Results tagged ‘ Lance Berkman ’

Props to Brian Moehler, a gamer.

Here’s what I like about Brian Moehler — he was completely let down by the defense behind him Thursday, but he wouldn’t call out his teammates. The strongest thing he said after the game was “Today we overcame the errors, and Lance had the big hits, and he pulled it out.” When he was done addressing the media, I asked him again if he was upset with the defense, and he just sort of looked toward the ceiling and said he was happy for Berkman, to have gotten those two home runs a day after making a costly error.

Moehler isn’t going to overpower anyone, but more often than not, he’ll give you a competitive outing. After his prior start against the Twins, during which he allowed three solo homers but still logged the win, he pointed out that he doesn’t mind giving up home runs, as long as he doesn’t walk anyone. Simply put, he throws strikes and opposing hitters are going to put the ball in play. Moehler relies on his defense — namely, his infielders — more than anyone on this staff. We see what can happen when they don’t come through.

However, when one of the culprits of the defensive problems from the past few days steps forward with some brutal honestly, it’s refreshing. Here’s what Puma had to say:

“The defense has been terrible. It cost us the game last night, and today it could have cost us the game. We have to figure something out, a little more intensity and a little more concentration. You can’t give teams extra outs in the Major Leagues and expect to win. We have been a good defensive team in the past and there’s no reason we can’t be. This year we just have to do it.”

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The success rate of players who are chosen to play in the Futures Game during All-Star Week getting to the big league is ridiculously high — somewhere around 90 percent. This bodes well for the Astros, who will have two prospects participating in the game this year — catcher Jason Castro and pitcher Chia-Jen Lo. Read Brian McTaggart’s report here.  

 

RIP Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. Man, what a day.

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:

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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).

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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.

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

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

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

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

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<p>And the non-Pudge version of Wednesday’s fun: </p>
<p>Lots of autograph signing…Jim Deshaies</p>
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Jason Michaels

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Kaz Matsui takes in the scene before BP.

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Keppinger and Pence chat at the cage.

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Wednesday’s starter, Russ Ortiz.

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

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

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

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Yes, Puma, taking pictures is now my full-time job.

And he can barely contain his excitement:
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Seriously, though…great to see the team back in town, and really, really great to see hitting coach Sean Berry, who’s back from a three-week hiatus after having a cancerous kidney removed. He looks great and says he’s feeling good. Obviously, his team — more specifically, the hitters — were happy to see him. Here he is with Geoff Blum:
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And with Puma:
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And Coop:
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Jose Valverde has rejoined the team, even though he’s just now taking the very small steps toward returning to the mound. Here he is hanging behind the cage with the coaches:

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And last but most definitely not least, here is my somewhat frazzled friend Brian McTaggart…it’s his first day on the job as the new Astros beat writer for MLB.com. I taught him everything I know…but don’t hold it against him. Next to him is the Rockies MLB.com beat writer, Thomas Harding.

(Next time you email Tags, ask him about the Astros chances to get Ben Sheets and trade for Jake Peavy. He likes that.)

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Bits and pieces from postgame interviews…
Roy Oswalt:
“Hopefully, this homestand, we can get something going.”

On his early-season struggles::
“No matter how long you play this game, you’re going to run into a skid when you’re not playing well. Even some Hall of Famers have hit some skids along the way. You’re only human — a lot of people go through different things. It’s how you work out of it.”

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As Carlos Lee exited the clubhouse, he high-fived Sean Berry and said, “I missed you man. I haven’t done anything in two weeks.” Perhaps not so coincidentally, Lee logged his first RBI in more than two weeks on the very day Berry returned after a three-week absence.

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If you didn’t see the foul-ball incident involving Michael Bourn in the seventh inning, don’t look for it in the highlights. (It’s one of those injuries that make men cringe.) Anyway, Cooper was asked about it after the game, and he paused briefly, chuckled a bit and said, “I don’t want to talk about that one. We’ll just move on.”

Alyson Footer is on Facebook and Twitter 
 

Wanted: pitching coach?

Since Lance Berkman came forward with his desire to become the head coach at the University of Texas after he retires, he’s been besieged by current and former teammates hoping to become his fugure pitching coach. OK, maybe besieged is a little bit of an exaggeration, but it’s worth noting that Chris Sampson, Doug Brocail and Scott Linebrink — remember him?– have submitted their verbal resumes to the Puma.

Linebrink sent Berkman a text message declaring his candidacy: “If you end up getting that job, I’d love to be your pitching coach.”

Sampson is already planning for his two sons — C.J., class of 2025, and his not-yet-born son [to be named later], due in August, to play for Puma.

“They’ll both play for Lance, and me,” Sampson said. “I want to be his pitcing coach. I’m going to take some on-line [college] classes so I can get my degree.”

LaTroy Hawkins wants in, too, as the bullpen coach. Colleges don’t necessarily have bullpen coaches, but Puma’s pretty sure he can change that.

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My spies tell me right-handed pitcher Jordan Lyles, the 38th overall pick in the ’08 draft, is the real deal. Watching from the stands in Lexington, they sent this observation: “Filthy. Nine Ks through 5. Excellent poise and command. This kid is going to be very good.”

Unfortunately for Lyles, the pitcher on the other side of the diamond was better. Charleston’s Hector Noesi threw seven no-hit innings and the Legends were one-hit, losing 3-1.

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There are various ways to pass the time in the hours leading up to batting practice on the road. On Wednesday, some players watched the Giants-Nationals game, others played chess, while still others played Connect Four. The competition during Connect Four games can get pretty heated, but that’s standard for professional athletes. They could turn a random act of brushing their teeth into some sort of contest. It’s how they’re wired.

From batting practice in Denver:

Puma, stretching.

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Carlos Lee

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Humberto Quintero and Pudge Rodriguez

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Miguel Tejada.

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Geoff Blum.

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Puma

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Tejada.

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Tough day. Good to see Boooooone. Get well soon, Sean.

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It was somewhat ironic that Aaron Boone happened to be visiting the Astros on Wednesday, the same day the Astros made another one of those serious announcements about the health of someone in uniform that had nothing to do with hamstring strains or shoulder tendinitis.

A little over six weeks ago, Boone, age 36, told the world he was having open-heart surgery. Today, 43-year-old hitting coach Sean Berry let us know he has a tumor on his kidney that is likely cancerous, and will have to be removed soon.

If there is a silver lining to Sean’s condition, it’s that this cancer is extremely treatable and should be 100 percent gone once the tumor is removed. He might even be able to do it laproscopically, which would require just a short recovery time.

“You always hear this is the one you want to get,” Berry said. “After they cut it out, I should be 100 percent fine. No chemo, no radiation.”

You can read here about Dave Clark’s inadvertent contribution that caused Berry to detect the tumor early.

Here’s hoping Sean gets through this quickly. He’s a great guy, a great coach and a great friend to many. Not to mention one of the original Killer B’s.

As usual, Puma summed it up nicely:

“It’s almost surreal,” Berkman said. “It’s just weird because a week ago, that never even enters your mind. Then we knew he wasn’t feeling well in Atlanta. He said it was kidney stones. I’ve heard of people having those before. It’s farily common and very painful. When I came in today we saw a meeting at 4:15, and the furthest thing from my mind was anything like that.

“I thought maybe they were going to chew us out or something, whatever. Then I knew immediately it was something not good. Then you get a sick feeling in your stomach. You just can hardly believe it.

“We’re encouraged by the report. Not that cancer’s ever not a big deal, but if you’re going to have cancer it sounds like this is a better situation than most. They can operate on it and it doesn’t sound like he has to have chemo, so that’s good news.”

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Meanwhile, it was nice to see Booooooone. I heard he was showing off his scar to his teammates so I thought it couldn’t hurt to ask him to show it off to the media. I didn’t think he’d go for it, but boy was I wrong:

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Dave Clark organized a fun session of batting practice with the coaches while the team was in Atlanta. Little did he know how important that session would be to Berry in the end.

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Not only is Sean Berry the best hitting coach Hunter Pence has ever had, according to Pence himself, but he’s also a mentor. Pence took this one hard. 

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Alyson Footer is on Facebook and Twitter 

This one hurt.

Hats off to Hunter Pence. It couldn’t have been easy to stand at his locker and explain in full detail his eighth-inning at-bat against Arthur Rhodes, but he did it. And he did it well. He addressed us immediately, got it over with, and I applaud him for how he handled the whole thing.

“I’m going to be a winner,” he said. “I’m going to find a way. In those times, I want to be up to bat. This time, I didn’t get them, but tomorrow’s a new day. This is where you find out what you’re made of, when times get rough.”

The Astros, collectively, are not good offensively right now. They’re either last or close to last in some pretty important categories — runs, average, hits, RBIs. This is a collective struggle. But Monday night, the focus was on Pence, who looked at a called third strike with the bases loaded, two outs, and the Astros down by a run.

Geoff Blum always provides great perspective, and he didn’t disappoint this time when talking about Pence.

“I’ve been hitting behind him for just a couple of games now,” he said. “And after watching last year and hitting behind him this year, even I get to be a part-time fan when I’m sitting on deck. I expect him to do something amazing, because I think he’s built for it. He’s worked hard to get to that point. But this game is harsh. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen that time, but there’s plenty more game left. I know Hunter’s going to relish every chance he has to be in that situation.”

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Cecil Cooper chose Geoff Geary after Mike Hampton yielded a base hit in the seventh inning for a couple of reasons. One was simple default — Jeff Fulchino was unavailable because he’s pitched a lot in the last couple of days, and Chris Sampson was also unavailable. Cooper didn’t expand on it when pressed on Sampson, so I’m guessing Sampson is still not recovered from that hip problem he encountered while executing an out at first base the other night. I’ll check on that tomorrow.

Anyway, back to Geary. Concerned?

“I don’t have any concern, he’s just not pitching the way he pitched a year ago,” Cooper said. “He’s struggling a little bit. All we can do is keep running him out there, and I don’t think there’s anything mechanically wrong.”

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Puma tied Craig Biggio for second on the club’s all-time home run list with 291. Next up, Jeff Bagwell’s 449. It’s going to be a while.

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