Results tagged ‘ Jeff Keppinger ’

Astros visit firefighters, ValleyCats advance, and an old fave from the photo vault.

It’s a tradition that is only in its second year, but the Astros have started a good thing by dedicating two full days to honoring our local heroes.

On Friday, Astros players visited local fire stations to thank firefighters for their service to the Houston community. The players “adopted” the firehouse that corresponds with their uniform numbers — Jeff Keppinger visited Fire Station No. 8 downtown, while Bud Norris visited No. 20, Brad Mills No. 2 and Jason Michaels No. 4.

The firehouse was presented with an autographed, framed jersey and an autograph and photo session with the Astros figure that visited. In two years, the Astros Adopt-A-Firehouse program has had 13 players visit local firehouses.

Images from all four firehouses:

Jeff Keppinger
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Brad Mills

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Bud Norris

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Jason Michaels

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On Saturday, the Astros will remember the ninth anniversary of the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001 by honoring firefighters, police, first responders and military personnel during a pregame ceremony titled “Heroes Take The Field.”

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Congratulations to the Tri-City ValleyCats, who shut out Batavia, 1-0 on Thursday to advance to the New York Penn League Championship game for the third time in seven seasons. Jake Buchanan threw seven shutout innings to pick up the win, while closer Mike Ness earned the two-inning save.

Tri-City will host the Brooklyn Cyclones on Saturday in the first of a three-game series.
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Interesting quotes from Dodgers manager Joe Torre before Friday’s game. Talking with KRIV’s Mark Berman, Torre noted the Astros’ sweeping roster changes and commended the team for taking the risk in retooling right in the middle of the season:

“I think it’s taken a lot of courage for them to do this. I admire what they’re doing. It’s sort of like that kid in class. You’re always admiring that kid who asked the question that you were afraid to ask. It’s something I think has to be done.”

“The mortal sin is the fact that you don’t try. You’re gonna make mistakes because the only way you are going to find out if what you’re doing is working is to get them out there in between the lines and work it.”

“You have to exercise some patience in hoping you can be a part of watching them grow and I’m talking about the fans here, and the fans that were here (Thursday) seem very enthusiastic with the club they are watching on the field.”

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From the photo vault…

In honor of our old friend and current Dodgers catcher Brad Ausmus being in town this weekend, I present to you one of my favorite pictures from a Fan Fest many moons ago.

Players were paired up for the photo booth session, and I always felt a little sorry for the poor chap who was stuck with Ausmus, because, well, his services weren’t really needed. Invariably, a large portion of the female fan base would point to Ausmus and politely say to the other player, “Thanks, but I want the picture with just him.”

Eric Bruntlett, as you can see here, didn’t take it personally and spent most of his hour in the photo booth leaning out of the shot.

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Hunter Pence is tweeting, just in time for a long homestand.

 

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A couple of months ago, Chris Sampson (@csampson43) jumped into the Twitter craze, and on Thursday, the Astros added one more tweeter to the list — outfielder and fan fave Hunter Pence.

You can follow Pence at @HunterPence9, and he also invites you to check out his Facebook fan page at http://www.facebook.com/hunterpence9.

Astros players pretty much fall three categories: 1) Those who don’t really understand social media and aren’t interested; 2) Those who do understand social media but still aren’t interested; and 3) Those who understand social media, like it, and want to participate. Pence definitely falls into the third category and I’m glad he’s on board. Not only is he one of the Astros’ most popular players, he’s also a fun guy and loves engaging the fans. So really, in that respect, Twitter and Facebook are tailor-made for people just like him.

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Turn Back the Clock

The Astros have completed a 3-3 road trip and will open an extended homestand on Friday, beginning with a three-game set with the Reds. Saturday’s game will be another Throwback day, this one harkening back to the 1980’s. The Astros will wear the shoulder rainbow jerseys during the game, and the fans will receive a Throwback Jersey t-shirt, courtesy of ABC Pest Pool & Lawn.

Additionally, tickets will be cheap, cheap, cheap. View Deck II and Outfield Deck seats will be only $5.

I indicated in a past blog that there would be an autograph session with members of the ’89 team, but that was cancelled because of a low number of players who were available that day.

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LIVESTRONG

The Astros have teamed up with LIVESTRONG and the Methodist Cancer Center to host Cancer Survivors Day During the 1:05 p.m. game vs. the Reds on Sunday  (July 25). Cancer Survivor Day, the first Astros game of its kind, will celebrate the lives of those affected by cancer while generating needed funds for cancer research.

A portion of the ticket sales purchased through the link www.astros.com/survivor will benefit LIVESTRONG and the Methodist Cancer Center. Groups of 20 or more that would like to attend the game and support the cause should contact Joe Schiavi at 713-259-8314 or jschiavi@astros.com.

In addition, the first 10,000 fans at the game will receive a free LIVESTRONG bracelet courtesy of LIVESTRONG. All fans are encouraged to show their support by wearing yellow.

In America alone, there are over 11 million people living with a history of cancer. Individuals that have survived a cancer diagnosis are invited to share their victory story and by doing so have the chance to be selected to be part of this special day. Fans may e-mail their stories or those of their loved ones to Nicky Patriarca, one of the Astros Cancer Survivors Day coordinators, at npatriarca@astros.com.

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Whataburger signing

Second baseman Jeff Keppinger will meet fans and sign autographs at the Whataburger restaurant located at 23540 Westheimer Parkway, Katy, TX 77494 from 11:00 a.m. to noon on July 27.

The appearance, part of the Whataburger Ultimate “Whatafan” promotion, gives fans the chance to register to win the title of Ultimate “Whatafan.” The Ultimate “Whatafan” will win suite tickets, autographed jerseys and caps from the Astros, Round Rock Express and Corpus Christi Hooks, an on-field batting practice visit, the chance to participate in a pre-game ceremony and an opportunity to throw out a ceremonial first pitch.

On Puma, Kaz and Kepp.

The only hope the Astros had on Sunday regarding Lance Berkman was that their star first baseman make it through his final rehab game at Round Rock without his knee giving him problems, such as the swelling that has caused at least two setbacks in the past. Offensive results, while mildly significant, were nowhere near the most important element to this game.

Puma ended up making everyone happy. The fans at Round Rock were treated to two doubles and a home run, and the Astros received the very good news that Puma moved around at full speed, performed at a peak level and experienced no new issues.

Assuming he’s still feeling the same in the next 36 hours, Berkman will be activated from the disabled list in time to play Tuesday when the Astros open a nine-game homestand. A corresponding roster move will likely be made sometime Tuesday morning or afternoon.

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Second base conundrum

When Brad Mills granted playing time to Jeff Keppinger during the first few games of the season, his intention was to simply give a few at-bats to a bench player, one who happens to hit left-handers very well (the Astros faced several lefties during their first two series).

But Keppinger’s bat caught fire, regardless of who he was facing, and that made it difficult — impossible, really — to take him out of the lineup. Given the Astros’ 0-8 start to the season, there was no way to justifiably sit the one hitter who didn’t go into a complete tailspin as soon as the exhibition season came to a close.

Twelve games into the season, Keppinger is giving Mills no reason to bench him. His early success is good for the team but bad for Kazuo Matsui, who appears to be in the process of losing his status as a starting second baseman.

(Several of you have asked if Matsui can be sent to the Minor Leagues when Puma comes off the DL. The answer is no — a player with more than five years in the big leagues cannot be sent down without the player consenting first. Players never would consent, so it’s a moot point.)

During his pregame session with the media, Mills declined to anoint either Matsui or Keppinger as he regular season baseman long-term — yet. He did, however, call Matsui into his office in St. Louis to talk to him about the situation, so I think, reading between lines, we can expect to see a lot more of Keppinger in the immediate future.

It’s the right thing to do for the sake of the team and when you’re 3-9, it would make no sense to play the lesser player just because he was signed as a starter and the other was, upon trading for him, viewed as a bench guy. Ed Wade gave Mills complete autonomy with decisions surrounding Matsui — meaning, Mills will do what’s best for the on-field health of the team without worrying about how much one player is being paid over the other.

Asked if Matsui was working into a utility role, Mills said this: “I don’t want to label it that way yet. We’re still just a dozen games into the season. Let’s wait and see how everything plays out. I’m congnizant to get (Matsui) out there and get him on a roll. It’s tough, but it’s tough to not get the other guy (Keppinger) out there.

“Coming out of Spring Training, I was trying to get Keppinger at-bats in first week of the season. He did so well, the other at-bats were kind of silent. As we kept him in there, he continued to play really well.”

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From the Astros’ clubhouse following their comeback win over the Cubs Sunday:

Mills:

“This is the way to go into the off day and be rewarded for it. It was a big win. It was nice that these guys can see they can win these.”

On Brian Moehler pitching an inning after a long layoff:

“It was good to get him an inning. It just shows you the pro that he is. He stays ready  every day and we were able to get him an inning and it ended up being a big inning for us.”

Jason Michaels, who led off the 10th with a double and scored the winning run:
“The Cubs, the Cardinals…these guys are ‘supposed to’ win the division. These games are always going to be good. You take two of three, enjoy it and go back to work Tuesday.”

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Pictures from the final day in Chicago:

Everyone, including Michael Bourn and Tim Byrdak, is loose during batting practice.

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Bud Norris, Brian Moehler.

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Lee, Pence, Bourn

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Myers and Pence have a quiet conversation in the dugout before BP.

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Scoreboard at Wrigley…the flags indicated the wind was blowing in. The final score did as well.

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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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Alyson Footer is on Facebook and Twitter.

Paulino proves me wrong. Astros on the mend.

I’ll be honest — I wasn’t expecting much from Felipe Paulino on Sunday. He was wholly unimpressive while auditioning for the fifth starter job during Spring Training, and while his first two starts for Round Rock were terrific, success at Triple-A doesn’t necessarily translate into success in the big leagues.

Paulino opened the game by allowing a base hit to Willy Taveras, and he hit the next batter, Chris Dickerson. But from there, Paulino was clearly in control. I have no idea what they’ll do with him once Brian Moehler is ready to come off the disabled list, but clearly, Paulino earned the chance to make another start. Moehler is probably going to make a few Minor League starts before rejoining the rotation, so that will give Paulino more opportunities to prove Sunday’s outing wasn’t a one-hit wonder.

With Brandon Backe on the mend and Paulino knocking on the door, it appears the Astros might actually have a little pitching depth. I’m still not convinced Backe can be an effective full-season starting pitcher, but he’s piqued my interest. We’ll see.

Kaz Matsui should be ready to return to his position Monday and look for Jeff Keppinger to play during the Dodgers series. The Astros are facing three lefties — including former Astro Randy Wolf — and the Astros are going to need Keppinger’s bat, and his stellar average against lefties, in that series.

Alyson Footer is on Facebook and Twitter

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