Results tagged ‘ Geoff Blum ’

Love is in the air. Astros wives dish about their hubbies.

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Kory Blum met her future husband, Geoff, while out with friends one night in L.A., and within minutes, both knew they had found “the one.”

Nicole and Roy Oswalt have known each other for most of their lives, but it was a chance meeting at a high school choral competition that sped up the course of their casual friendship.

Nicole Oswalt and Kory Blum spilled the beans about marital bliss in the February edition of Houston Lifestyles & Homes magazine, available in stores around town and online at http://www.houstonlifestyles.com.

The Astros wives were refreshingly candid about what makes their marriage work, and while this might generate some ribbing from their husbands’ teammates when Spring Training starts next week, their words offer a peek into a side of baseball players we normally aren’t privy to.

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 “I have never laughed so hard or been so carefree,” Kory says of her courtship with Geoff. “I loved his easy-going personality, his love of life, and was delighted to find we had dreams of common goals.”

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Writes Nicole: “I could tell at a young age that he would be a good man, hard working, responsible with good morals and values, and he’s never let me down.”

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Sampson’s new pitch: a changeup

Chris Sampson revealed plenty of notable nuggets during his appearance on Astroline Wednesday night, including the news that he’s developed a changeup to add to his repertoire this season.

“It’s been six years coming,” he said. “When I got sent down to Round Rock last year, there as a pitcher on that staff — Roy Corcoran. He had a good changeup. I asked how he held it, played catch with it. It felt comfortable in my hand for the first time in six years. When I throw it right, it’s pretty good.”

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College Classic

Tickets are available for The 2010 Houston College Classic, which will take place at Minute Maid Park from March 5-7. The field of teams includes TCU, Houston, Texas Tech, Missouri, Texas and Rice.

Daily admission is $13 or $30 for all three days. Kids ages 4-14 can enter for $6 a day, or $15 for a three-day pass. You can order tickets online by clicking here, or by calling 1-800-ASTROS2.

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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Astros celebrate firefighters.

 

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LaTroy Hawkins arrived to Fire station No. 22 as more than just a local baseball celebrity ready to shake hands and pose for pictures. This station was filled with firefighters trained specifically to control hazardous materials — “HazMat” — and Hawkins was awed by how much danger they put themselves in day after day in order to do their jobs.

So Hawkins stepped into their shoes, quite literally, to receive just a small taste of it. He tried on the gear — a chemical suit weighing no less than 40 pounds. He also asked plenty of questions, and he walked away with a renewed appreciation for what real heroes do for their communities.

“You’ve got to appreciate what these guys do,” Hawkins said. “Police officers, firefighters, everyone in the community. We (baseball players) make too much money. They don’t make enough money. They put their hand print on the community. We just play baseball.”

The Astros spend the morning Friday honoring Houston firefighters with their new Adopt-A-Firehouse initiative. Nine players visited their “adopted” fire houses — the house that corresponded with their uniform numbers.

The participants were: Pudge Rodriguez, Hawkins, Doug Brocail, Chris Sampson, Miguel Tejada, Hunter Pence, Cecil Cooper, Russ Ortiz and Geoff Blum.

“We owe a lot to the firefighters,” Pence said. “They sacrifice a lot for us. It’s good to be here and the Astros really appreciate what they’re doing.”

Pence poses with two young fans:

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And also with the good people of Fire Station No. 9:

 

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Blum poses with Fire Station No. 27:

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Pence cracked everyone up with a flex of the bicep…

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During Friday’s game, all players wore a special Houston Fire Department baseball cap. The game-worn caps will then be autographed by the players and made available through an auction to benefit the Firefighters Protection Fund.  A portion of the ticket prices for Friday’s game were donated back to the fund.

The Astros also hosted a pregame ceremony recognizing Captain James Harlow and Firefighter Damion Hobbs, who perished in the line of duty this spring while fighting a residential fire in southeast Houston. Members of the Harlow and Hobbs family threw out ceremonial first pitches.

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Meanwhile, back in the clubhouse, Brian McTaggart gets the skinny on all things controversial…

Geoff Blum addresses the fans booing him during Thursday’s game. Asked about the irony of driving in the winning run one day later, Blum said, “It’s interesting. This game will find you in the weirdest places. Last night was interesting, then I got a chance to redeem myself and I took advantage of it.”

Russ Ortiz is summoned to the principal’s – I mean, Coop’s office.

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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.

Randoms:
* 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.

Please send your questions to askalyson@astros.com.

I sat through a 52-minute bee delay and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.

During the bizarre 52-minute bee delay at PETCO Park Thursday afternoon I couldn’t help but think about that “Bee Movie” Jerry Seinfeld starred in a few years ago. In that flick, bees were cute, talkative and you really rooted for them to come out ahead of the pack.

In real life, namely, Thursday, you simply rooted for someone to locate a big can of Raid and wipe the little guys out all at once, atomic-bomb style.

Cue the beekeeper.

Yes, the head groundskeeper at PETCO Park has a beekeeper on his speed dial, just for cases like the one we witnessed on Thursday, when a queen bee took up residence inside the jacket of a Padres ballgirl. For those of us who aren’t up on the life and stylings of bees, apparently, when mama bee finds her perch, her offspring find her. And they all like to hang out together, one one big frenzied lump.

So that was the issue…thousands of bees and their queen, swarming inside a ballgirls jacket in left field at PETCO park, while the Astros were batting in the ninth inning.

The delay lasted just under an hour, but the beekeeper, to his credit, made quick work of the bees once he arrived onto the scene. In fact, the process of ridding the ballpark of the Bee family took less than five minutes.

Geoff Blum, in a joking attempt to speed up the process, put a blue netted laundry bag over his head and volunteered to take care of the situation himself.

“It was driving us nuts,” Blum said of the delay. “We never seem to be able to get a game in on a getaway day under 3 1/2, four hours. That’s par for the course. That’s the way our season has been. You think you’ve seen it all in baseball, until this.”

The most bizarre part of this whole incident, however, may be the statement put out by Majestic Athletic, the official uniform of the Padres and the manufacturer of said ballgirl’s now defunct ballgirl jacket:

“To our knowledge this is the first time that bees have swarmed Majestic on-field MLB apparel.  We can only guess that the bees are attracted as Major League players to the warmth and comfort of our performance fabrics. 

“However, players and fans should rest assured that our product testing has shown no risk from swarming bees.

“We regret the inconvenience and Majestic will be providing the affected ball girl a replacement jacket shortly.”

Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up. And even if you did, sometimes reality is simply better than fiction.

The beekeeper:

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This drew quite a bit of interest from your Astros.

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Before the bee spectacle, Troy Aikman grabbed most the attention as the ceremonial first-pitch tosser before the game. Aikman is part owner of the Padres.

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For those keeping score at home, he bounced it.

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And on Saturday, Pence rests. Injuries mounting. And Boooooone eyes September comeback.

Manager Cecil Cooper decided to rest a “scuffling” Hunter Pence on Saturday, hoping the break would get the right fielder back on track. Pence was hitless in his last 11 at-bats and was 0-for-4 in the opener at Chase Field on Friday. Darin Erstad received the start in Pence’s place.

The remaining lineup changes on Saturday were made due to injury. Jeff Keppinger has a tight back and was deemed unavailable for at least one game, while Geoff Blum’s hamstring injury reappeared during Friday’s game, forcing an early exit which will likely lead to multiple games missed in the near future.

If the hamstring doesn’t feel better in the next couple of days, Blum said he’s not opposed to going on the disabled list. He’d rather spend two full weeks making sure the injury is gone for good rather than play a week, miss a week, play a week, etc. That determination will be made sooner than later, I suspect.

(Update: two more injury issues popped up during Saturday’s game — right shoulder fatigue for Chris Sampson and a left leg cramp for Carlos Lee. Lee is day to day, and Coop said Sampson’s isn’t an injury as much as his arm is simply tired. He has been somewhat overused and Coop compared it to Doug Brocail’s situation in the first half last year. Look for Sampson’s work load to ease up a bit).

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Jose Valverde forgot about the early start time on Saturday, so he arrived to the clubhouse a tad later than the other players. Cooper waited for him before making the roster move official, just to make sure Valverde was indeed ready to come off the disabled list.

Valverde walked into Coop’s office and said, “I’m fine.” Cooper said, “Jog in place.” Valverde ran around Cooper’s office (it took about two seconds, considering the office is small and it was filled at the time with several reporters and broadcasters). Upon completion of that drill, Cooper informed his closer he was officially back in the “GP.” GP stands for “general population.”

(Update, 10:55 p.m. CT: Valverde recorded one out in the eighth. Hawkins closed out game in the ninth).

Wesley Wright was sent back to Round Rock to make room for Valverde. That didn’t come as a huge surprise, considering the Astros are still committed to giving Wright a bigger workload that might eventually translate into him becoming a starter.

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When he first announced his pending open-heart surgery during Spring Training, Aaron Boooooooooone sounded doubtful that he would play baseball again this year. But a little over two months into the season, Boooooooone has increased his level of optimism. The 36-year-old infielder hasn’t ruled out a September comeback, assuming he stays on scheduled with his workouts and rehabs.

Boone envisions working out regularly with the Astros in July and possibly spending the month of August rehabbing in the Minor Leagues. That would leave open the possibility of playing in September, when rosters expand to 40 and adding him would not necessitate sending someone down.

If the Astros happen to be in a playoff race by then, the presence of an Aaron Boone would be huge. He’s a veteran, he’s had some huge moments in the postseason and he’s a good teammate. Sounds like a feel-good comeback story in the making…

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From the Ask Alyson files:

What should we, fans, make of Jiovanni Mier’s comment about Miguel Tejada? And, what does this first pick mean for Tommy Manzella? I know Mier won’t be ready for the Majors right away, but my understanding is that Manzella is (was?) supposed to be our future shorstop — Renauds

For those who missed it, Mier told reporters the night he was drafted that a scout told him the team was looking to “get rid of Tejada” and they were looking for shortstops.

Everyday beat reporters had little use for the comment, mainly because an 18-year-old kid who is three years from the big leagues, minimum, has nothing to do with Tejada, who is hardly likely to still be around in 2012 when this kid might be knocking on the door. Plus, we don’t know the context of the quote — which scout actually said it, and if that was what he actually said.

Mier never should have said what he said, but give me a break. I’m not counting on Tejada being here next year, let alone in three years. In the talk radio circuit, Mier’s comment was a good way to kill a couple of hours. There’s no doubt that Mier shouldn’t have said what he said, but let’s put it in perspective. The Astros drafted four shortstops in the early rounds and it had nothing to do with Tejada and everything to do with building depth at the up-the-middle positions in the organization.

As for Manzella, he’ll get his shot next Spring Training. I’d like to see him, or someone defensively sound like him, to get the every day job. But again, Manzella and Mier are not intertwined. Good, deep, well-run organizations have many good prospects at every level, not just one or two. Depth is the name of the game.

Photos from first two days in Phoenix:

Broadcasters Jim Deshaies, Dave Raymond and Bill Brown pass the time in the dugout before batting practice.

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Bet you didn’t know Friday was national “Put your hands on your hips” day. Apparently, these three got the memo.

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Roy Oswalt tells local Fox affiliate that his wrist is fine.

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A familiar sight — Hunter Pence smiling and signing autographs.

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Hey, look who’s standing upright! Actually, this was Jose Valverde one day before being activated from the disabled list.

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Aaron Booooooone warming up with the team on Saturday. He says he’s put most of the weight back on that he lost after the heart surgery.

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Here’s a shot of batting practice, from my seat in the press box.

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Oswalt and Brian Moehler have a quiet conversation during BP.

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A shot from the clubhouse: Hunter Pence and Jeff Keppinger, playing chess. Everyone else watched the Mets-Yankees game.

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Odds and ends, news and notes

Jason Smith, recently designated for assignment, cleared waivers and accepted his assignment to Triple-A Round Rock.

Miguel Tejada has been named National League Player of the Week after hitting .522 over six games last week.

Still no word on when or where Brandon Backe will make his first appearance of the season, or if it will be as a starter or reliever.

Kazuo Matsui was omitted from the lineup Tuesday with a little soreness in  his right hamstring, according manager Cecil Cooper. Matsui could sit out Wednesday as well, but that might depend on Geoff Blum’s condition. Blum missed a second game with a sore left hamstring, and he could be out until the Pirates series. That could leave the Astros short too many backup infielders, which may necessitate a roster move.

Pudge Rodriguez was back in the lineup Tuesday, as the catcher promised. Rodriguez was removed in the first inning Monday after twisting his knee during a play at the plate.

A grand jury will not seek an indictment of Brandon Backe after hearing testimony from the pitcher two weeks ago. Charges stemming from an incident with Galveston police last October have been dropped. Said Backe: “I was very confident about being innocent. But you never know in those situations. It’s my word against the police. It’s a scary thought. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who have been in my situation who were found guilty, and that’s just not justice.”

Blum leaves game with strained hammy.

Geoff Blum will likely miss at least two games with a strained left hamstring after suffering the injury during Sunday’s finale with the Rangers.

Blum felt the discomfort after singling in his first at-bat in the second inning.

“When I went into second base, I kind of hesitated a little bit in my slide,” he said. “It felt more like a cramp when I did it but my third at-bat when I took that swing, I felt it. It bit pretty good. It hurts.”

Blum left after the sixth inning and was replaced at third base by rookie Edwin Maysonet. The veteran infielder’s status is currently day-to-day.

“We’ll wake up tomorrow and see how it goes and I’ll probably have a better evaluation of what’s going on,” Blum said. “[Athletic trainers] Nate [Lucero] and Rex [Jones] are going to do a good job in taking care of me and hopefully it is just a day-to-day thing and something I can deal with and work through.”

Blum said he hasn’t pulled a hamstring since 1996, while playing for the Expos’ Double-A affiliate in Harrisburg, PA.

Break out the RallyHawks.

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Hunter Pence and Geoff Blum walked into the clubhouse on Friday sporting these RallyHawks, with two intentions: to show their support for the Rockets [who sport their own version of the RallyHawk, called the VonHawk], and to spark a rally of sorts on
their own scuffling team.

Now comes the hard part — getting their teammates on board. Wesley Wright, who wears his hair very short, said he’d try to grow it out a little this week and then revisit the opportunity. Blum surmised Tim Byrdak would be the toughest to convince to obtain the Rally Hawk. Logistically, it just might not be possible.

“The guy’s already follically challenged,” Blum said.

Byrdak, whose head of hair won’t be mistaken for that of, say, Tom Selleck’s during his Magnum P.I. days, didn’t sound enthused about the notion of cutting even a little off the sides.

“I’ve got two brothers that are bald,” Byrdak said. “I’m trying to hold onto my hair as long as I can.”

Lance Berkman might be a hard sell as well.

“If you look like a goon, is it worth it?” he asked. Then, acknowledging his .184 batting average, added, “At this point, I don’t need to be drawing any undue attention to myself.”

This one hurt.

Hats off to Hunter Pence. It couldn’t have been easy to stand at his locker and explain in full detail his eighth-inning at-bat against Arthur Rhodes, but he did it. And he did it well. He addressed us immediately, got it over with, and I applaud him for how he handled the whole thing.

“I’m going to be a winner,” he said. “I’m going to find a way. In those times, I want to be up to bat. This time, I didn’t get them, but tomorrow’s a new day. This is where you find out what you’re made of, when times get rough.”

The Astros, collectively, are not good offensively right now. They’re either last or close to last in some pretty important categories — runs, average, hits, RBIs. This is a collective struggle. But Monday night, the focus was on Pence, who looked at a called third strike with the bases loaded, two outs, and the Astros down by a run.

Geoff Blum always provides great perspective, and he didn’t disappoint this time when talking about Pence.

“I’ve been hitting behind him for just a couple of games now,” he said. “And after watching last year and hitting behind him this year, even I get to be a part-time fan when I’m sitting on deck. I expect him to do something amazing, because I think he’s built for it. He’s worked hard to get to that point. But this game is harsh. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen that time, but there’s plenty more game left. I know Hunter’s going to relish every chance he has to be in that situation.”

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Cecil Cooper chose Geoff Geary after Mike Hampton yielded a base hit in the seventh inning for a couple of reasons. One was simple default — Jeff Fulchino was unavailable because he’s pitched a lot in the last couple of days, and Chris Sampson was also unavailable. Cooper didn’t expand on it when pressed on Sampson, so I’m guessing Sampson is still not recovered from that hip problem he encountered while executing an out at first base the other night. I’ll check on that tomorrow.

Anyway, back to Geary. Concerned?

“I don’t have any concern, he’s just not pitching the way he pitched a year ago,” Cooper said. “He’s struggling a little bit. All we can do is keep running him out there, and I don’t think there’s anything mechanically wrong.”

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Puma tied Craig Biggio for second on the club’s all-time home run list with 291. Next up, Jeff Bagwell’s 449. It’s going to be a while.

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