Results tagged ‘ Jeff Bagwell ’

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.

___________

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.

___________

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

____________

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:

0830_bag_lee_biggio.jpg

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

0830_bags_bidge.jpg

 

0830_biggio_bag.jpg

Bourn

0830_bourn.jpg

Chris Johnson

0830_cj.jpg

Jason Michaels, Geoff Blum

0830_jmike_blum.jpg

Carlos Lee

 

0830_lee.jpg

Hunter Pence

0830_pence.jpg

Astros are on Facebook

Follow Alyson Footer on Twitter

Check out Astros witticisms at PumaOneLiners 

Questions? Send to afooter@astros.com  

Will Jeff Bagwell return as hitting coach next year?

 

0825_bags_look.jpg

I get this question a lot and I can honestly tell you that he has not made a decision.

I’m assuming Bagwell will be welcomed back by the front office if he does want to continue coaching, but at this point, I’d say the odds of him wanting to return are 50-50. He’s enjoying the experience and is making a difference with both the young and veteran hitters, but the decision will be based on whether he can stand to be away from his kids. Right now, he can’t.

Baseball is not a part-time deal. If you’re in, you’re in for the long haul and you will have little to no time to do anything else for the better part of 7 1/2 months. For a coach, it means arriving to Spring Training around Feb. 12 and once your kids are of school age, you’ll see them only for one week out of the six-plus you’ll be in Florida.

When the season starts, coaches are at the ballpark by early afternoon and don’t leave until around 11 at night. And then there’s the road, obviously, where you barely get to see your family at all.

Coaches coach because they love it. For many, baseball is all they know. Most coaches and managers are retired players and can’t imagine doing anything else for as long as they want to work. With the exception of a few current coaches who made bazillions as players, most have to work, and therefore, the sacrifices they make in their personal lives is just part of it. It’s understood and it’s accepted.

For Bagwell, it’s different. He likes being involved with the game and had been looking to do more with the organization when the hitting coach job became available. But he doesn’t need the money and he’s been happy in retirement. His kids are nine and seven and do not remember him being away when he was still an active player. You don’t just miss some of your kids’ activities when you’re in baseball. You miss ALL of them.

I remember talking with Chris Johnson during Spring Training, the day that his dad, Ron, was going to be coaching third base for the Red Sox during Boston’s visit to Kissimmee. I asked Chris if he was looking forward to being on the field with his dad and he said something to the tune of, “This is only the third time he’s seen me play baseball since I was in high school, so, yea.”

I would imagine Bagwell won’t have made his decision by the time the season ends. I expect him to mull it over for a while, but he’ll have to let the team know in somewhat of a timely fashion so they can start looking for a replacement if he decides not to return. So when you ask “Is Bagwell coming back next year,” we’re being completely honest when we say we don’t know. We don’t know, and Bags doesn’t either. Stay tuned.

______________

Speaking of Bags, it’s always a hoot to see him and Larry Andersen reminisce about the Houston-Boston swap that is now known as the second-worst trade in Red Sox history, behind only the one that sent Babe Ruth to the Yankees. By eavesdropping on the conversation this morning, I was reminded that this Aug. 31 will be the 20-year anniversary of the trade that sent Andersen, then a veteran reliever, to the Red Sox for Bagwell, a little-known Double-A third baseman.

(I think my favorite part of the story is Peter Gammons‘ reaction — after the Red Sox PR people passed around the press release announcing the trade, a disgusted Gammons ripped it into shreds and walked home in a huff).

I appreciate Bagwell and Andersen reminiscing long enough for us to do what we do best — sneak up on people when they’re not looking, snap candid photos and be a perennial annoying presence in the clubhouse on a semi-regular basis:

0826_bags_andersen.jpg

On that note, enjoy these images from a productive week at Citizens Bank Park:

Two Jasons, Bourgeois and Castro.

0825_bour_castro.jpg

Castro and his class clown teammate, Chris Johnson.

0825_castro_cj.jpg

Press box view of the Phillies gorgeous ballpark.

0825_press_view.jpg

Fun Astros fans

0825_fans.jpg

0825_sign_fan.jpg

Learning on the job requires hard work from players and patience from us.

The Astros took on a dramatic new look after they peppered the field with rookies following the trade deadline, and when they started winning a few games as the calendar flipped to August, the Astros — though not contenders — became interesting to watch again.

But young players require patience, and as you can see, waiting out the growing pains can be a frustrating and arduous process.

Rookies are fast, enthusiastic and full of energy. They also can, at times, look lost at the plate, confused on the basepaths and overmatched at their positions defensively. It’s tough to watch, sure. But it’s part of the process. One great game might be followed by two bad ones. The remainder of this season is about learning on the job, and some of the blunders and mental errors that so frustrate the average fan will serve as great teaching tools for manager Brad Mills and his coaching staff.

Mills was a little more agitated than normal after the Astros dropped the opener in Florida on Friday. The final score — 9-0 — suggests this game was a blowout, but for six innings, it wasn’t, and Mills saw many key plays that, had they been properly executed, could have resulted in a much different outcome.

Instead, all the Astros mounted was a pile of missed opportunities, and Mills spent a portion of the pregame period on Saturday talking with various players about how things could have been done differently.

For example: Jason Castro was on second with one out in the sixth inning, and it was J.A. Happ’s job to bunt him over. The only problem was Happ’s bunt rolled toward first base, and Castro was out on a 3-5 fielder’s choice. The bunt should have been toward third.

In the second inning, Brett Wallace’s task was to simply make contact, which would advance Chris Johnson, who had doubled with one out in the inning. Instead, Wallace struck out.

Mills doesn’t use these teaching opportunities to point fingers. This isn’t about calling someone out or needlessly embarrassing a player. But if there are missed chances — missing the cutoff man, throwing to the wrong base, etc. — that are preventing the Astros from getting over that proverbial hump, it’s Mills’ job to address it, talk about it, and plan for a different outcome next time.

_____________

Here and there:

Brian Moehler, in his second attempt to return to the field after a lengthy groin injury, is scheduled to fly to Houston on Sunday and throw a bullpen session on Monday. If that goes well, he will begin a rehab assignment with Round Rock on Tuesday. He’ll have a 60-pitch limit in that start.He’ll then rejoin the Astros in Philadelphia on Thursday and throw another bullpen session in anticipation of a start for the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks on Sunday in San Antonio.

______________

Congratulations to Mills and his wife, Ronda, who celebrated their 32nd wedding anniversary on Saturday. We were wondering how Mills, who went into coaching and managing almost as soon as his playing career ended and has been working in baseball for more than 30 years, could have possibly found time to get married in the middle of a season. Most baseball weddings occur in November.

Turns out, Mills got married before the baseball career started — he and Ronda wed right before his senior year of college at the University of Arizona.

_______________

Life can be pretty routine for those running the home and visiting clubhouses at big league ballparks, but the Marlins’ visiting clubhouse staff has found a way to keep things interesting as teams roll in and out of Sun Life Stadium throughout the season.

Hanging on the wall near the entrance are five pictures of the visiting team — “action” shots they take the first day the team is in town, which are then hung up the next day.

I found some of the Astros’ shots mildly amusing, like this one of Wandy Rodriguez and Anderson Hernandez (I guess it was a good thing Wandy wasn’t pitching this game).

0821_wandy_anderson.jpg

If you’re familiar with Rex Jones, the mustachioed half of the intrepid Astros’ athletic training staff, then you’ll probably like this extreme close up:

0821_rex.jpg

_______________

Postgame notes from the Astros’ 6-3 loss to the Marlins Saturday night;

Johnson is hitting .319 in August and .361 against right-handed pitching this month.

Rodriguez tied his season high with 10 strikeouts. It was his sixth career 10-plus strikeout game.

Astros starting pitchers have posted a 2.54 ERA over the last 12 games.

The loss was the Astros 11th in their last 12 games played at the Marlins’ ballpark. They haven’t won a series here since May 9-11 in 2005.   

____________

And finally, we end with some candid images taken during the few afternoon hours it didn’t rain:

Geoff Blum, pointing out that former pop princess Tiffany indeed performed “I Think We’re Alone Now” (which was playing when this picture was taken) at a mall in the 1980s.  

0820_blummy.jpg

Michael Bourn in the cage.

0820_bourn_cage.jpg

Carlos Lee grooving to aforementioned Tiffany tune.

0820_lee_dance.jpg

Blum, Mills, Bagwell

0820_blum_bags_mills.jpg

Coach Bagwell.

0820_bags.jpg

Castro, Wallace warm up.

0820_wallace_castro.jpg

Astros are on Facebook

Follow Alyson Footer on Twitter

Check out Astros witticisms at PumaOneLiners 

Questions? Send to afooter@astros.com 

On Bagwell, Berkman, LeBron and Scott Sullivan.

Jeff Bagwell reflected upon his first day on the job as the Astros’ hitting coach with a touch of humor, threatening to pull a LeBron James while also revealing an interesting exchange with Lance Berkman.

The Astros hit enough Friday night to beat the Pirates, against whom they’re 7-0 this year, their best record against the Bucs to begin a season. Jeff Keppinger came up with a clutch homer and Humberto Quintero had two nice hits, but Berkman, who said before the game Bagwell was kind of like the dad you didn’t want to make mad, went 0-for-4.

“He disappointed me tonight,” Bagwell said, joking. “He got no hits.”

Apparently, Berkman found solace in this by bringing up a somewhat sore subject with Bagwell — his hitless streak against a former Reds right-hander named Scott Sullivan.

Sullivan had a nice career with the Reds, pitching the better part of nine seasons in middle relief. Not a headline grabber but certainly a decent pitcher in his own right. But he has one claim to fame — Bagwell absolutely, positively, could not hit him.

When side-armer Sullivan would run in from the bullpen, “I used to tell Dirk,” Bagwell said, referring to former manager Larry Dierker, “‘You’re really going to send me up there again?’”

And again, and again. In fact, Sullivan faced Bagwell more times in his career than any other player, ever.

Bagwell had 31 official plate appearances versus Sullivan, including 24 at-bats. And zero hits. If you look up “Sullivan vs. batters” on the Baseball Reference page,  every hitter whom Sullivan ever faced is listed, and Bagwell is first, because his batting average against the former Reds righty is exactly .000. Bagwell has one RBI — via a sac fly — and has drawn six walks off Sullivan, three of which were intentional.

Bagwell’s success — or lack thereof — against Sullivan was so well-known back in the day that Berkman not only still remembers, but still uses it to get Bagwell’s goat.

“He just wanted to make me feel bad,” Bagwell said. “I said, ‘That’s about as low as you can go right there.’”

This was all in jest, of course. Bagwell, who is mindful of the good work Sean Berry did during his long tenure as the Astros’ hitting coach, is doing his best to deflect the attention from himself as the Astros try to salvage what they can during the second half of the season.

But Bagwell did acknowledge his “quick” start.

“I’m retiring,” he said. “I’m 1-0. I’m leaving. I’m going to play for the Heat.”

(Bagwell talks after his first game as hitting coach…click here)

_________________

News and notes from Astros camp:

Felipe Paulino had a setback recently and it appears the tendinitis in his shoulder has flared up again. He’s flying back to Houston to have an MRI and will not make his scheduled start against the Cubs on Tuesday.

Also, righty Brian Moehler has been placed on the 15-day DL with a strained right groin, which he suffered during his last start before the All-Star break. Moehler’s DL stint will be backdated to July 8 and he will be eligible to return on July 23, when the team returns to Houston.

That will clear a roster spot for whomever the Astros decide to start in Paulino’s place on Tuesday.

Bagwell’s been on the job one day, and already Berkman has a new batting stance.

0715_puma_bag_stance.jpg

I kid, I kid.

But this image of Lance Berkman imitating Jeff Bagwell while taking batting practice on Thursday did make me laugh, for two reasons: 1) it was pretty much a spot-on imitation; and 2) It was good comic relief for me after sifting through a few dozen messages from fans who were concerned that Bagwell couldn’t possibly be a good hitting coach because all he was going to do is make everyone adopt that bizarre, unconventional squatty stance that worked for him many moons ago.

The Bagwell squat isn’t making a resurgence, thankfully, but it’s good to see the old first baseman back in uniform. Bagwell stood behind the cage on Thursday and watched batting practice, chatted with the players and pulled a few to the side for one-on-one talks. In other words, it was a pretty typical day in the life of a hitting coach, but one that drew a bit more attention considering where Bags fits into the history of this franchise.

Watch video of the Astros’ workout and Bagwell’s first day on the job here.

______________

A quick note on retired numbers: A former player whose number is retired but who comes back to the organization as uniformed personnel is permitted to wear his number. Jose Cruz wore No. 25 when he returned to coach, and Bagwell will wear his No. 5.

0715_bagwell_back.jpg

______________

It was a pretty lively, loose group that worked out at PNC Park on Thursday. About half the players met the team in Pittsburgh from wherever they spent their All-Star break, and everyone made it on time — except for Carlos Lee. Citing flight problems out of Panama, Lee missed the workout. Michael Bourn was also not in attendance, but that was arranged by the club. Bourn spent three days at the All-Star Game and was given Thursday off to rest.

Lee’s absence is considered “unexcused,” although the workout was not mandatory. As Chronicle beat writer Bernardo Fallas tweeted Thursday night, “GM Ed Wade said he was disappointed…Needless to say, the absence, which we’ll deem unexcused, threatens Carlos Lee’s role as starter for Fri.’s series opener vs. Bucs.”

___________________

From the workout:

Bagwell, Pence 

0715_bags_pence.jpg

Jason Castro.

0715_castro.jpg

Chris Johnson.

0715_cj.jpg

Geoff Blum, Tommy Manzella.

0715_manz_berkman.jpg

Hunter Pence.

0715_pence.jpg

Warm-ups can often look like dancing when captured with a still camera.

0715_stretching.jpg

 

 

More reasons why baseball is not like football.

Through the first two days of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, I’ve heard from a lot of you regarding the Astros’ picks. A lot of you have raised questions as to why they’re drafting certain positions and what that might mean for some of the Astros players on the current Major League roster.

I’ve also heard of some questionable commentary on local radio shows that I find to be somewhat disconcerting. These comments seems to be fueling public confusion about how the team views its current big league players.

Baseball is unique from the other major sports in that it takes, typically, a few years before the draftees can make an impact on the Major League level (Stephen Strasburg, obviously, is the exception). In football and basketball, the returns are immediate. Baseball is a longer process.

The players who the Astros draft this week simply have absolutely nothing to do with the job security of the players currently playing at the big league level.

One talk show host insinuated that the Astros’ decision to draft Delino DeShields Jr. as their first pick somehow indicates Michael Bourn has a limited future with the Astros. This line of thinking is just absurd. First of all, the Astros envision DeShields as a second baseman (although he will play center this year), and even if he was honed as a center fielder, that has absolutely nothing to do with Bourn. DeShields has a lot of development ahead of him before he can think about the big leagues. Bourn is a star whom the Astros are not interested in dealing.

Healthy Major League organizations have deep, deep farm systems. They have several players at each position who could potentially impact the team on the big league level. They go into Spring Training with a log jam all over the field, and several players who are good enough to be on the team aren’t, simply because there are more capable and experienced players ahead of them on the depth chart.

When the Astros’ farm system was rated No. 1 by just about everyone several years ago, they had too many pitchers qualified to make the rotation coming out of Spring Training. There were times I’d look at the spring roster and think, “where are they going to put everyone?” Then, inevitably, there would be injuries, or players who slumped terribly, or supposed up-and-comers who flamed out halfway through the season. And there was usually a stud prospect who was given a shot, and performed well. I remember in 1998, Richard Hidalgo was by far the best outfielder in the organization. And he was shipped to Triple-A before Spring Training ended.

That’s where the Astros are trying to get back to. They appear to be on the right track, but I encourage you to not put too much stock into what positions these young players are being drafted as. Think about it: Lance Berkman was drafted as a first baseman. Even Puma thought he didn’t have much of a chance to be drafted by the Astros because they obviously had a mainstay in Jeff Bagwell at first, and in 1997 he was hands down one of the best first basemen in baseball and in the prime of his career.

So what if the Astros had decided to pass on Puma, because of Bagwell? Instead, they converted Berkman into an outfielder, and he performed a lot better than the club had envisioned. Then he took over at first when Bagwell’s shoulder gave out five years after Berkman was drafted.

In ’97, the Astros drafted the best player available, and that player was Berkman. I think we can agree the returns have been off the charts.

Prospects can change positions. Some of you have noticed the Astros selected several catchers on Tuesday. Those catchers can easily become third basemen, or first basemen, or some other position down the road. They can also become catchers. While we’re all very optimistic about Jason Castro, we don’t know for sure what he’ll be. There are also no guarantees that he won’t get hurt.

Depth. Its importance cannot be underestimated.

And also, keep in mind prospects are extremely valuable to an organization when it needs trade chips to get that one player who can make a difference in a contending season. It’s all about stockpiling, and if the Astros have too many good players at one position, that’s a great problem to have. It’s what got them to the postseason six times in 10 years, and it’s what will get them there again.  

Astros are on Facebook

Follow Alyson Footer on Twitter

Check out Astros witticisms at PumaOneLiners 

Questions? Send to afooter@astros.com 

Signability an issue? Not this year.

The Astros are in some ways still stuck with the reputation that they don’t sign their draft picks — a stigma attached to them three years ago when they had a disastrous couple of months after making their selections.

That was a tough time for the organization, but since then, a new regime has taken over and the very capable Bobby Heck, the club’s Assistant GM in charge of scouting, has changed a lot about how the Astros go about their business once the Draft is over. Last year, they signed all but one pick — their 12th rounder — and they did so in record time. The signing process began immediately after the picks where announced, and within a few weeks, it was done.

Three members from the front office — Heck, GM Ed Wade and national cross-checker David Post –  hosted a media briefing before Friday’s game to answer any last-minute questions reporters might have regarding the upcoming Draft. The one statement from Wade that stood out to me more than any other was in reference to the issue of signability.

Or, more to the point: Signability. Is it an issue?

According to Wade, no.

“We have the budget capability to take the best player available with each of our picks,” Wade said. “We’re not drafting the most signable player. We’re drafting the best players available.”

______________

Other Draft news and notes:

From Brian McTaggart’s notes:

Heck said former Draft picks Derek Dietrich, Brett Eibner and Chad Bettis have all signed consent forms to be drafted by the Astros again. All three were drafted in 2007 but didn’t sign with the club and attended college instead.

“We’ve reached out and re-established a relationship with the three players,” Heck said. “They’re all players who we do have interest in, and we’ve continued the evaluation process. They have signed consent to re-select [forms] if we decide to select them. We’ve done the work there, and they would like to be Astros.”

______________

Jeff Bagwell will represent the Astros on Monday at the MLB Network’s Studio 42 in Secaucus, NJ, where the first-round selections will be announced. Bagwell will be joined by Astros amateur scout Everett Stull at the Draft.

______________

Beginning at 6 p.m. CT, Commissioner Bud Selig will announce each club’s first-round selection. The intervals between each selection will be five minutes during the first round and one minute in the compensation round.

After Monday, the Draft will resume on both Tuesday and Wednesday at 11 a.m. CT via conference call from the MLB headquarters in New York City. The Draft will have a total of 50 rounds.

Astros potpourri: Gold Gloves, broadcasting news and charity events galore.

Accolades for Bourn

0409_gold_glove.jpg

We lead off, fittingly, with our leadoff hitter, who had his hands full before Friday’s game when he scooped up a couple of well-deserved awards for his stellar season in 2009.

Michael Bourn, the club’s MVP last year, was presented with the Rawlings Gold Glove Award for defensive excellence and the Lou Brock Award, presented to the National League leader in stolen bases.

0409_mike_smile.jpg

_______

Brownie, J.D…and Bagwell.

In the years since Jeff Bagwell retired, he’s been hesitant — and by hesitant, I mean wholly disinterested — in getting involved in the television side of the game. Bags shies away from the spotlight, and as polished as he was talking to the media every night as a player, moving up to the broadcast booth — a landing place for so many former players — wasn’t anything Bagwell aspired to do.

I don’t know what changed his mind, but who cares? Saturdays are about to get a lot more fun around here, with Bill Brown, Jim Deshaies and Bagwell teaming up on FS Houston for 13 home games this year.

“It’s something fun to do around the ballpark,” Bagwell said. “Drayton (McLane) and I talked about it thought it would be something kind of fun, would be nice for the fans, and for me.”

He plans to go easy with the criticism, having not forgotten how truly hard it is to play this game and how much slower baseball looks from the press box

“Mental errors, or if someone doesn’t run the bases the right way — that’s the only thing I’ll bring up,” he said. “I am definitely pro-player, I promise you that.”

Read the full story on Bagwell’s new gig here, and watch the video here

Below are some images from Bagwell’s autograph session on Friday with kids who registered for Prepared 4 Life’s Lemonade Day event. He’ll do so again on Sunday, signing for kids outside of the Squeeze Play near the right field entrance from 12:30 – 2:30 p.m.

Lemonade Day is a nation-wide event taking place on May 2, which teaches kids the skills they need to be successful in the future. Youth learn to set goals, develop a business plan, establish a budget, seek investors, provide customer service and give back to the community.

0409_bags_kid.jpg 

0409_bags1.jpg

____________

Speaking of our lovable former first baseman…if you haven’t caught former Astro Morgan Ensberg’s explanation as to why Bagwell is the most well-respected Astro, probably ever, do yourself a favor and take a minute to read his most recent blog entry.

Not only does Ensberg perfectly illustrate some of the “little things” Bagwell did as the leader of this team for so many years, you’ll also get a hilarious account of the first time Ensberg was called up in 2000. He walked into the gigantic home clubhouse and was horrified to see his locker was right between Bagwell and Biggio. Good stuff.

____________

Make A Wish

0408_mills_maw.jpg

Lost in the Opening Day frenzy was a nice side story involving the Astros and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Seventeen-year-old Ramon suffers from Muscular Dystrophy, as does his 15-year-old brother Jose.  Along with their sister Vanessa (five), mom Griselda and dad Ramon, the family was invited down onto the field to watch batting practice and mingle with several players. 

The kids are huge Astros fans, and Ramon was an avid ballplayer until MD made that impossible. Ramon shies from being the center of attention, but on Monday, he was given the star treatment by the players.

0408_pence_maw.jpg

(photos: Stephen O’Brien)

____________

A Gathering of Champions

A lot of you were bummed out when Casey Daigle didn’t make the team out of Spring Training, not because you were so attached to the young right-handed reliever, but because Daigle making the team increases the odds that his better half– wife Jennie Finch — would make a few cameo appearances at Minute Maid Park.

Ironically, she’ll be in Houston in the near future, likely without hubs. Finch, arguably the best women’s softball player on the planet, is one of many sports stars scheduled to attend “A Gathering of Champions,” benefitting Houston Children’s Charity.

More than two dozen former athletes are scheduled to attend the April 30 event, hosted by Paige and Tilman Fertitta. Several have ties (past and present) to the Astros: Bagwell, Nolan Ryan, Craig Biggio and Larry Dierker.

You can find more details about the event here.

_____________

Also mark your calendars for the annual Tommy Bahama Island Cowboy Classic, scheduled for Monday, April 26. This is always well-attended by current and former Astros players, as well as many people from the front office and broadcast teams. This year, proceeds will benefit Astros in Action and support the Montgomery County Special Olympics.

For more information, click here.

Thursday roundup: injury updates, Bagwell recap, and photos.

Notes from a Thursday morning in Clearwater, where the Astros and Phillies met for the first time this spring:

* Manager Brad Mills said he expects Michael Bourn to be the first of the Astros’ injured players to return to action. We could see Bourn, who’s been out with an oblique strain, play as early as this weekend.

* Mills said Lance Berkman is “feeling good. He had a real good day (Wednesday).” Mills identified this weekend as being a crucial time for the Puma, “to see if the knee keeps not swelling as much. This weekend is going to tell us a lot.” Berkman has been sidelined for most of Spring Training after undergoing a knee procedure.

* Brett Myers said he “felt something” –a  pinch in the groin area — while covering first during his start against the Phillies on Thursday. He threw one warmup pitch and walked off the mound, figuring it made no sense to push himself and risk aggravating what he characterized as a minor injury.

“I didn’t want to take a chance,” Myers said, referring to the mild left groin strain that ended his outing with one out in the sixth. “We’ll just see how it is tomorrow. It wasn’t painful to where I said, “Oh…this is serious.”

Mills sounded optimistic after the game as well.

“He was able to at least move and go through the motion to the plate, which tells me it’s minimal,” he said.

* Bud Norris, whose schedule was jumbled when he missed a couple of days with a stomach virus, will likely make his next start in a Minor League game. Mills also said that Brian Moehler will start pitching in relief, even though he’ll continue to be stretched out as a starter.

It’s getting to that point of the spring where the rotation and bullpen are taking shape, and innings are getting scarce for the bubble guys. It’s also becoming increasingly clear that Felipe Paulino has the edge on Moehler for the fifth starter spot (if they indeed start the season with five starters and not four, which they could do with the early off days). That has yet to be announced, but I would believe that if Paulino has one more outing like the one he had in Bradenton the other day, he’s as good as in.

___________

After more than four months of “Astroline,” the weekly radio show as signed off for another season. The last show took place Wednesday night at the ESPN Club on the Disney Boardwalk, and as expected, Jeff Bagwell’s appearance caused chaos (the good kind) and a packed house.

0324_bags3.jpg

I had to laugh, because most of the calls that came in were more of the “I love you, man” variety and less about actually asking a question. Between the callers and Milo Hamilton heaping accolades and praise on the legendary first baseman, Bagwell barely noticed me mouthing “overrated” from the other side of the table.

I kid. Bags was his usual congenial self and graciously signed autographs for the long line of fans that formed long before he arrived. He also gave some pretty insightful answers to questions from both our Tweeps and the live audience at the ESPN Club.

On if he’s thought about being up for Hall of Fame election next year:

“The only reason I know it’s coming up is because I do read a few things here and there. I’ll stand by what I’ve always said. If I get into the Hall of Fame I’d be very, very privileged. It’s the greatest individual accomplishment you can receive in this game. But more important to me are the text messages and phone calls I get from ex-teammates. I hope I was a better teammate than I was a player. That means more to me than anything — the relationships I’ve had in baseball, the friends I’ve made mean more to me than the Hall of Fame. All that matters to me was what my teammates thought of me.

“My two children — their godparents are Dominican (Moises and Austria Alou). Where else does that happen? That’s what’s amazing about the game of baseball.”

0324_bags1.jpg

On if there are ever times where he misses playing:

“I miss it, but my last 3 1/2 years, it was more like a job than it was having so much fun. The good news we were winning so that was fun. But it was hard, going out there every night (with a bad shoulder) and thinking, ‘you’ve got to throw this thing?’ That took a little bit out of me.

“I’ll put it this way — I miss being good. I don’t miss being bad, I don’t miss being hurt. I had a lot of fun in ’94 (laughs). (The later years) took a little bit of fun out of the game.”

On if he’d get into full-time coaching:

“Not now. My two kids (ages 9 and 7), there’s no chance they would let me go for that long. Those coaches, they put in so much time. They get to the ballpark at 11 (a.m.) and leave at 11 at night. I would never see my children. At this point, it does not work.

“That said, as everyone has told me, when the kids are 13, 15 years old, they’re going to say, ‘Dad, you’re not that cool and I don’t want to hang out with you anymore.’ Then, we’ll see.”

On his most memorable moment in the big leagues:

“Probably my first big league game, in 1991 in Cincinnati. The Reds were coming off a World Series win and the place was literally shaking. The fans were going crazy. I was nervous. But it was a big day for me, because I finally knew I had actually made it to the big leagues.”

_________

We’re heading back to Houston in exactly a week, but first, there are some more Grapefruit League games to play. Sights from batting practice in Clearwater Thursday:

You’ve probably noticed there are quite a few former Phillies playing for the Astros these days, such as third baseman Pedro Feliz, who drew quite a bit of attention from the Philly media.

0325_feliz_media.jpg

Brett Myers caught up with ex-teammates before facing them a couple of hours later.

0325_meyers.jpg

Feliz and Hunter Pence sign autographs,.

0325_auto.jpg

Jason Michaels, another phormer Phillie.

0325_michaels.jpg

 

 

Astros, Mills pass the first test. Game one in the books.

As nice as Spring Training wins are for the fans, you’re not going to draw a ton of emotion from those in uniform, regardless of the outcome. The spring season is long and there’s a ton of work to do to get ready for Opening Day, and one win won’t make or break a season.

Still, winning is always nice, regardless of whether the games count in the real standings. The Astros pummeled the Nationals on Thursday by a score of 15-5, and manager Brad Mills drew both positives and negatives from the landslide win in Kissimmee.

The offense was fantastic, but the defense struggled. Hunter Pence wowed the crowd with two home runs, a feat that did not go unnoticed by the new skipper.

“Can I put in my order for two homers every day? Is that OK?” Mills said. “He’s been working every day early, before BP, and late. That’s how he does things. It’s not a surprise that he was ready right out of the chute.”

Watch Mills break down the Astros’ win here. And, as always, enjoy the images from gameday at Osceola County Stadium…

Pregame dugout scene: Michael Bourn, Jason Michaels 

0304_pregame_bourn.jpg

First base coach Bobby Meacham and Geoff Blum.

0304_pregame_meach_blum.jpg

 Jeff Bagwell signs an autograph for a young fan before the game.

0304_pregame_bags_sign.jpg

Jose Cruz and Kazuo Matsui chat before the game.

0304_pregame_matsui_cruz.jpg

Hunter Pence, during the anthem.

0304_pregame_pence.jpg

A win is a win is a win…

0304_postgame_highfivces.jpg

0304_postgame_scoreboard.jpg

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 254 other followers