holmes Community College, and reached 60 pitches the last time out. He should be fine, both for Team U.S.A. and for the Astros.

J.R. Towles didn’t have such a great experience at Winter Ball this year. Not only did he receive only 17 at-bats in five weeks with the Aguilas club in the Dominican League, he was the victim of theft after his hotel room was broken into while he took some time off to go home for Christmas. The manager at his hotel in Santiago, according to Towles, told him his belongings would be safe in his room while he was gone, but apparently, that wasn’t that case. Luggage and his wife’s clothes were among the many items missing when he returned. The experience left Towles with a bitter taste in his mouth, but he did walk away with a new appreciation for the Latin players who come to the United States to play. “I don’t know Spanish, and even ordering food took me sometimes 30 minutes,” Towles said. “I didn’t know how to tell them what I wanted and they didn’t know how to tell me what it was. I definitely gained an appreciation for what players have to go through here.”

What is it with the Astros and unsubstantiated rumors? First, it was Andy Pettitte “considering a lesser offer from the Astros” [not true]. Then it was the Astros making a move for Adam Dunn [also not true]. Now, the Astros have supposedly made an offer of around $2.5 million for Pudge Rodriguez, which, according to Ed Wade, has no validity whatsoever.

You wouldn’t believe how much information you can get from Wade in a three-minute conversation. You’d think more people would at least try it.

That said, after hearing Wade talk about the “11th hour” offers he made to Braden Looper and Randy Wolf, you have to wonder if the GM would at least be interested if Pudge’s asking price came down to, say, $1 million. Still, Wade really sounded like he wasn’t going to sign anyone else, and with the last two really quality free agent pitchers now off the table, I would have to believe that to be true.

Performance-enhancing drugs (let’s call them PED’s for short) are undoubtedly a hot topic in some Spring Training camps, but I can assure you the media covering the Astros would be more than happy if the subject was avoided all together. One local reporter brought it up in Cecil Cooper’s office this morning and you could practically hear the collective whisper — “here we go again.” Of course, there’s no chance we’re going to be able to put it off much longer, seeing Miguel Tejada is expected to be here on Tuesday. Should be interesting. He was smart not to take any questions the day of his court appearance last week (remember this is a legal issue) but eventually he’s going to have to talk. His sentencing is March 26, and afterward he might not be able to avoid the lingering questions that will follow him until he just stands up and gives some answers.

Brandon Backe will someday have a lot to say about his altercation with the Galveston Police last fall. He just can’t do it yet. But rest assured, he will.

On a completely unrelated note, this is what I love about Spring Training — all of the cynicism from the previous year is gone. Backe could not have had a worse ending to his season in ’08, yet after talking to him Saturday, I’m convinced he’s going to do what it takes this spring to make the rotation. He’s in great shape, feels strong and has a tremendous attitude. We’ll see how that translates.

Speaking of new beginnings, Cooper was completely at ease today — relaxed, comfortable, friendly.

Since my last trip to Kissimmee, a Pei Wei has opened in a shopping area I pass on my way to and from work. Things are definitely looking up.

Alyson

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