Results tagged ‘ Pedro Feliz ’

Random spring notes: Paulino, Wright and Ensberg. Yes, that Ensberg.

Somewhere along the way, we sort of lost track of Wesley Wright, who has been quietly going about his spring business out of the spotlight. That might be simply because reporters haven’t gotten around to writing about him yet — after all, there are about 45 days of spring features to write and still just under a month until Opening Day.

But Sunday morning before batting practice, manager Brad Mills talked a little about Wright. So let’s talk a little bit about him here, now.

Wright spent the last two seasons as a left-handed specialist but might be tested as a starter this spring. Mills said Wright will likely start a game coming up, possibly on one of the split-squad days that requires two starting pitchers instead of one. The Astros have split-squads scheduled for March 13, 16 and 21, so don’t be surprised to see Wright start one of those games.

“I’ll hold off making a lot of comments until we see how it goes,” Mills said. “But he’s definitely going to get his innings.”

At this point, I’m not considering Wright as a true contender for one of the five rotation spots coming out of Spring Training, but the Astros are definitely keeping their minds open while trying to figure out where Wright is best suited.

When the team got him from the Rule 5 draft a couple of years ago, I received many questions as to whether Wright could eventually be converted to a starter. I was told he was staying in the ‘pen because that’s where the club had the biggest need. But now, I think we can all agree the starting depth is thin, and there’s nothing wrong with at least considering Wright to fill the club’s needs there too. Wright had a nice showing as a starter during Winter Ball, so there’s probably no harm in testing him out this month.

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Meanwhile, Felipe Paulino, a sure-fire candidate for the starting rotation, will be getting his innings this spring, but not necessarily at the beginning of games. One standard practice during Spring training is for teams to “piggyback” two starting pitchers in the same game. You’ll see this quite often, because most teams have more than five candidates trying to make their rotation. Piggybacking allows for everyone to still pitch on regular rest.

Paulino and Wandy Rodriguez will both pitch Wednesday, and each is slated to go three innings. Rodriguez will go first, followed by Paulino, and a handful of relievers will absorb the final three innings.

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As a reporter, there were times that I enjoyed covering Morgan Ensberg and times that he made me want to pull my hair out.

Don’t get me wrong — Ensberg was everything a reporter would want in a player: talkative, intelligent, insightful, reflective. But there was one topic that would make Morgan clam up, and at times, it was simply infuriating.

I tried my best to write about things the fans wanted to know about, and from 2006 through ’07, fans wanted to know about Ensberg’s ever-changing batting stance. It was becoming increasingly obvious to just about the entire viewing public that the third baseman was struggling with looking, and feeling, comfortable at the plate.

So I asked. And asked. And asked again. Either he changed the subject, talked around it or was so vague that by the end of the conversation, I was more confused than when I first approached him. After a while, I gave up. It didn’t take a genius (thankfully) to figure out the guy simply didn’t want to talk about it.

But now, as a retired player, Ensberg is no longer avoiding the topic. He has started a blog — morganensberg.wordpress.com — and he’s touching on many interesting topics, many of which he didn’t want to discuss during his playing career. The blog is titled “Morgan Ensberg’s Baseball IQ,” which he hopes gives “solid fundamentally based strategy and teaching” insight into the game. “Each week I will teach you something about the game,” Ensberg writes. “Either at the professional or amateur level.”

I’m already fascinated by his insight. In explaining why communication is the key to success in baseball, he first quotes former Houston bench coach Jackie Moore: “Take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves.” Ensberg then goes on to say this:

“Trust me on this one. I changed my batting stance more times than I can remember and it was because I didn’t know what I was doing.

“In order to be great you have to be willing to fail. If you are afraid to fail then you won’t learn and you will have regrets.  The military says that if you don’t know what to do then take action.

“I didn’t take action. I was afraid to fail. I learned though and will be better next time.”

Ensberg has been retired from the game for about a year and he’s hoping to begin a career in broadcasting. When he was with the Astros, I always felt he would be successful with whatever he decided to do in his post-playing career, whether it was politics or coaching or broadcasting. As much as I liked him as a player, I had 100 times more respect for him as a person. That’s why I was delighted to see he started a blog.

In his most recent entry, he talks about how it ripped his heart in half to be booed by the Houston fans: “As a result, I no longer concentrated on the game and instead concentrated on not getting booed.”

Check it out. Interesting stuff.

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From batting practice at Disney Sunday:

Puma and Pence chat with MLB Network’s Peter Gammons.

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Pence works in the cage.

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First base coach Bobby Meacham and third baseman Pedro Feliz.

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Hanging in the dugout before BP…Berkman, Michaels.

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Spring Training locker assignments: who sits where?

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The Astros’ Spring Training locker room is basically sectioned off into two sides — one for the pitchers, and one for the position players. For the most part, they’re placed numerically, with a couple of exceptions.

For as long as I can remember, Roy Oswalt has always had the first locker when you walk into the clubhouse from the main hallway. I never understood why he wanted to a) be that close to people walking in and out and b) make himself that geographically accessible to the media, but I figured he had his reasons.

It dawned on me this morning that his area has a little more leg room than the rest, and considering this is how he passes the time in the early morning hours before workouts start, it makes perfect sense:

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On the other side of the clubhouse, position players are also lined up numerically, for the most part. One exception is this row, which has always been saved for what I like to call the “high rent district.” This year, it’s Berkman, Lee and Feliz. In the past, that row has been occupied by the likes of Bagwell, Biggio, Kent, Ausmus…you get the drift.

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Hunter Pence’s locker, and Hunter Pence.

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Bud Norris‘ locker is right next to Oswalt’s, which should make for some interesting dialogue as the spring wears on. Oswalt is a man of few words, and Norris…well, let’s say he’s a very conversational young chap.

That’s not to say Oswalt doesn’t have his chatty moments. He’s come a long way since his rookie year in 2001, a time that I refer to as his “deer in the headlights” phase. Players are usually unpolished when they get to the big leagues, and Roy was no exception. Who can forget the night he set the club rookie win record? With about eight cameras in his face, Roy was asked how it felt to pass Jim Deshaies for the rookie record. Oswalt: “Who’s Jim Deshaies?” J.D., who was standing nearby: “Guess I should probably introduce myself.”

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Other camp observations:

General manager Ed Wade is looking forward to watching Tommy Manzella man the shortstop position this year. Because Wade has been with the Astros only about two years, he’s had to rely on his staff to give their insight as to Manzella’s development.

“Our guys say he’s a tick above average in range, a tick above average in hands, and has an average arm,” Wade said. But the real selling point was this: “They said, if you had to get one more out in the ninth inning, you want the ball hit to Tommy Manzella,” Wade said. “I was told he’s been ready for about two years to play defensively in the big leagues. He definitely gives us solid range and a good arm. We’re going to miss Miggy (Miguel Tejada), but our range has improved with Tommy.”

Someone asked me what young player I’m most intrigued by this spring, and while Jason Castro is still first on my list, Manzella is a close second. I really wish Manzella had been given more playing time after he was called up last September, but I have to assume we’ll be watching him regularly when the Grapefruit League season starts next week.

One thing I like about spring games is watching the young guys play. They’re fast and have something to prove, so they really pour their energies into the games, whereas the veterans take is slower, knowing Spring Training is a time to get back in the swing of things without having to worry about winning or losing a job.

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I always consider the final day before position players arrive to Spring Training as the calm before the storm. Although plenty of position guys — about half of the squad — have already shown up and are working out regularly, they don’t hit the fields with the rest of the team until the first official workout, scheduled for Wednesday.

I anticipate a pretty busy morning, which will include (not necessarily in this order): a team-only meeting with manager Brad Mills, who will address his new club for the first time; a more expansive team meeting, which include a few words from owner Drayton McLane; and a media crush at the locker of one Lance Berkman, who apparently was due to arrive in Kissimmee at 5:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday. (Not sure why this mattered but it was reported as such by the Twitteratzi).

***UPDATE:*** Puma sighting at 5:30…right on time. Spring has officially sprung.

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And finally, good luck and congrats to Aaron Boooooooone, who is officially retired and has joined ESPN’s Baseball Tonight crew.

 

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