Results tagged ‘ J.A. Happ ’

Early returns on Happ? A-plus.

When the Astros were in Philadelphia on the last road trip, I learned from a local reporter that when the big trade went down — the one that sent Roy Oswalt to Philly in exchange for J.A. Happ and others — the Phillies players didn’t want to talk about it with the media.

The players were upset to lose Happ, and they were wary of sounding like it was a slam on Oswalt. It wasn’t. They were happy to have him on their team, but they were saddened to lose Happ, a pitcher whom most of his former teammates saw as a future top-of-the-rotation mainstay. They knew what they were losing. One month later, it’s becoming clear that Philly’s loss was Houston’s gain. In a big way.

Happ isn’t going to overpower hitters, but clearly, he knows how to confuse them. Other than one abysmal start in St. Louis — his second start as an Astro — Happ has been, for lack of a better term, nails. He tossed a two-hit shutout against the same St. Louis club on Monday, lowering his ERA at Minute Maid Park to 0.84. He’s the only pitcher in stadium history to make at least five starts without recording a loss, and his ERA this season is 2.89.

Happ is 27 and under club control through 2014. He’ll begin his arbitration years in 2012. In other words, the Astros have him for a long time, and when you’re in the process of revamping your organization, it’s essential to reload with young pitchers who will be around for a while. The starting rotation has posted a 2.27 ERA over the last 21 games, and Happ has been a big part of it.

A lot will have to go right in order for the Astros to a force in the NL Central next year, but when you have a strong starting staff, you have a chance. The Astros, at the very least, have that.

Other notes from the win:

Carlos Lee picked up an RBI Monday, giving him 29 RBI in his last 30 games since July 28. Since that date, Lee leads all Major Leaguers in RBIs immediately ahead of Carlos Gonzalez (28) and Casey McGehee (28).

Michael Bourn extended his hitting streak to nine games by going 1-for-4. The streak dates back to Aug. 22, during which he’s hit .368 with five stolen bases and three RBIs.

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Calling all heroes

The Astros are honoring all local police forces, fire stations and EMS teams as well as those serving in the United States Armed Forces during 9/11 Heroes Night at Minute Maid Park prior to the Astros vs. Pirates game.

The Astros are also offering a special discount to all local heroes and their guests. Fans can visit www.astros.com/heroes to take advantage of this offer.

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29-95.com night

Join the Astros for 29-95.com Night at Minute Maid Park on Friday, September 17. For just $29.95, you can score a package that includes a seat on the FiveSeven Patio to watch the Astros take on the Reds, a slider trio (burger, chicken and pulled pork), french fries and your choice of beverage.

After the game, you can enjoy live music from Robert Ellis and The Boys in the FiveSeven Grille. Plus, each 29-95.com member will receive an Astros cap and $3.75 draft beer and margarita specials.

Tickets and food and beverage vouchers will be mailed upon receipt of purchase on or before Friday, Sept. 10. Packages purchased after Sept. 10 can be picked up at the Minute Maid Park Box Office, located along Texas Avenue, on Sept. 17. Box Office will open at 9:00 a.m.

Click here to order tickets: http://houston.astros.mlb.com/hou/ticketing/2995.jsp

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It’s always nice when Craig Biggio drops by the ballpark, but it’s especially appreciated by your friendly neighborhood blogger, for photo opp purposes. Enjoy the sights:

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Bagwell and Biggio together always creates a bit of a stir.

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Bourn

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Chris Johnson

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Jason Michaels, Geoff Blum

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Carlos Lee

 

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Hunter Pence

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The Phillies trade got a lot more interesting when the Blue Jays jumped in.

Got this tweet from @comahan13:

“Wow they flipped Gose for Wallace? That’s a great move if it’s true, and almost single-handedly changes my opinion of all this.”

That was exactly my reaction when I heard the Astros traded one of the Phillies prospects they acquired for Roy Oswalt for a 6-foot-2, 205-pound first baseman — a former No. 1 draft pick whose future is at first base.

My original reaction to the players the Astros acquired in the Oswalt trade wasn’t so enthusiastic. I was glad they received J.A. (pronounced “Jay”) Happ, a bona fide Major League ready pitcher, but when I looked at outfielder Anthony Gose’s credentials, he seemed so much like Michael Bourn and Minor League outfielder Jay Austin and I was wholly disappointed that the Astros did not go for a slugging infielder, something sorely lacking in the upper levels of their farm system.

Then the Astros flipped Gose to Toronto for infielder Brett Wallace, a power-hitting corner infielder. He appears to be a blue-chip offensive player who hasn’t established himself at a particular position, and he’ll report to Round Rock immediately to begin honing his skills at first base.

The other prospect in the deal, shortstop Jonathan Villar, will go to Class A Lancaster. He was described by general manager Ed Wade as having “very significant tools — speed, good hands, above average arm. Good instincts to hit.” Villar is a step behind ’09 first-round pick Jiovanni Mier, who’s playing at Class A Lexington.

I received a lot of questions from you throughout the day on Thursday, so let’s get cracking…

Q: Looking at the season Wallace is having at AAA it looks like a great trade. Any idea why Jays would trade Wallace for Gose?

My take: It comes down to the individual needs of an organization. Some teams have a surplus of players at one position and can use that to replenish another area that isn’t so strong. I’m not an expert on the strengths and deficiencies of very Major League team, but it appears the Jays had a need for a speedy top-of-the-order outfielder, and the Astros already have that in Bourn and Austin.

Q: If Wallace is all that, why is he on his fourth organization?

My take: Valid concern. But if you look at the transactions, he’s been in the middle of some pretty big deals. The Cardinals drafted Wallace as their first-rounder in ’08 as a third baseman, but over the course of his first season, it became pretty obvious he didn’t have much of a future at that position. First base better suited him, but he was obviously blocked by the best hitter in the game and one who isn’t going anywhere for a long, long, time in Albert Pujols. So Wallace became both expendable and a huge trading chip for the Cardinals, who included him in a package to get Matt Holliday from the Athletics.

Wallace was then traded to the Blue Jays for Michael Taylor, who had just been traded to Toronto as part of the Roy Halladay trade.

So, in essence, Wallace isn’t so much someone that teams want to get rid of as much as someone who helps them fill important needs elsewhere. From what I’ve been told by friends who cover some of the other organizations Wallace has played for, he’s the real deal offensively. Projects to hit for a high average and most importantly, he has power. The knock on him is his defense, which Wade acknowledged during Thursday’s press conference: “There’s some finishing school left to be attended on Brett’s part. There are some rough edges to clean up. This is a pretty special bat as far as we’re concerned. He needs to learn his position. That’s why we have player development system, to help these guys in all phases of the game.”

Q: What does this mean for Lance Berkman? Are the Astros going to try to move him for prospects?

My take: While I do not believe this necessarily pushes Lance out the door this season, this definitely protects them for 2011 and beyond. Berkman has a $15 million club option for ’11 (with a $2 million buyout), and judging from his offensive production this year, it would be hard to imagine the Astros picking up that option. In fact, you can pretty much bet they won’t. So either they try to re-sign Berkman at a lower cost after this season, or they find someone more economical to take over at first base. Wallace gives them that option.

There has been speculation that now that they have Wallace, the Astros will try to trade Berkman between now and Saturday’s trade deadline in an effort to get something, anything, for him. There is a report that the White Sox might be interested. We’ll see. Like Oswalt, Berkman has a full no-trade clause and I haven’t been given any indication he’s anxious to get out of here just yet. That said, there’s plenty of time between now and Saturday at 3 CT, so we’ll just have to wait and see on that one.

Q: I know it’s part of the business, but how do you deal with the trade of someone you’ve covered for years?

My take: It depends on the player to be honest. This one is sad for me because I’ve known Oswalt since the day he was called up nearly 10 years ago, and we’ve been close friends for most of that stretch. At the same time, this trade was inevitable and I’ve had it in my mind for so long that he’ll eventually be moving on — longer than anyone can imagine — that as I sit here in the press box a couple of hours after the trade was finalized, I’m kind of numb to it. It wasn’t a matter of “if” on Roy, it was a matter of “when.”

Over the years, saying goodbye to players gets easier, because you learn it’s just part of the business. I remember being pretty upset when the Astros traded Mike Hampton after the ’99 season and Jose Lima in 2001 and really, really bummed when the offseason of 2003 produced trades of two of my all-time favorites in Billy Wagner and Geoff Blum. And obviously, Craig Biggio’s last game in ’07 and Brad Ausmus’ last game in ’08 were sad, sad, sad. But for the most part, you get used to the revolving door of players that come in and out of the organization and if you stick around as long as I have, your favorite players eventually reappear as coaches and broadcasters, so there’s always that to look forward to.

Q: So does Milo call J.A. Happ “Happie?”

My take: After consulting with Baggy, Millsie, Keppie, Blummy and Bournie, put me down for “yes.”

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Randoms:

* Happ finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting by the baseball writers in 2009 after posting a 12-4 record and a 2.93 ERA over 35 appearances (24 starts).

* Happ, a former Phillies third-round pick, was on the disabled list this season with a flexor strain, but was activated about a week ago after making five rehab starts.

* Happ will start Friday’s game against the Brewers at Minute Maid Park.

* Villar hit .272 over 100 games at Class A this season with 18 doubles, four triples, two home runs and 38 stolen bases. He was signed by the Phillies as a non-drafted free agent in 2008 and has tallied 82 stolen bases over 204 career games, mostly as a shortstop.

* Wallace played in the Futures Game during All-Star Week in 2009 and was named to the Arizona Fall League All-Prospect team in ’08. He played college baseball at Arizona State University and was named Pac-10 Player of the Year in both 2007 and 2008. In ’07, he captured the conference’s Triple Crown, hitting .423 with 16 home runs and 78 RBIs while leading his club to the College World Series.

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