Results tagged ‘ Doug Brocail ’

Holiday roundup: The Sunshine Kids, Boys and Girls Club, Craig Biggio and a not-so-fat (but still plenty jolly) Santa Claus

The Astros haven’t stepped onto a baseball field in quite some time, but their December has shaped up to be almost as busy as a typical month during the season.

In between welcoming in a new owner and hiring a new general manager, the Astros have also been busy in the community, spreading their usual holiday cheer to kids from all over Houston. Two of their recent ventures include the annual Sunshine Kids Christmas Party, and a new event: the ASTROrdinary Clubhouse Christmas party.

The Sunshine Kids party has been a long-standing tradition for as far back as we can remember, and Craig and Patty Biggio’s presence at the party has been just as constant. Dozens of Astros volunteers helped out with face-painting, photos with Santa and other ho-ho-holiday activities. The venue — the gorgeous Children’s Museum — just added to the festive nature of this Sunshine Kids night out.

Biggio chats with a young party goer.

The Sunshine Kids party is a family affair for Quinn Biggio (back, left) and her parents, Craig and Patty, and friends.

"Head, shoulders, knees and toes" is always a crowd pleaser.

Same goes for Junction Jack.

Next up was the ASTROrdinary Clubhouse Christmas party, a soiree that was fun for the 50 kids from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston and for anyone who thinks it’s funny when ballplayers dress up in elf shoes, elf hats and pointy ears (which includes pretty much all of us, no?).

Doug Brocail should be very proud to know that the kids, while appreciative of the effort, didn’t think he was fat enough to really be Santa Claus. Still, the pitching coach was pretty convincing in his red suit, white beard and bushy eyebrows that he needed help sticking on to his face. Lining up behind him with their jingly green slippers were Santa’s elves: Jason Bourgeois, Bobby Meacham, Chris Johnson and Humberto Quintero (or, as Santa referred to him, “Elf Q”).

The kids — first, second and third graders — took a behind-the-scenes tour of the entire clubhouse and then gathered in the team dressing area to watch the movie “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Following the movie, the group moved to the Diamond Club for dinner and a photo session with Santa, who finally let out a big Ho! Ho! Ho! after 15 minutes or so of snuggling with two of his elves.

The kids then received their own special gift, a big box of some seriously cool swag, including an iPod Shuffle and an iTunes gift card.

Taking a tour of the weight room in the home clubhouse at Minute Maid Park.

Brocail -- I mean, Santa -- checking himself out in the mirror.

Chris Johnson, preparing for his debut as the city's tallest elf.

Photo time

Opening presents in the Diamond Club


Here’s a story that might tug at the heartstrings, regardless of whether you are a Mets fan, or a Jose Reyes fan, or a fan of, well, beer. Foley’s NY Pub & Restaurant in New York City, which doubles as a home away from home of sorts for baseball writers, front office staffers and umpires, came up with a fool-proof promotion that accomplishes two goals. It enables Mets fans to wallow in anger and/or self-pity and/or euphoria, while doing something productive for kids in the community.

According to this New York Daily News report, Foley’s, located in Midtown across from the Empire State Building, is offering free libations in exchange for No. 7 Reyes jerseys. Contributing fans will receive, according to the report, free beer to drown their sorrows that Reyes signed with the Marlins, or champagne to celebrate Reyes signing with the Marlins, or appetizers for those who don’t drink and are depressed — or don’t like the Mets but do like appetizers.

The jerseys will be donated to clothing drives. Fans are also asked to donate their Reyes bobbleheads, which will then go to children’s hospitals.

It’s a genius move, really. It gets people to go to Foley’s with promises of free food and drink, and in the end, everyone has made a charitable contribution. A win-win and not at all surprising that Foley’s owner Shaun Clancy came up with such a great idea.


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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’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.

Hot topics: Doug Brocail, Brandon Backe, suspended games and booing Blum (!)

Most of us already consider Doug Brocail something of a medical miracle, given the angioplasties, heart stents and multitude of DL stints and surgeries he’s endured over his 15 years in the big leagues. So it should come as no surprise that’s he’s turning to another unconventional method in an attempt to return from yet another injury.

Soon after he tore his hamstring on a play at first base in Atlanta in early May, Brocail underwent a procedure called platelet rich plasma therapy. This involved extracting a small amount of blood from the body and spinning it for approximately 15 minutes, a step that removes unwanted components of the blood that are not primarily responsible for healing.

What remains is an increased concentration of platelets, which are reinjected into the injured area. It’s not about reattaching the tendons as much as it’s a way to have the healthy areas fuse together, through the platelets.

You might remember the Steelers’ Hines Ward undergoing the procedure just before the Super Bowl earlier this year. Reportedly, Dodgers pitcher Takashi Saito also had the PRP therapy.

Whether this procedure helps Brocail get back on the mound is still to be determined, but he’s happy with the progress so far. He’s moving around well and has begun to throw bullpens again. Two months ago, he said he was shooting for a return soon after the All-Star break, but obviously, that’s not happening. Now he’s eyeing August, and while there is no guarantee he’ll make that deadline, or ever pitch again, you have to admire his determination. Stay tuned.

* Brandon Backe had his right shoulder examined by Astros medical director David Lintner, who diagnosed the right-hander with a partial thickness tear of his right rotator cuff. Backe will seek a second opinion next week in Birmingham, Ala. from well-known orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews. The Astros expect Backe to undergo surgery, and even though they released him, they’ll be on the hook for the cost of the surgery.

Read Brian McTaggart’s full story here.

I’m a little curious as to why Backe refused the Minor League assignment after he was designated a couple of weeks ago. After the surgery, he could have rehabbed with the Astros and continued to accrue service time while on the DL. As it stands, he’s a free agent headed for surgery, looking for a job. Doesn’t make sense.

* The suspended game between the Astros and Nationals took a whole seven minutes to complete. I predicted this one would go 15 or 16 innings, just because. Instead, Miguel Tejada threw wildly to Puma on an inning-ending double play, Nyjer Morgan scored from second, and the game was over.

I did a quick walk-through of the clubhouse following the loss, just to see how the players were reacting. It was what I expected — they sat at their lockers, chatted, watched TV…just like any other day. Carlos Lee rallied the troops with a “Let’s be ready at 7:05” pep talk, and for the most part, the team was in fine spirits.

After the game, Puma was asked if he was disappointed when the first game ended. His response: “I wasn’t out there long enough to be disappointed. I went out there, moved some dirt around, and that was it.”

On the outcome: “That’s pretty much how you expected that game to end. It was one of the ugliest games I’ve ever seen, in the first place (referring to the May 5 portion in D.C.).”

* Geoff Blum was roundly booed in the fourth inning for seemingly not running hard on a double that he may have been able to stretch to a triple. I suspected Blum is still not 100 percent from the hamstring issues he’s had to deal with this year, and after talking with him after the game, that appears to be the case.

Blum does not like talking about injuries, nor does he use them as an excuse. But he realized he had to address this one:

“You want to boo me, boo me,” he said. “But I’m going to give you every effort that I’ve got, and right now, I don’t have that.

“I’ve never let any team I’ve played for down and never given them anything but everything I have.”

*Russ Ortiz was not happy with his manager on Thursday.

From the Ask Alyson files:

I was wondering if there’s any chance that Hunter Pence might compete in the Home Run Derby. We know he has more power than his numbers show because he’s more of a complete hitter who puts the ball in play rather than trying to pull everything. I bet he would do very well in the Derby, and it would be a great way for him to introduce himself to the rest of the country’s fans that don’t know him. Brian S.

Players have to be invited to participate and so far, Pence hasn’t been invited. He has said he would do it if asked. To be honest, I’d rather he didn’t participate…I’ve seen way too many post-Derby slumps over the years for it to be purely coincidental and I’m just as happy with Hunter sitting this one out.

Assume that the Astros finish in second place with 82 wins, and narrowly miss the division/Wild Card, would you say that they would be active in next years free agent market?  If so, who would they target?  Nils

There is no way to know what the Astros will be doing four months from now but looking at the roster right now, we can see a ton of players who will be free agents and theoretically could come off the books. That leaves four players under multi-year contracts: Berkman ($14.5 million), Oswalt ($15 million), Lee ($18.5) and Matsui ($5). Those four will take up $53 million and I would surmise the payroll is going to come down from the $100 million-plus it is now.

If Jose Valverde walks, the Astros will need a closer. And obviously, they need starting pitching as well — who doesn’t? If Mike Hampton finishes the year strong I’d like to see them bring him back. It’s way too early to see how the Astros will address their needs, but whether they make or miss the playoffs with 82 wins will be largely irrelevant. Their task is the same every year, to put a competitive team on the field. I’d like to see one or two of the young pitchers at Triple-A get a real chance next spring to crack the rotation. This team simply has to get younger. Not having a single starting pitcher under the age of 30 is not a good thing, in my opinion.

Could you give an explanation about how players run out of options and what happens if you move someone to the Major League level and add him to the 40-man roster? Does he have to clear waivers to be sent back down?  I am specifically wondering about what ifs for guys like Bud Norris and Yorman Bazardo. Jim, Highland Haven, Texas
Basically, every player has three options on his contract when he begins his professional career. He can be sent down and called up as many times as a team wants in a single season and that counts as one option. So, in layman’s terms, a player is pretty much at the mercy of the club for the first three years of his Major League career, before he enters arbitration-eligibility.

Norris and Bazardo are not on the Astros 40-man roster, so their time hasn’t yet arrived. If they were to be called up, their contracts would be purchased — as opposed to a player who is already on the 40-man roster being “recalled.” At that point, their service time officially begins. Because they have no service time, they do not have to clear waivers to be sent back down.

When a player does run out of the three options, he must pass through waivers before the club can send him down.

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Pence in the Mag, Brocail, Whataburger, and other good stuff.

For the last two weeks, Hunter Pence has been tied at the hip with ESPN the Magazine as it prepares its annual “Athletes Issue,” due to hit the stands the week of June 22.

The issue is dedicated to sports, of course, but strictly from the players’ point of view. The magazine gave Pence a hand-held video camera to document certain aspects of road trips, in addition to ESPN The Magazine reporters following him around from time to time. There was a large focus of Pence off the field, sort of showing a day in the life of a ballplayer. What are their interests? How do they spend their spare time?

Apparently, Pence has recently taken up playing chess. And in his spare time, he’s been drinking coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. One of his favorite activities on the road is finding top-notch breakfast establishments, so I’m assuming we’ll find out about the tastiest joints in the league after reading this issue.

Some of the focus is on baseball as well. Photographers have been shadowing Pence everywhere for the last couple of days, snapping dozens — maybe hundreds — of shots on the field during batting practice, in the cages and in the clubhouse. So, I thought I’d take pictures of Pence getting his picture taken.



The television broadcasting crew will be altered slightly on Wednesday and Thursday. Lead play-by-play announcer Bill Brown will be away from the team to tend to family issues, and in his place, radio announcer Dave Raymond will be in the booth with Jim Deshaies on Wednesday, while Brett Dolan will sub for Brownie on Thursday.

(Left, Deshaies, right, Raymond)



Player appearance alert:
How’s this for a whacky crew? Doug Brocail and Junction Jack, along with the Astros Street team, will appear together at the Whataburger restaurant located

at 3040 Silverlake Village Drive in Pearland on Wednesday. The autograph session will be the first of four Astros player appearances at local restaurants — the others are June 24, July 7 and Aug. 4.

Here’s a new ticket promotion at the ballpark the might pique your interest. It’s called Hunter’s Lodge, and it involves, you guessed it, Hunter Pence. For $30, you get a full view of Pence from your seat near right field (in section 133 or 134), an original green Hunter Pence t-shirt — with a new design introduced each month — and an automatic entry into a monthly drawing for an Astros gift pack featuring a Pence autographed baseball.

You can read more about it here.

The promotion began Monday and will be available every home game throughout the season.

I had to see for myself so I sat for an inning in the Hunter’s Lodge seats, and of course, while I was down there, I snapped a couple of pictures:



And finally, some randoms from BP today:

Geoff Blum, happy to be back in the lineup. He’s been ready to play since the Pittsburgh series last weekend, ,so he was anxious to get back in there after missing so much time with a hamstring issue. 

Pudge Rodriguez in the cage.

Carlos Lee and friends.


Break out the razor.

Doug Brocail likes that mountain-man goatee look, so I was surprised to see him shiny and clean-shaven when I walked into the clubhouse Friday afternoon. It’s funny — remove the facial hair and throw some glasses on him, and he goes from the intimidating somewhat crazy [but loveable] reliever you don’t want to mess with [I call him Chet, from Weird Science] to
something more along the lines of an accountant.

Turns out, shaving was borne from superstition.

“I had too many walks in [the goatee],” he said.

Felipe Paulino was sent to the ‘pen today, but he received high marks from just about everyone who he needed to impress during his brief time in the rotation. Cecil Cooper and pitching coach Dewey Robinson told him he belongs at this level. And Assistant GM Dave Gottfried noted a new maturity in Paulino that helped the right-hander get through some pretty dicey game situations.

Apparently, Paulino is learning how to pitch, which is a heck of a lot different from simply rearing back and throwing.

It should be noted they said the same thing about Jose Capellan during Spring Training, but he’s been completely and utterly ineffective since the Triple-A season started. Here’s hoping Paulino truly has figured it out. He has way more upside than Capellan, so I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Odds and ends, news and notes:
* Brandon Backe will make his second rehab start on Saturday in Frisco. Don’t expect him to return to the Astros’ rotation anytime soon, however — he’s in for at least four rehab outings total, if not five. Backe can stay on the rehab circuit for no more than 30 days, so he’s got some time. And seeing he missed pretty much all of Spring Training, it’s not unreasonable
to assume he’ll need the whole month to get ready for real game action.

* I tried to toss Brian Moehler a cookie when I asked him if the high winds in Midland contributed to his first two innings for Double-A Corpus the other day, when he yielded eight runs in the first two innings. He didn’t bite, however.

“Well, I didn’t give up any home runs,” he said with a laugh.

After he started mixing in his changeup with two outs in the second, things got better. He retired 11 in a row, and that’s enough to convince me he’s ready to return.

* Astros owner Drayton McLane will be honored on Saturday during a ceremony at Michigan State University, his grad school alma mater. The school will dedicate their ballpark McLane Baseball Stadium, after McLane donated $4 million to go toward the new facility.

McLane and his wife, Elizabeth, and his son, Drayton III and his wife, Amy, and their two children will attend the ceremony.

*To the fan I met at the airport yesterday: Matsui gets his sushi fix at Kubo’s on University Blvd. in West U.

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Brocail on the disabled list.

General manager Ed Wade and manager Cecil Cooper met with right-hander Doug Brocail Sunday morning and asked the pitcher for a little bit of honesty,

Brocail obliged, and as a result, the veteran right-hander was placed on the 15-day disabled list with the rotator cuff strain he was diagnosed with on Saturday.

Wade asked Brocail point blank if he thought he’d be available to pitch by Wednesday. Brocail told Wade he’d probably need more time to recover, prompting the Astros to recall right-hander Jeff Fulchino from Triple-A Round Rock. He’ll be in uniform for the Astros’ opener in Pittsburgh Monday afternoon.

“We called Doug in and talked to him and asked him if he didn’t pick up a ball today, tomorrow or Tuesday, where did he think he would be Wednesday?” Wade said. “He thought he wouldn’t be far enough along to help us. He was honest with us, which is what we needed — the truth at that point. we needed to know where he stood.”

Brocail flew to Houston Saturday to be examined by team doctors after complaining of shoulder soreness following an ineffective appearance against the Cardinals the night before. An MRI taken on the 41-year-old reliever’s right shoulder showed inflammation, but no structural damage.

Despite his disappointment that he will be unavailable until the last game of the next homestand — the first day he’ll be eligible to be activated from the DL — Brocail admitted he was concerned about the results of his latest exam.

“I’ll be honest — I was more worried about this one than when I blew out my elbow the second time,” he said. “When you wake up and you can’t get your arm up, and you struggle to get it out…I’m a strike thrower. When I go out there and throw 13 straight balls, it’s not good. At least this way, I can get all the swelling out, and once the swelling goes out,it’ll keep the rotators from rubbing so bad.”

Fulchino started for the Express on Saturday, but anticipating they may need him, the Astros put him on a strict pitch limit. Fulchino threw approximately 35 pitches over two innings, while Alberto Arias pitched the next 2 1/3 innings.

Brocail has been on the disabled list 13 times in his career. This is his first DL stint since 2007, when he was sidelined with a strained left gluteus muscle.

Forgettable day at Busch. Hats off to Torii Hunter.

Random thoughts…

I don’t know Torii Hunter, and obviously, I was not out in Anaheim when the news of Nick Adenhart’s tragic death was broken to the team. But as someone who understands the inner-workings of a baseball team, I’d like to make an observation: Hunter defines leadership. While his teammates were gripped with mind-numbing devastation in the hours after learning of Adenhart’s death, Hunter was everywhere — on T.V., radio, newspapers, web sites. He became the sole spokesman, player-wise, allowing his mourning teammates to stay out of the public eye.

Yes, the Angels held a formal press conference, which was attended by their GM, manager and Adehart’s agent. But from a player standpoint, Torii Hunter did exactly what a true leader and a great teammate does — he took over the burden that inevitably accompanies such a tragic, public story. That burden was his and his only, by his own design. Good for him, good for the Angels, and good for baseball.


Roy Oswalt and Brandon Backe were up at the crack of dawn on Friday — 6 a.m., to be exact — to go to Oswalt’s nearby ranch for some early morning hunting. I can’t imagine anything worse than getting up at 6 a.m. to drive two hours to see a couple of turkeys and not actually shoot anything, but hey, to each his own.


For now, Doug Brocail is not going on the disabled list, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if that changes in the next day or two. He has a rotator cuff strain and it’s hard for me to believe he’ll be back to normal in three or four days. They can’t play a reliever short for that long, and there’s no harm in bringing up Alberto Arias, who had a good enough Spring Training to make the club — if there was room in the ‘pen, which there was not. Now there might be.


I’m not even going to address Saturday’s game. The score says enough.