Results tagged ‘ Matt Lindstrom ’

Keep an eye on Wilton Lopez.

Matt Lindstrom is going to be on a hiatus from closing games for the Astros for the time being, and although we do not yet know how temporary or permanent that break will be, keep an eye on an interesting closer candidate: Wilton Lopez.

Lopez was called on to finish off Tuesday’s win over the Mets. He was given that opportunity mainly because Brandon Lyon has been pitching a lot lately and needs some rest, but these are the types of situations that pop up and give a young pitcher a chance to show he can handle the job.

Lopez is an interesting study. He’s only 27 yet has been in professional baseball since 2002, when the Yankees signed him as a non-drafted free agent from his native Nicaragua. Ed Wade picked Lopez up off of waivers from San Diego in April of 2009 and he spent the entire season with Double-A Corpus Christi, until late August, when the Astros called him up to the big leagues.

This year, Lopez has slowly emerged as one of the Astros’ most reliable relievers and continues to respond favorably when put in more challenging situations. One of the most important stats for a reliever is how many times he comes to a game with runners on base and allows those runners to score. Lopez has inherited 26 runners this year, and has stranded 25 of them. That shows that not only is he pitching well, but he can answer the bell in stressful situations, and seeing he’s being used in the later innings, he clearly can handle performing when the game’s on the line.

Is he closer material? That’s to be determined. But he’s growing on manager Brad Mills, who has gushed about how much Lopez embraces the tough situations. He simply likes to be right in the middle of the action, and there’s no more drama-filled situation than the ninth inning when his team is ahead by three or fewer runs. Keep an eye on this right-hander. He just may turn into something pretty special.

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Postgame notes after a 4-3 Astros win:

Houston starters have not allowed more than two runs in each of their last seven games, posting a 2-0 record and 1.79 ERA over that span. The club is 4-3 in those games.

Hunter Pence connected for his 17th and 18th homers of the season and has now reached base safely in 22 straight games, a career long streak. The run started on July 23 and since that date, Pence has hit .383 with five homers and 22 RBIs and a .404 on-base percentage.

Michael Bourn started against Johan Santana and went 2-for-4. In his career, Bourn has hit Santana well, going 4-for-8 against the southpaw.

Angel Sanchez extended his hitting streak to five games, during which he’s hitting .318. Sanchez has now hit safely in 13 of his last 15 games.

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Thanks to everyone who signed up for our first Social Media night, scheduled for Aug. 31. We sold out of the event but judging from the favorable response, we’ll surely be having more of these in the future. Look for multiple Social Media nights in 2011.

Participants (and non-participants, if you wish) are invited to vote on what we serve for dinner on Aug. 31. The choices are listed below but you MUST vote over Twitter. So tweet me your vote, and we’ll reveal the winner soon.

Choice 1: MONSTER CHICKEN NACHOS: Crispy Sherriff Blaylock Tortilla Chips, Grilled Chicken, Charro Beans, Premium Queso, Pico De Gallo, Salsa Rojo and Fresh Sliced Jalapenos.

Choice 2: TEXAS SIRLOIN BURGER
Grilled Fresh Ground Sirloin Burger on a Bakery Fresh Onion Roll topped with Pancetta, Mushrooms, Beer Battered Onion Ring, Cheddar Cheese, Tangy Bar-B-Que Sauce, Blonde Bar-B-Que Sauce, Lettuce and Tomato with Bacon & Blue Cheese Potato Salad.

Choice 3: SMOKEHOUSE BALLPARK BBQ SANDWICH
Pulled Smoked BBQ Pork served on a Pretzel Roll, Pepper-Jack Cheese, Sweet Pickle Chips and Beer Battered Onion Rings served with Country Cabbage Slaw.

Dinner will be capped off with Blue Bell Half Pints and Fresh Baked Chocolate Chunk Cookies. Yum!

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Yankee Stadium: As good as advertised.

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Television announcer Bill Brown summed it up nicely when I asked him what he thought of the new Yankee Stadium before Friday’s game:

“The concourses are wide, the field looks great, the access is wonderful. For $1.3 billion, it should be.”

And it is. The ballpark is gorgeous, worth every penny, whether you’re looking at it from a fan’s perspective or from a player’s perspective behind the scenes. Upon first glance, it reminds you a lot of the old Yankee Stadium, only (obviously) more modern. The white facades that were such a part of the old place have been resurrected in the new. And since it’s less than two years old, it’s still sparkling clean.

Enjoy the images, as well as the video we captured from the new ballpark

Blum, Keppinger, Pence

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The famous Lou Gehrig speech…this picture hangs near one of the main entrances at Yankee Stadium.

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The view from the visitors dugout.

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Jason Michaels, Jeff Keppinger.

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Carlos Lee.

 

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Roy Oswalt, pitching coach Brad Arnsberg. And Chris Sampson.

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An outside view of the entrance at Yankee Stadium.

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A shot of the press box. You’ll notice Astros writers Brian McTaggart and Bernardo Fallas.

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It’s slightly ironic that the Astros are making their first trip to the Yankees’ new stadium this weekend, considering their first and only trip to the old one was this same weekend seven years ago.

Friday marked the seven-year anniversary of the six-pitcher no-hitter the Astros completed against the Yankees. The game that was historical on many levels and hysterical on still more, considering before it had even ended, speculation that George Steinbrenner was going to fire the hitting coach had already circulated around the press box and on the radio airwaves. Only in New York.

Three things stand out to me about that night more than any other:
1) Jeff Kent did not know it was a no-hitter until Billy Wagner told him once the last out was made. Kent, not exactly Mr. Congeniality to begin with, looked at Wags with an expression that was a combination of surprise, confusion and disapproval. Why in the world would Wagner pound his glove and then raise his fist in the air after closing out one of hundreds of games he’d appeared in by now? Kent: “What the heck are you doing?” Wags: “Dude. We just no-hit the Yankees.” Kent, breaking into huge grin: “Really?”

2) Octavio Dotel recorded four strikeouts during his inning of work, after one batter had reached on a wild pitch.

3) That night, Brad Lidge schooled some of his teammates on the historical meaning of what had just transpired. Lidge, a history buff, already knew plenty of obscure stats that put the no-hitter in perspective. The next day, he arrived with five or six more facts about the no-hitter that no one knew before. The guy was a walking encyclopedia. 

That brings us to the cool tidbit of the day, courtesy of media relations All-Star Sally Gunter: Two of the six Astros pitchers to contribute to the no-hitter seven seasons ago were in attendance at Friday’s game. Roy Oswalt was in the Astros dugout while former Astro Pete Munro (a native New Yorker) watched the game from the stands.

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Back to 2010…random tidbits from the pregame session with Brad Mills:

Carlos Lee will likely DH during Saturday’s game. A lot of you asked, rightfully, why Jason Michaels wasn’t playing left with Lee, with his shaky defense, isn’t DH-ing. Mills said Lee really wanted to play in left for at least the opener but would definitely DH for at least one game this series.

Matt Lindstrom had back spasms was unavailable to pitch during Thursday’s game in Denver. He felt better the next day in New York, but he was again deemed unable to pitch that night (which didn’t matter, since there was no save situation).

Consider Lindstrom day-to-day. Each day, Mills will check with him after he loosens up and throws during batting practice, and his availability will be decided before the game.

Radio announcer Milo Hamilton doesn’t travel with the team, but he makes exceptions when the Astros play in a  new ballpark that he’s never visited. Milo’s broadcast of the Astros-Yankees game on Friday marked the 58th different ballpark he’s called a game from.

Let the Castro watch begin.

Jason Castro reported to his first big league Spring Training camp last year relatively unnoticed, all things considered.

The club’s No. 1 Draft pick in ’08, Castro received the big league invite in ’09 not because he had a remote chance to make the club (he didn’t), but because the team told him if he handled his first professional season as well as expected, he would be welcomed to big league camp the following spring. Castro held up his end of the bargain, so the Astros held up theirs.

The stakes are different — higher, even — this year as Castro prepares for his second Major League Spring Training. Castro’s chances to make the club when camp breaks vary, depending on who you talk to. The cautious approach, which obviously protects the player, is to say simply that Castro will have a very real chance to make the club, but it’s more likely he’ll start the season at Triple-A and then work his way onto the big league roster at some point in 2010.

That’s all well and good and I do take that at face value, to a point. But we also see that the projected catchers this season are Humberto Quintero and J.R. Towles, and while they have value and merits in their own right, these are the same two catchers the Astros had last year when they scoured the free agent market for a stop-gap and landed on Pudge Rodriguez.

So, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to speculate that the Astros might outwardly feel that Castro will ease his way into the starting job eventually, but inwardly have every finger and toe crossed that Castro might just hit well, handle the pitching staff with ease and give the Astros no choice but to start him behind the plate on Opening Day.

It’ll be an interesting storyline come Feb. 20, when pitchers and catchers step onto those backfields at Osceola County Stadium for the first time (side note — morning workouts are open to the public and free. Gates will open about five minutes after the players hit the fields for stretching, which Brad Mills says will begin at 9:30 a.m.) I’ve been calling Castro the “future Astro,” but you have to wonder if that future just might arrive sooner than later (like, say, April 5 vs. the Giants).

Castro’s clearly ready for that line of questioning. He wore a hint of a grin when asked about it before the luncheon hosted by the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks, and it’s nice to see him take the speculation in stride.

“It’s definitely something I’ve thought about, obviously,” he said. “I’m very excited about it. But when I do get there and the time comes, it’s about producing on the field. I’ll get my work in, prepare myself to do that and hopefully I’ll be ready. That’s the main thing I’ll have my mind on — just playing.”

In the meantime, it was nice catching up with Castro on the very last day of the nine-day, 15-city, umpteen-mile caravan jaunt that has now drawn to a close. The traveling party — Larry Dierker, Milo Hamilton, Castro and Hunter Pence – visited southeastern Texas, where they visited Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi, greeted fans associated with the Double-A Hooks and mingled with kids from the Boys & Girls Club in Victoria. 

Enjoy the images, including a few from Wednesday’s trip to the Center for the Intrepid at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

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Driscoll Children’s Hospital

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Castro chats with Milo Hamilton during the Corpus Christi luncheon presentation.

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Castro, Pence sign autographs in Corpus.

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Pence took the young fans a bit off guard with his constant barrage of questions: “Did you have a good day at school today? Did you learn anything? How was recess?” This whole visit was a surprise for the kids at the Boys & Girls Club, so needless to say, most answers were in the form of wide-eyed, gaping nods.  

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Most of the kids loosened up by the end of the visit, however.

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One day earlier, another caravan traveling party wrapped up its three-day jaunt through Central Texas with a visit with soldiers at the Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio. Most of the patients there have lost limbs — mostly legs. Our guys didn’t know what to expect when they entered the facility, but it took no time at all before the conversations flowed freely. It was one of the few stops we made that when it was time to leave, no one wanted to.

Below: Matt Lindstrom 

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Bud Norris

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Lindstrom

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Group shot with Bagwell

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I love this one…Bagwell was asking so many questions that finally the young man just took off the prosthetic leg and handed it to him.

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One last group shot before we left.

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Central Texas Caravan, Day Two.

The Astros are currently in the midst of a nine-day caravan schedule that has them visiting more than a dozen cities, during which they stop by schools, sporting goods stores and other area stopping points.

No visits are more important, however, than the hospital visits, especially when children are involved.

The Astros spent about an hour and a half at the Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas on Tuesday, but everyone agreed that it probably should have lasted longer. It’s heartbreaking to see what these kids are going through, but heartwarming to see their faces light up when ballplayers walk into the room. It’s especially entertaining to watch a youngster as it dawns on him that yes, that was really Jeff Bagwell who shook his hand and introduced himself.  

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Other news and notes in Astroland:

Bud Norris loves the big leagues, but he still reflects fondly upon his Minor League years, especially when one certain special assistant to the general manager would roll through town for a couple of days.

“We’d see Bagwell lurking around, trying not to be noticed,” Norris said. “But as soon as we saw him, we knew: We were going to get a good dinner that night.”
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Speaking of Bagwell, he’s ready to go under the knife for another shoulder surgery, scheduled for Monday in Scottsdale, AZ.

He’s hoping to alleviate a lot of the pain that has not only returned, but appears to be getting worse.

The procedure will involve shaving the ball of his shoulder down to a perfect circle, drilling a hole in the middle and sticking a metal half-ball on top of it.

“They go into my shoulder and open it up — it won’t be arthroscopic, Bagwell said. “It’s actual surgery. They’ll take out all my bone spurs, there’s one big one in there that we’ve known about for a while.”

Read the full story, which includes more Bagwell insight, here.

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Park Patrol tryouts are scheduled for Feb. 5 from 4 to 7 p.m. CT and Feb. 6 from 9 a.m. to noon at Union Station. You might remember that the Park Patrol is an interactive squad that performs various home game duties, including t-shirt launches, prize giveaways and trivia contests while performing dance routines and “skits” with the Team Mascot.

Park Patrol members will perform these tasks LIVE in the stands, on ballpark concourses and will be featured on the stadium videoboard. They will also make appearances at season ticket holder events, Astros in Action Foundation events, and any approved event in connection with the Houston Astros.

To be considered for the Astros Park Patrol, please contact by phone or through e-mail to Dukeman Productions at 713-838-9855 or Kevin@dukemanproductions.com.

For more information, check out the Park Patrol page on Astros.com.

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