Results tagged ‘ Jeff Fulchino ’

And now playing left field, hitting cleanup, Roy Oswalt.

Roy Oswalt pitched the day before the Astros arrived to Philadelphia for their four-game set with the Phillies, so everyone naturally assumed that the right-hander would not be playing against his former team this time around.

But after Ryan Howard was called out on a check swing in the 14th inning, and after he went ballistic, and after he was ejected by third base umpire Scott Barry and after he had to be restrained from chasing after Barry, the Phillies found themselves in a bit of a pickle: they were out of position players and had no one to replace Howard at first base.

For several minutes no Phillies players were on the field. They were still in the dugout, and for a split second I thought, are they protesting the Howard ejection? Soon it became pretty apparent that they were waiting for manager Charlie Manuel to decide which of his very limited options would be the best to play defense in the top of the 15th.

About a minute later, a ripple went through the crowd and filtered up to the press box as everyone realized that it was Oswalt emerging from the dugout, and he was headed to left field.

Two things struck me at that moment: 1) this had instantly turned into one of the greatest games I’ve ever witnessed and 2) the ballpark was still nearly three-fourths full of Phillies fans, despite the late hour and length of the game. A thunderous cheer erupted as Oswalt ran to his position in left field, and soon, the crowd was chanting “Let’s Go Oswalt.”

As if truly scripted, the first ball (hit by Jason Castro) went right to Oswalt. He fielded it cleanly, threw it back to the infield and cracked a smile as he received a standing ovation from the crowd. All of the Astros players were pressed up against the railing in their dugout, clearly amused by this strange twist of events involving their former teammate.

Oswalt was inserted into the cleanup spot and was due to hit fifth in the 16th inning. Jeff Fulchino recorded two quick outs, but he walked Placido Polanco, bringing Chase Utley to the plate. Clearly, with two outs and Oswalt on deck, the only option was to put the tying run on base and walk Utley. And even though that made perfect sense, I couldn’t help but wonder if the adrenaline rush Oswalt surely was feeling at that moment was going to give him enough oomph to hit one out of the park.

It wasn’t. Oswalt grounded out, and the Astros won the game, 4-2. It took five hours and 20 minutes, 15 pitchers and 533 pitches, and I have a feeling we’re going to be talking about this one for a long time.

Facts and figures from the win:

It was the longest game of the season for both teams. It was also the longest game at Citizens Bank Park since July 2, 2004, when the Orioles and Phillies played 16 innings.

The last time the Astros played a game this long was July 6, 2008, when they lost to the Braves in Atlanta in 16 innings.

The Astros are 7-4 in extra innings this year.

Wilton Lopez’s career-best scoreless streak ended at 20 innings when he allowed a solo home run to Jimmy Rollins in the ninth inning. Lopez’s streak was the longest active one in the Majors.

Carlos Lee has hit safely in 11 straight games at Citizens Bank Park and is hitting .404 over that span. He also has 23 RBIs in his last 24 games.

Tim Byrdak has pitched eight straight scoreless innings, spanning 10 games.

Why let rain get in the way of a good time?

Rain-soaked cancellations of Spring Training games usually signal the end of the baseball day for the average fan, but for most ballplayers, there is still work to be done.

Half the Astros squad boarded the buses Thursday morning for Viera, where three hours later the game would ultimately be cancelled due to torrential downpours. Back at the home complex, however, the other half of the team did its best to get its work in, including several pitchers who were scheduled to throw bullpen sessions.

I looked out of the window of the Astros offices around 10 a.m. expecting to see nothing but empty fields, but instead, here’s what I found:


That’s pitching coach Brad Arnsberg and reliever Chris Sampson, seemingly ignoring the fact that it was raining hard enough that everyone else exited the fields and ran for cover.

Rain might not seem like that big of a deal during Spring Training, and that’s partly true. Once the fields are soaked to the point of flooding and the conditions become dangerous, there is absolutely no reason — other than financial ones — why teams should try to get the games in long after the fields are deemed unplayable.

That doesn’t mean the players just get to go home, however. For all pitchers, staying on schedule is essential. Roy Oswalt, the scheduled starter for the doomed game in Viera, instead returned home on the team bus and threw to Minor Leaguers on one of the backfields. He threw 60 pitches over the equivalant of three innings.

“That was the best we could do today,” Oswalt said. “The last inning was good. The first two, so-so. The last inning, I figured out what I was doing.”

Jeff Fulchino and Tim Byrdak each threw an inning as well. The rest of the work had to be done in the cages after the rain started again.




Did you know there was a baseball game involving Craig Biggio played at Minute Maid Park on Thursday?

Biggio’s St. Thomas High School baseball team, for whom he’s the head coach, played Galveston O’Connell.

Many thanks to Astros authentication manager Mike Acosta, who sent along these images. Mike surmised this was probably the first time since Biggio’s retirement that he was back on the field at Minute Maid Park, in uniform, for a baseball game.



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Photo albums, videos, and you.

“Social media” is a relatively new term, but it’s quickly changing the way companies do business. In sports, social media is opening up all kinds of new avenues for teams to directly communicate with their fans. With Spring Training upon us, there is no better time for Major League Baseball — and more specifically, your Houston Astros — to bring you every nugget of what is going on, through articles, pictures, videos, blogs and Twitter updates.

If you haven’t joined the Astros Facebook page, I invite you to do so. We’re posting daily photo albums from camp in an effort to give you the fly-on-the-wall perspective that is now available with a simple click of the mouse. All blogs, as well as Brian McTaggart’s outstanding coverage, can be found there.

We’re also posting daily videos, which live on both the homepage of and a special video section which you can find here. Those videos are also linked to my Footnotes page, which is a landing page that includes blogs, videos and links to my Twitter account.

So far, we’ve posted a Roy Oswalt interview, two workout videos, a Brad Mills segment and footage from Drayton McLane’s announcement of Ed Wade’s contract extension. You’ll also find archived segments from the Astros’ recent offseason caravans.

Our goal is to bring you close to the action, even if you can’t be there in person. We have a ton of new faces in camp this year, so there’s no better time to start getting to know the new Astros, as well as say hello to old friends.


Tim Byrdak, Jeff Fulchino


Roy Oswalt


Oswalt practices fielding grounders back to the mound. That’s Jose Cruuuuz at first base. 


Bud Norris, Brian Moehler throw bullpens.


Felipe Paulino throws a bullpen (with the Astros braintrust watching from behind). 


Catchers Humberto Quintero and Jason Castro.



News and notes from Saturday at Busch Stadium:

Wandy Rodriguez left his start after four innings with a strained right hamstring, but after the game he said he did not think he would have to miss his next start. “It doesn’t hurt that much,” he said. “I don’t think I’m going to miss a start. By how I’m feeling today, I don’t think I’ll miss a start, but we’ll see how I feel tomorrow.”

The last time through the rotation, the Astros have had only one starter go more than five innings — that would be Brian Moehler, who threw 6 2/3 in the opener at Busch Stadium on Friday. Kudos to Jeff Fulchino, who took the loss Saturday but undeservedly so — he soaked up three innings following Rodriguez’s departure and allowed one unearned run that scored due in part to an Humberto Quintero passed ball.

Roy Oswalt will throw Monday and will then determine whether he’s healthy enough to start Tuesday. My guess is no. That will necessitate the services of Felipe Paulino, who would likely be called up to make the spot start that day. The unfortunate part is that Oswalt would probably be ready by the weekend, but if the Astros disable him, he won’t be eligible to come off until the middle of the following week.

A good point was raised in the press box Saturday: over the course of a week, the Cardinals gained Holliday and the Astros lost Berkman. Slice it any way you want — this lineup just is not the same without Puma.

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The view from the press box at Wrigley Field, and other leftover odds and ends.



If you took a survey of 100 Major League players and asked them to name their favorite road city, it’s highly likely no fewer than 95 would answer, “Chicago.”

The people. The restaurants. The nightlife. And the ballpark.

Yes, the ballpark. For the most part, ballplayers love Wrigley Field. They love the tradition, the heckling fans, the packed houses every night, the rickety old infrastructure and the elaborate singing of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” that has continued as a tradition since Harry Caray’s passing 11 years ago.

The clubhouse is cramped, the tunnels smell funny and the dugouts are tiny, but for some reason, none of that matters. Because it’s Chicago, it’s Wrigley Field, and it’s fun. And the showdowns between the Astros and Cubs over the years have been, for the most part, fantastic.

Above is a shot of my view of Wrigley Field from way up in the press box. Day games at Wrigley are preferred, but there’s nothing like the view on a clear, rain-free night.

Cleaning out the photo file…

It was Family Day at Minute Maid Park on Sunday, the one day players are invited to bring their kids on the field for a free-for-all run around the bases (and the outfield and the dugouts and the mound…must be a fun day for the grounds crew).

I’ve been to a dozen family days but for some reason this one seemed more well-attended than those in the past. Check out this photo…and that’s only part of the group.


Darin Erstad and family…


Sean Berry and family…



On Saturday, I attended the annual Texas Italian American Sports Foundation Scholarship Awards luncheon, a yearly ritual that involves Astros players, great food and a terrific cause.

The event is held at Damian’s Cucina Italiana every year and provides scholarships for student-athletes headed for college in the fall.

Representing the Astros were Jeff Fulchino, Mike Hampton, Jose Cruz, Hunter Pence and emcee Milo Hamilton. And the bread pudding was to die for.

Milo, with a young fan…


Pence, Fulchino.


Jose Cruuuuuuuuuuuz




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After an Astros win…

Sights and sounds from the clubhouse Wednesday, postgame:

Manager Cecil Cooper:

“I thought we played station to station baseball…base hit, walk, base hit. Station to station. Sometimes that works.”

Jeff Fulchino, on entering the game with a big lead:

“You try not to treat it any differently from any other time out. You go out there like it’s a tight situation. Throw strikes, get ahead and hopefully the rest will somehow take care of itself.”

Brian Moehler, as expected, was not happy with his high walk total during this start versus the Padres. Moehler is a guy who stays around the strikezone, will give up the occasional solo homer and relies on his defense.

Asked if this was a tiring game, he said, “A more stress-filled game, yes. (But with a big lead), I didn’t feel like I had to be perfect. I just tried to limit the amount of damage.”

Moehler was then asked if competition between starting pitchers on the same team is healthy. The question was in reference to the fact that the Astros have six starters and will go back to five after the All-Star break.

“I think there’s competitiveness, yea,” he said. “In Florida (in ’05 and ’06), I was there with (Josh) Beckett, Dontrelle (Willis), A.J. Burnett. We fed off each other. It’s good to feed off each other.”

Asked about his at-bats, which included a ground ball that turned into a bases-clearing, three-run E5:

“I didn’t strike out,” Moehler said with a smile. “I’m making progress.”


A view of post-win high fives and handshakes, from my seat in the press box:








First up: Coop, who addresses the media from his office.


Moehler and Fulchino chat at their lockers soon after the game was over.


Fulchino talks to media.


Then reporters move over to Moehler.


 Geoff Blum is a great postgame quote, which is why reporters usually seek him out, win or lose.


And a couple of shots from batting practice earlier that day:

Jason Michaels, Jeff Keppinger 


Matt Kata


Humberto Quintero, Miguel Tejada



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Buddy, can you spare a glove?

Jeff Fulchino had an interesting couple of hours after he was recalled from Triple-A Round Rock. He met the Astros in Chicago Thursday night, and because he didn’t travel with them from Denver, he had to bring his equipment bag with him from the hotel to Wrigley Field Friday morning.

He hopped in a cab with a couple of teammates, but once they paid the cab fare, the driver took off — with, unwittingly, Fulchino’s equipment bag. So the relief pitcher had to borrow shoes and a glove from a couple of teammates. The glove was no problem — he swiped one, temporarily, from Roy Oswalt. The shoes, on the other hand…well, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Fulchino wears a size 15. Not a whole lot of that just hanging around in the clubhouse.

LaTroy Hawkins was the closest, with a size 14. That’s close, but maybe not quite close enough. No wonder Fulchino was walking a little funny when he headed to the field for stretching before Friday’s game [which was eventually postponed].

But there’s a happy ending. A clubhouse worker received a call from the cabbie, who, upon discovering the equipment, headed back to Wrigley to deliver the goods.


Michael Bourn and his solid production continues to be a hot topic each day. But manager Cecil Cooper takes no credit for the center fielder’s emergence.

“That’s all Sean Berry,” Cooper said, referring to the Astros’ hitting coach. Cooper also included third base coach Dave Clark as a major influence.

Speaking of Berry, he’s back with his family at his California home, where he’ll spend about a week. He’ll then return to Houston for another examination by his doctor, and if he’s given the “all-clear,” he’ll resume his coaching duties soon after.

It’s been about a week since Sean had surgery to remove a cancerous kidney, and he’s anxious to rejoin the club. He is, of course, glad the team is hitting well in his absence, but he’d prefer to see it up close and personal — and who can blame him?