Results tagged ‘ Kazuo Matsui ’

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.

_________

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.”

______________

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.”

______________

Pictures from the final day in Chicago:

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

0418_bourn.jpg

Bud Norris, Brian Moehler.

0418_bud_moe.jpg

 

Lee, Pence, Bourn

0418_lee_pence_bourn.jpg

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

0418_myers_pence.jpg

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

0418_scoreboard.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

 

 

Congratulations, Pudge.

Congratulations to Pudge Rodriguez, the proud owner of the all-time games caught record, which he set when Wednesday’s game in Texas became official in the middle of the fifth inning.

A few of the Astros veterans bought Pudge a bottle of Cristal champagne on behalf of the entire team, and a subdued but appropriate celebration took place following the game. Even though the Astros lost — and it was one of those bad losses — the players had enough class to realize a momentous occasion should not be pushed aside because of one bad night.

All of the players autographed the bottle of Cristal, and in turn, each player received his own bottle of Korbel champagne. Pudge signed every bottle, “Ivan Rodriguez, No. 12, 2,227th game.” Very nice touch, and a big night for one very classy 19-year veteran.

The moment that the record was set kind of came and went without much hooplah. Let’s face it, when you’re setting a record that first requires 4 1/2 innings to be played, and you’re on the road, and you’re not Cal Ripken Jr. in 1995, it’s difficult to get hyped up about the exact moment it happens, because it comes and goes with the blink of an eye.

Still, the Rangers and their fans were classy from beginning to end. Pudge received a standing ovation as he made his first plate appearance, and the Rangers ran a video tribute during the third inning to commemorate both his career and his record-setting day. They showed pictures of the catchers he has passed, including Hall of Famer Gary Carter (fourth place), Bob Boone (third) and Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk (second).

I snuck down to the photo well by the Astros’ dugout to capture the very moment that Pudge became the record holder. Here are a few:

0617_pudge_record1.jpg

0617_pudge_record2.jpg

0617_pudge_record3.jpg

0617_pudge_record4.jpg

To be honest, the pregame hooplah was much more fun to document than the record-setting moment. I asked Pudge ahead of time if he minded me following him around as he prepared for the game; fortunately, he had no issues with it, so here we go…

Pudge signed a couple dozen autographs for teammates and coaches who wanted to obtain their own piece of history. Here he is signing a lineup card for bench coach Ed Romero.

0617_pudge1.jpg

You can see the “2,227 games” at the bottom, commemorating the occasion.

0617_pudge2.jpg
 

This is the lineup card from the night before, when Pudge tied Carlton Fisk.

0617_pudge3.jpg

Pudge has a quiet moment at his locker, prior to the clubhouse opening to the media at 3:35 p.m. The quiet moments soon would end.

0617_pudge4.jpg

Another quiet moment (with the exception of me standing there pointing a camera at him every time he turned around. Fortunately he was a good sport about it).

0617_pudge5.jpg

This would normally be just another ordinary picture of the media crush surrounding a player, if not for the big dude in the back taping the interview — that’s none other than closer Jose Valverde, complete with tape recorder and scowl a lot of reporters wear when interviewing players.

0617_pudge6.jpg

Pudge hadn’t realized Valverde was part of the “media” until he finished the interviews.

0617_pudge7.jpg
 

He was still laughing about it as he finished an interview with FS Houston’s Greg Lucas.

0617_pudge8.jpg

Pudge came out to sign autographs for fans and discovered a line of a few hundred people waiting for him.

0617_pudge9.jpg

0617_pudge10.jpg
 

Here’s Hunter Pence having some fun with the man of the hour.

<br />
0617_pudge_pence.jpg” src=”http://mlblogsfooter.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/0617_pudge_pence-thumb-547×410-12556511.jpg” class=”mt-image-none” width=”547″ height=”410″ /></a><br /></span></p>
<p>And the non-Pudge version of Wednesday’s fun: </p>
<p>Lots of autograph signing…Jim Deshaies</p>
<p><span class=0617_jd.jpg

Jason Michaels

0617_jmike.jpg

Kaz Matsui takes in the scene before BP.

0617_kaz.jpg

Keppinger and Pence chat at the cage.

0617_kepp_pence.jpg

Wednesday’s starter, Russ Ortiz.

0617_ortiz.jpg

Pence was saying something funny to me but I can’t remember what it was.

0617_pence.jpg

Kids, signs and baseball…a terrific combination, every time.

0617_pudge_signs2.jpg

Puma looks very puma-like as he stretches before taking BP.

0617_puma_berry.jpg

Wright a starter? Team news and notes, and answers to your questions.

Wesley Wright was sent to Triple-A Round Rock a couple of weeks ago mainly because he wasn’t effective enough on the big league level. But his time spent down on the farm wasn’t designed only for him to “work on things” — he was also sent down to get stretched out to be more than a one-batter or one-inning pitcher.

No, the Astros aren’t converting him to a starter — yet. But don’t count it out as an option down the road.

Wright, who was recalled after Thursday’s game when Felipe Paulino went on the DL, appeared in four games for the Express, including one start. He threw 66 pitches in that outing, a remarkable number considering he had started a grand total of seven games during his Minor League career, five of which arrived in his first season in 2003, as a Class A Dodgers farmhand.

The Astros tabbed Wright as a reliever when they plucked him from the Dodgers organization during the Rule 5 draft in 2007, mainly because they had a need for a left-hander in the ‘pen. But there appears to be a need for starting pitching these days, and perhaps Wright might fit the bill, someday. He’s still in the ‘pen, but the fact that the Astros sent him to Round Rock to get stretched out, build up his innings and work on his pitches is intriguing. Stay tuned.

_______________

Bud Norris is another interesting study. During Spring Training, several Astros evaluators said if Norris, the club’s top pitching prospect, can develop the changeup and effectively use it as a quality third pitch, his future is probably as a starter. If it turns out he is more of a two-pitch pitcher, he could be looked at as a future candidate for the back end of the bullpen, possibly as a closer. As of now, his changeup is coming along nicely, and the Astros are still hopeful he can eventually turn into a top-of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues.

_______________

The Astros, much like Humpty Dumpty, are slowly putting themselves together again. Jose Valverde is back after a two-game rehab stint with Double-A Corpus Christi. He needed a grand total of six pitches — all strikes — to get through one inning of work Thursday night. He’ll be activated before Saturday’s game.

Kazuo Matsui started Thursday’s Corpus game at second base and was hitless in four at-bats but drove in one run. On Friday, he was 1-for-4 and played eight innings. He’ll play Saturday with the Hooks, will be off Sunday and is scheduled to rejoin the Astros for Tuesday’s game in Arlington.

Valverde has been out since April 27 with a strained right calf, while Matsui has been sidelined since May 26 with a strained left hamstring.

_______________

Roy Oswalt says his wrist feels fine and he’s ready to face the Diamondbacks on Saturday. He was pushed back a day because of what he suspects was a touch of tendinitis.

_______________

Geoff Geary accepted his Minor League assignment and will report to Round Rock Saturday. He had two choices: accept the assignment and continue to be paid, or reject it, become a free agent and not be paid the balance of his contract. He’d have to bank on another club willing to sign him and pay him the approximately $1.05 million he’s still owed by the Astros.

In other words, he’s reporting to Round Rock Saturday.

_______________

Thanks for your emails and questions…just as a reminder, you can email your inquiries to askalyson@astros.com. I’ll try to either post answers here or answer you personally. You can also catch my updates on Twitter. My screen name is alysonfooter.

Question:

Recently Jason Castro was moved up to AA Corpus Christi, and rightfully so judging by the numbers he was putting up. How soon will the Astros be moving up some of their other top prospects? To name a few, Jonathan Gaston and J.B. Shuck have both been excellent at Class A Lancaster, and practically the entire starting rotation at Class A Lexington (Seaton, Lyles, Dydalewicz, Bono and Greenwalt) has been doing wonderfully. The Astros have to be happy about some of the things going on in their two A-ball clubs. What can we expect to see from these teams in the near future, and is Castro still on track to possibly get a
look in Spring Training for the 2010 starting job? — Brian S.

Shuck and Gaston are both off to really good starts, and both jumped over low A ball and went straight to High A Lancaster this year after starting their pro careers last year in Rookie Ball. Through Thursday, Shuck, an outfielder, was hitting .323 with 11 doubles, four triples and 17 RBIs over 56 games. Gaston, also an outfielder, has hit an eye-popping 15 home runs over 60 games. He has a .291 average, 16 doubles, eight triples and 42 RBIs.

If they continue at this pace, they’ll get serious consideration for Double-A. Whether comes in the near future or the latter part of season remains to be determined. But it appears the Astros front office is as impressed with these kids as you are.

The rotation at Lexington is getting quite a bit of attention inside baseball circles, but the Astros are not going to rush them through the system. Three of the starting five — Seaton, Lyles, Dydalewicz — were just drafted last year, and the other two — Bono and Greenwalt — are in their first year at Lexington. We’ve heard over and over that the true pitching talent is in the lower levels of the farm system and I think we’re seeing that first-hand now.

The likelihood is that all five stay in Lexington for the season, to build up innings. Promotions aren’t out of the question but there are no plans right now.

As for Castro, tabbing him as the starting catcher out of Spring Training next year might be a stretch. He’ll be given the chance to compete for the job but I’m inclined to believe they might be looking for another stop-gap — a la Pudge Rodriguez — to give Castro more time to develop. I would not be surprised if Castro was called up at some point during the season, and he’s moving up the ladder at a nice pace, but I suspect the Astros will want to give him something close to a full season at Triple-A before they’ll think about making him the front-line starting catcher.

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.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 248 other followers