Saturday, March 21, 2009

Acknowledging an error

I found out today I have been mis-remembering information. So in the spirit of accountability, I must correct this wrong. In this piece, it's being noted that C4 Lou Palmisano was offered back to the Brewers, who owned his rights. I've been saying he would go back to the Orioles. That's not correct. The Orioles selected him in the Rule 5 draft, and traded him to the Astros. So he would go back to the Brewers if he didn't make the 25-man roster. Which was expected following Pudge's signing.

So the Astros offered him back to the Brewers, who are all set at catcher, and the Brewers said "No, thank you." Using context clues, Palmisano would have had to decline free agency, and has since been declined by the Brewers. That means the Astros can send him to the minors, where he will most likely head to Corpus Christi.

I'm actually very excited about this. Palmisano wasn't faring well, but is still a catcher in his mid-20s working his way through the system.

Lineup notes for Opening Day

JJO posted a blog on the potential Opening Day lineup, in which P-ez will bat 2nd tomorrow, "which might be where he'll hit this season for the Astros."

What does this look like then?
1. Matsui
2. Pudge
3. Berkman
4. Lee
5. Tejada
6. Pence
7. Johnson/Blum
8. Bourn

I'm only guessing on 7-8, but that's what I'm guessing would happen. Putting Bourn on 1st with less than two outs means a nice sac bunt puts him on 2nd with Matsui up. Then a base hit would pretty easily score Bourn. What do you think?

Within those notes, Wandy is named SP2, pitching on short rest next week lines Wandy up to start Gm2 on April 7 against the Cubs.

And Backe now must now hope the Astros don't release him, as he hasn't pitched since March 8 and will very clearly not be ready for Opening Day.

That's a win, and we may have our SP5

Edwin Maysonet answered the earlier post on the concern about his offense by hitting two jacks and a triple (5 RBI) against Roy Halladay and the Blue Jays, as the Astros won 9-7 after trailing 5-1. Lou Santangelo also went 2x4 with a homer.

The Astros collected 12 hits and did not, repeat did not commit an error.

Capellan threw five innings and gave up his first earned run of the Spring. Problem was, he also gave up four more earned runs after that first one on seven hits and a walk. Neal Musser threw one inning and gave up a walk. Alberto Arias threw two innings and struck out three, while Tim Byrdak let things get interesting in one inning giving up four hits and two earned runs with a strikeout.

"There were a few pitches that I left up in the zone and they took advantage," he said. "I feel good. Anybody can miss on a certain day. It was just that one bad inning. In the other innings I felt good and I was throwing the pitches where they called them."

Cecil Cooper, who still considers Capellan a strong candidate for the fifth spot, praised the righthander for rebounding well from the five-run inning with a scoreless frame in the fifth.

Excellent point. Capellan has thrown 17.2 innings this Spring, and has been scoreless for 16.2 of those. Even Coop says today doesn't really influence him one way or the other:

"You see what happened in the next inning," Cooper said. "He went right back out, and boom, boom, boom."

One important note on this SP5 question is that Russ Ortiz has a clause in the deal he signed with the Astros that allows him to opt out of his contract if he doesn't make the club out of Spring Training.

McTaggart updates his projected Opening Day roster

Blog post from Tags where he updates his projection for Opening Day roster. Regard:

Ivan Rodriguez
Humberto Quintero
The signing of Pudge pushes Lou Palmisano out the door. The question is if the Astros have seen enough to try to keep Palmisano in the organization somehow.

Lance Berkman
Kaz Matsui
Miguel Tejada
Chris Johnson
Geoff Blum
Jason Smith
I still see Jason Smith as the backup, especially with Tommy Manzella gone.

Carlos Lee
Hunter Pence
Michael Bourn
Jason Michaels
Darin Erstad

Roy Oswalt
Wandy Rodriguez
Mike Hampton
Brian Moehler
Russ Ortiz

Wesley Wright
Tim Byrdak
Chris Sampson
Geoff Geary
LaTroy Hawkins
Doug Brocail
Jose Valverde


I'm surprised that de la Vara wasn't included on this list - but again, I'm not sure who he would bump from that bullpen. After all, the bullpen is the only solid portion of the club that I feel pretty strongly about. And it'll be interesting to see what they do with Capellan and Backe.

We're now down to two for IF5

Since Tommy Manzella got sent down, IF5 is now down to Jason Smith and Edwin Maysonet. JJO points out David Newhan and Matt Kata are still in the mix, but are long shots to make the team.

“In my mind right now, it’s a two-man race at this point,” Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. “I think there’s two guys (Maysonet and Smith) that have kind of separated themselves a little bit, and primarily because they’re both shortstops. ... Kata plays short, but I don’t think he’s where those two guys are."

Offensively this isn't even a tough decision. Regard:
Smith: .441/.472/.647 - (15x34, with one double and three triples; 2BB:10K)
Maysonet: .154/.214/.231 - (2x11, with one double)

The sheer number of at-bats for Smith gives him the edge. But of course, if you're a starting baseball player, you have to play in the field, as well, which is where this race evens out.

Smith has played 69.1 innnings at second and short. At second, where - to be honest - is probably where IF5 would spend a lot of time due to Matsui's history, Smith had a 1.000 fielding percentage: 17 chances, 6 put outs and 11 assists. At short, it's not as pretty, and Coop has made it clear that he's looking at someone who can play short. In 44 innings, Smith has had 27 chances and committed three errors for an .889 fielding percentage. As a point of comparison, Adam Everett in 2006 played 149 games at short (1292.1 innings) and committed seven errors.

Maysonet has played 47 innings at second and short. At second, Maysonet is 5-for-6 (.833 FP) in 13 innings. At short, Maysonet is 15-for-16 - .938.

It's a toss-up, and Coop is hoping that they'll duke it out themselves over the next ten days.

Smith is hitting .441 this spring, but he must play better defense.

“We’ve talked about it,” Cooper said of Smith’s need to improve defensively. “We need to see some consistency with the glove.”

Maysonet’s chance also hinges on his defense.

“He needs to show me the glove,” Cooper said . “From what I understand, he’s a good glove man. I need to see it. Up until today, I had not. But today he made two sparkling plays.

“That’s what I need to see from him.”

But given the number of at-bats and innings Smith has been given, I'll give him the nod.

Stand-up rebuttal by Alyson Footer

In Alyson Footer's FootNotes blog, she takes some time to address Jon Heyman's column that included taking Ed Wade to task for lying to Footer. Note her rebuttal:

Ed Wade does not owe me an apology, because Ed Wade never lied to me. Let me say it again -- Ed Wade has never lied to me.


I have been working with him for a year and a half. I have had many candid conversations with him over time and the one thing he guaranteed me is that if I ever approached him with something regarding rumors -- as long as they weren't trade rumors, because it's against the rules for teams to comment on players under contract other teams -- if I was headed in the right direction, he would never flat out tell me I was wrong.

Now whether or not this is what's on her heart, or she's protecting a relationship with the General Manager of the club she covers, this is pretty stand-up. What's with all the Happy Journalism these days surrounding the P-ez signing?

Watch this if your bracket is completely shot

Andrew Dice Clay? No! Daisuke Matsuzaka and Roy Oswalt will square off at Dodger Stadium tomorrow (Sunday) night.

“It’s special,” Oswalt, who threw four scoreless innings against the Netherlands to stave off elimination Sunday, said via phone from Los Angeles. “I was thinking going into this round we were going to keep the same rotation where I was going to pitch the last game.”

Friday, March 20, 2009

Q&A With Astros County

The Unofficial Official asked Astros County some questions and posted it on his blog.

Fun questions and a great Astros blog, as well.

Another day, another...wait, what?

Hey a win! Russ Ortiz threw six shutout, one-hit innings with two strikeouts as the Astros have a one game winning streak with a 4-2 win over the Reds.

Sampson came in for two innings and gave up two hits with no runs and a strikeout. Fulchino got two outs, while Bud Norris got one out, but gave up two hits, two runs, a walk and a strikeout.

Berkman hit a two-run jack, while Newhan, Erstad, Matsui, Tejada, Blum, Abercrombie, Quintero and Ortiz added hits as well.

Russ Ortiz said this: "In this game you have to make adjustments," Ortiz said. "From last start to this start the whole time in between, I was just trying to make adjustments on the things that I needed to. I think most of it was just mental. Last game, I was trying to fix things while trying to get major league hitters outs. That's too hard to do. I was just working on the things I needed to and just going out there and just focusing on just attacking the zone."

JJO, the other Ortiz, said the following:
At this point, it would be surprising if Ortiz weren't the Astros' fifth starter.

Jose Capellan will pitch tomorrow to try to match Ortiz...

Words not designed to make Lou Palmisano feel better

It's part of a larger article about P-ez officially joining the Astros today.

Rodriguez's arrival pushes Humberto Quintero to the backup role and likely means J.R. Towles will start the season at Triple-A Round Rock. Rule 5 draftee Lou Palmisano also has little or no chance to make the club.


Today we bid adieu to Tommy Manzella and Brian Bogusevic. Bogusevic has been assigned to minor-league camp while Manzella was optioned to Triple-A.

"I'm relieved I'll get a little more playing time, so I can get ready for the season," Manzella said. "That's the only thing on my mind right now."

Meanwhile, Bogusevic appreciated the few chances he had to start:
"It was the three or four games, that I had a chance to start and play the whole game," Bogusevic said. "It's different when you come in the seventh or eighth inning and back a guy up. When you're in the lineup and you're playing the full nine [innings], it's kind of a different experience you're much more into it."

Yeah, there just isn't any way to know how this will shake out

Nice little sidebar in the Chronicle about the worst Spring Training records in the last 25 years, and yeah, no way of predicting.

The 1984 Cubs went 7-20 in Spring and ended up with a 93-69 record. The 1988 Braves went 8-21 in Spring and then went out and won 54 games the whole year.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Oh, for goodness' sake

J.R. Towles had the dumbest freaking injury of the Spring for the Astros...

Towles cut a finger on his left hand when he hit a fan in his Florida home. Towles was attempting to remove his shirt and hit the ceiling fan, striking the tip of his finger and nail. He was held out of the team's trip to Port St. Lucie, and is day-to-day. The Astros replaced Towles on the travel roster with 19-year-old Minor League catcher Rene Garcia, their 35th-round pick in last June's First-Year Player Draft.

Bad news all around

"Blummy," as he is ridiculously known, has soreness in his back.

Oh yeah, and they sucked it up again today, this time losing 12-1 to the Mets, managing just five hits. Two from Chris Johnson, one from Bourn, Erstad and Abercrombie.

Now for your pitching lines:
Wandy: 2IP, 3H, 5R (1ER), 2BB, 1K
Hensley: 2IP, 3H, 3R (1ER), 0BB, 2K
Graves: 1IP, 4H, 3ER
de la Vara: 1IP, 3H, 1R (0ER)
Byrdak: 1IP, 1H, 1K
Wright: 1IP, 0H, 0R

Notice all those unearned runs? Today we had two Es from Tejada, one from Wandy and one from Chris Johnson.

Let's rundown the errors made this spring:
Smith: 4
Tejada: 4
Abercrombie: 3
Maysonet: 2
Newhan: 2
Backe: 1
Berkman: 1
Blum: 1
Bourn: 1
Fulchino: 1
Gall: 1
Johnson: 1
Kata: 1
Lee: 1
Manzella: 1
Wandy: 1
Saccomanno: 1
Wright: 1

That's 28 errors in 20 games. 124 runs given up, only 94 of them earned. 30 unearned runs. Who has been the "beneficiary" of these gifts to the opposite team? Moehler has six unearned runs; Wandy, Wesley, and Brad James have four.

Miggs gets some good news

He won't be spending time in the pokey, according to a recommendation from a federal prosecutor:

A federal prosecutor recommended Thursday that Tejada receive probation and no prison time for misleading Congress about the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

U.S. Attorey Jeffrey Taylor said this:
“Mr. Tejada poses a minimal risk of recidivism and, based on his public statements, appears to have learned a difficult and important life lesson from his experience in this case. He is entitled to an appropriate amount of credit for this.”

Yay! Pudge is here!

So P-ez arrived today to perform his physical, though he is not expected to join the Astros until Sunday because of a "previous commitment."

Out of curiosity, I want to know what kind of previous commitments a free-agent catcher looking for a team got himself into at the end of March.

Ed Wade could find himself in another headlock this season

This time, from's Jon Heyman. Check it out:

This isn't the fault of the reporter, Alyson Footer, who did the right thing by confronting Wade, who proceeded to do the wrong thing by denying pursuit during mid-pursuit. There appears to be no wiggle room here for Wade, either, since it had already been reported at least here that the Astros desired Rodriguez. That was not a guess, either. I should have an idea what's going on with Pudge since he lives three doors down my block in Miami.

It didn't bother me that Wade denied what was written here. But now that he has signed Pudge for $1.5 million plus incentives, he owes an apology to Footer, who had the professionalism to praise him for the move even after he led her astray. For his own sake Wade should also rethink this strategy, because when you're caught telling big fat ones like this, folks tend not to trust you in the future.

More possible 3Bs

According to Jayson Stark, he's going along with the thought that 3B1 is Chris Johnson's/Geoff Blum's to lose. However, should both of them lose it, Stark is tossing out some more possible names:

Juan Uribe (Giants) - 30-year old career .253/.295/.423 and K:BB ratio is about 3:1.
Jose Bautista (Blue Jays) - 28, .239/.324/.398 last year for the Pirates
Jeff Baker (Rockies) - 27, utility infielder, hit .268/.322/.468 in 299 ABs last year.

Neyer takes a shot at the mystery third baseman, and says mean things about our hot corner

Rob Neyer took a shot at who may be the mystery third baseman. But then he realized it could be anybody, and then threw these names out there:

I realized it could be just about anyone, including (but not limited to) Mark Teahen, Adrian Beltre, Chone Figgins, Melvin Mora and Dallas McPherson.

I'll give the edge to Melvin Mora, because he's an Oriole, and Wade and MacPhail are working on trading the entire organizations to each other by Opening Day 2012.

Ha. Teahen is interesting, because he's 27 and 3B2 on the Royals' depth chart behind Alex Gordon. Figgins is 31, but is currently the Angels' 3B1 with Brandon Wood breathing down his neck. Dallas McPherson is a 28-year old lefty, but is 3B2 with the Marlins behind Jorge Cantu.

Then this parting shot:
I'm not wild about the Astros' chances this season. Too many out-makers in the lineup, not enough sure things in the rotation. But it seems to me if you're going to bring Pudge Rodriguez aboard, you might as well try to find a third baseman who can actually hit.

Hang on, a thoughtful, well-conceived preview from an independent source?

Baseball Daily Digest previewed the Astros, and guess what? It was really good.

Just an excerpt on what to expect:

Best Case Scenario…

Either they start out on fire and add some veteran talent at the trade deadline to make a serious improbable run or they stumble out of the gate and dismantle the nucleus of the team… either one gives them a direction.

Worst Case Scenario…

Another mediocre year and late surge keeps the Astros close enough to think it’s not worth blowing up their aging roster. The long, painful process of restocking their depleted Minor League system is put off for yet another year.

Breakthrough Performance…
Wandy Rodriguez

This one is tough. Wandy’s health is a concern but he has the ability to develop into a solid No. 2. Originally, the pick was going to be Bourn but after his ‘08 let down, Rodriguez feels like the safer choice.

Ready to Rebound…
Mike Hampton

Hampton is due, isn’t he? Hampton’s return last season was once again hampered by injuries but let’s go out on a limb and predict Hampton to throw 150 innings this year. He can do that and still make one trip to the DL.

Ready to Disappoint…

[Insert Houston Catcher Here]

Pick one. Even “Pudge” is someone to be wary of at 37. Beyond Rodriguez, expect mediocre play from Quintero which is good compared to what permanent disappointment Towles will do IF he gets the opportunity.

Don’t Be Surprised If…

The Astros don’t throw in the towel and linger in the middle of the division and make another late season run as other teams begin looking toward 2010.

Be Shocked If…

Wade only moves a veteran player out of necessity “selling low”. His hand was forced as GM in Philadelphia to move Curt Schilling and Scott Rolen and both moves were busts. Moving Lidge last year was considered necessary and so far, the Phillies seem the better for it.

Can someone please stick to a story

So disregard this entire story, where the idea of platooning Johnson and Blum is discounted.

This is the latest info from JJO:
The Astros might search the trade market to replace Boone, but prospect Chris Johnson also will be given the opportunity to at least see if he can platoon with Geoff Blum.

Meanwhile, Tags says this:
Johnson, one of the club's top prospects, was a longshot to make the club with Boone and Geoff Blum splitting time at third base, but things have changed. Johnson has been impressive this spring and could wind up as the starter, with Blum serving in the super sub role he held last year.

So who knows?

If you know cops in Galveston who suddenly have time off, and make you pick up the check, there's your clue

Nine GPD officers were suspended without pay due to their involvement in a "fracas," a word you only hear in hockey, at a Galveston wedding in which our SP6 was arrested back in October.

What does that mean for Backe's charges?
The status of his case could not be determined on Wednesday night.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Let's try to make some sense of this infield

Here's what we know:

1B: Lance Berkman
2B: Kaz Matsui
SS: Miguel Tejada
C: Ivan Rodriguez

There will be no platooning Chris Johnson and Geoff Blum. Someone is going to win that job. If they take one or the other, there's a fourth infielder position available. Chris Johnson has cooled off. Jason Smith has a hot bat, but gives it back with defensive mistakes. Tejada has indicated a willingness to move to third, but that doesn't really help anything at all, because there are at least Triple A-ready players at both third and short, and because Tejada would be taking ABs from Blum (should he win the job). But the point is that moving Tejada to third is paying Paul with Peter's coin. Drew Sutton has been mentioned as a possibility.

Make sense? So what do you do?

The Most Stand-Up Thing I've Read All Year

John Perrotto, whose musings led to the speculation that the Astros were about to sign Pedro, and that was the factor behind the press conference this morning.

I'm going to reprint his entire post here, but the comments below the story are as excellent, so please click the link and read it:

Let’s get this straight right off the top: I was wrong, way wrong about Pedro Martinez being on the verge of signing as a free agent with the Astros.

You come to this site expecting to be informed, entertainined and sometimes amused. Most of all, you want accurate information that cuts through so much of the BS that is out there these days.

Unfortunately, I did not cut through enough of it last night when I posted an item here on Unfiltered that said Martinez was Houston-bound. I caught wind of the possibility Martinez was going to sign with the Astros early in the evening and it kept getting stronger and stronger the more I checked it out. I felt so strongly that the information was correct that I went with it. As it turned out, the sources I checked it with had also been the recipient of misinformation.

The Astros held a press conference this morning at their spring training camp in Kissimmee, Fla., but it wasn’t to announce the signing of Martinez. Instead, it was the sad news that classy veteran infielder Aaron Boone’s season is over because he will need heart surgery.

I would love to be able to write this off as easily as saying you win some and lose some. That’s not the case, though. As a reporter, you’re No. 1 responsibility is to get the story right.

I didn’t do that and, to you the readers, I apologize.


I know I do a lot of phrase-turning, and joking around, but this is precisely what I shoot for - complete accountability, and being willing to admit when I'm way off (see the post recounting my prognostications on Pudge). John Perrotto is the Patron Taint of Astros County.

Someone thinks the Pudge signing is a good idea

And that someone is Cameron Smith, of the Washington Post.

Rodriguez is more than just an upgrade at catcher, he's a player who immediately puts the Astros in the mix for the Wild Card or Division race, assuming they stay healthy.

Holy crap - is positive outlook?

There are third basemen available, but I was right...kind of

Apparently shortly after Aaron Boone's press conference, some opportunistic GM called Easy Eddie saying they had a 3B available.

"The kid is going to play, and so is Blum," Cecil Cooper said. "The same two guys are going to continue to play, Blum and Johnson. We'll see what they do."

Although this will not be a platoon situation

Before we get any Letters to The Constable asking what a pudge is, or who the kid is, the kid is Chris Johnson.

In fact, let's break down everybody's nickname, as seen on Astros County:
Run-DMc: Drayton McLane
Easy Eddie: Ed Wade
Miggs: Miguel Tejada
Line Drive of Love: Jason Michaels
The Kid: Chris Johnson
P-ez (pronounced "Pez"): Pudge Rodriguez, because he is an abbreviation of his former self.

"If we think there's a need at the end (of camp), there's going to be guys available," Wade said. "I got a call today from a club that's got a guy that they want to make available so if we have the need. We know what Blum's capable of doing and we like what CJ's shown so far. We'll let them play and see what happens."

Meat Wagon: Hunter Pence will be held in a limited role because of what is now considered a strained calf, not a jacked-up knee. He should be ready by the weekend.

And now that the USA dropped Puerto Rico like 3rd period French, P-ez should be taking his physical anytime now, and joining the Astros in camp.

Another day, another loss

That's getting old, huh? Astros lost to the Yankees, again late, 4-1 as Mike Hampton impressed by giving up four hits, no runs, and striking out two in five innings against the Yankees.

Jason Smith hit a triple and a single, but also committed his 4th error of the spring - something that doesn't bode well for his status as IF5.

"Those are people that are fighting for utility roles, and nobody's distinguishing themselves," Cooper said of Kata, Smith and Newhan. "I keep calling them out, but nobody seems to step up. That's all I can tell you. We need somebody to step up, and nobody is stepping up."

Blum, Lee and Berkman accounted for the other three hits. In addition to Hampton's performance, Valverde threw a scoreless inning - walking one, while Geary and Brocail gave up the Yankees four runs.

Geary: 2IP, 4H, 2R (0ER), 2K
Brocail (L): 1IP, 2H, 2ER, 1BB, 1K

So...what now?

When one-half of your platoon goes down for the year, do you still have a platoon? I doubt Cecil Cooper has given too much thought to it. But I have.

Geoff Blum hasn't received more than 400 ABs in a season since 2003. This opens up another infield spot, and I'm going to guess it goes to Chris Johnson. Blum crack-a-lacked 14 homers in a limited role, partially due to Ty Wigginton's arrival (who, it seems, might have been worth holding on to, particularly if the Astros knew Boone had a heart concern). To be fair, Wigginton signed at the price he did because the Astros did not offer him arbitration. We're talking about a difference in $5-6 million, so there were larger forces at work.

So hopefully this forces the Astros to start towards giving the young guys a chance. Meaning if the Astros sign Vinny Castilla, I'm going to claw my eyes out. If Blum gets his 325-400 ABs, that means there are between 200-250 ABs open at third base, which, hopefully, would go to Chris Johnson. Blum has hit 67 of his 85 career homers and has a .393 SLG as a left-handed hitter (he goes both ways. Stop it.) So if Johnson picks up those at-bats, we have a platoon again.

Which then opens up another back-up infield spot, and I would give the nod to Jason Smith at this point. So far this spring he's hitting .448 (13x29)/.484/.629. And he's a lefty who has played every infield position.

More on Boone

I feel bad for Aaron Boone, but it's not a life-or-death situation, thankfully.

“I have been diagnosed with a heart condition involving my aorta and aortic valve,” he said. “I’ll need surgery to correct the problem. Initially my doctors thought I could delay corrective surgery for some time, but because of some variations in my condition, they are now advising me to deal with the problem sooner rather than later. Am I going to recover well enough to play baseball again? Probably. Will I play baseball again? I don’t know at this time. We’ll cross that bridge when I get there.”

Again, glad to hear that it doesn't appear too serious - though any time open-heart surgery is involved, it's going to be serious. Boone - and the Astros, apparently - had known about the condition since his days at USC.

Boone out for season

+1 to Alyson Footer for having it first that Aaron Boone has a heart condition that requires surgery, ending his season.

Does that open the door for Chris Johnson? More later.

I promise to be more careful, too.

Great letter to the editor from the Hampton Roads (VA) Daily Press:

Roy: "Pudge near one-year Astros deal." That was a headline on Page 2 of the Sports section on Tuesday. I read the story twice (for some reason it caught my eye, but I don't care for baseball anymore). For those of us not in the know, what is a "pudge"?

Editor: You probably could have figured out that Pudge was the player signing a deal with the Astros, Ivan Rodriguez. But we shouldn't have made you work quite that hard. We should be careful about using nicknames in headlines (A-Rod probably makes the cut). When we do it, we should clarify in the story (Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez).

A couple of things about this story.
1. This gentle reader, rather than Googling "What is a pudge" or maybe adding "Astros" to that Google search, actually wrote a letter to the editor.

2. I think that, if you're reading Page 2 of the Sports Section, it's fair game.

3. Were there not enough context clues from the story to put it together that maybe "Pudge," despite it being capitalized due to its sentence structure, may be referring to the actual person who signed a one-year deal with the Astros?

Here's a link to the story in question. And here's the lead sentence:

The Houston Astros and catcher Ivan Rodriguez are closing in on a $1.5 million, one-year contract, a person familiar with the talks told The Associated Press on Monday.

Seeing as how journalists generally don't make fat jokes in the headlines, this is high comedy. Thanks, Hampton Roads!

If this happens, we can never take Ed Wade for his word again

Alyson Footer ran her own rebuttal to Baseball Prospectus' news last night that the Astros were on the verge of signing Pedro:

The subject of that announcement continues to remain a mystery, but the Astros have confirmed two things: It has nothing to do with the pending signing of Pudge Rodriguez, and it most definitely has nothing to do with Martinez.

And this, from Easy Eddie's mouth:
"We have had zero conversations with Pedro. I have absolutely no idea where that is coming from."

As I thought with Pudge, I can't see the Astros signing Pedro. I know you can't have too much starting pitching, but Ortiz and Capellan have effectively pushed Backe out the door. Roy is SP1, Wandy SP2, Hampton SP3, Moehler SP4, and Ortiz/Capellan SP5. It would have been unfathomable to say this five years ago, but I'm not so sure Pedro could get it done. The Red Sox once again looked like geniuses by letting him go to the Mets, and "injury-plagued" is a polite way to put Pedro's medical history.

He's not going to eat as many innings as Moehler will, and I think Moehler might actually be more effective.

Ortiz and Capellan ready to duel to the death

In non-Pudge/Pedro news, Russ Ortiz and Jose Capellan are ready to duel for SP5 in the rotation. Or if the Astros sign Pedro, they're ready to participate in somewhat meaningless activities.

Ortiz will pitch Friday, Capellan Saturday, and someone's getting bumped out of deference to getting Roy back on his schedule for Opening day.

“They’re going to just continue to go on a regular routine,” Cooper said. “Each one has his own day, and they will continue to go on those times.”

And in Meat Wagon news, Alberto Arias is feeling better and threw a light bullpen session after getting cracked on the knuckles by a Hideki Matsui line drive.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Perhaps a hint to tomorrow

Thanks for the heads-up to The Unofficial Official for this tidbit, backed up by Tom Perrotto:

"The Astros are on the verge of signing a potential Hall of Famer as a free agent for the second team in a week as baseball sources indicated Tuesday night that they are close to an agreement with right-hander Pedro Martinez."

No words.

UPDATE: JJO's blog post from this evening...

There's a report that Pedro Martinez is close to signing with the Astros. That's not true. "We've absolutely had no discussions on this front," Ed Wade just told me. "We've had zero discussions." Some of you are wondering if Drayton McLane will fire somebody. In my conversation with McLane this evening, I asked him some of the things you've asked. Here's a quick rundown.

Are you selling the team? "No," he said.
Are you firing anybody? "No," he said.
Are you hiring anybody or signing anybody? "No," he said.

But this is an announcement in which McLane felt pretty confident that it will stay quiet before it is made. If it leaks, McLane says he will be very angry, so it's clear the Astros brass knows they don't want this to get out in the public before the press conference.

From Ken Gurnick, who regularly covers the Dodgers for

"Manny Ramirez said he called Martinez on Sunday morning after hearing media reports that Martinez might be coming to the Dodgers.

"He said he has two options," said Ramirez. "I don't know what he's going to do. He has to do what's best for him."

Gurnick is reporting that Pedro's asking price is (or "was") a Smoltzian contract: $5.5 million guaranteed with at least that much in incentives.

I'll tell you this much, there's no way the Astros are going to pay that much for Pedro. If his price comes down, maybe. Who the heck am I to say?

Those Astros are such teases

According to Alyson Footer, the Astros will hold a major news conference tomorrow morning at 9:45am EST. Drayton is on his way! They didn't say what it's about, except to say...

" has nothing to do with the pending signing of Ivan Rodriguez."

So much for the mere mention of Pudge injecting life into the Astros bats

Bogusevic, Michaels and Bourn each got a hit in 11 innings as the Astros apparently think they're playing soccer, and thus get a point for a tie.

Eight Astros played today with batting averages under .200:
Matsui (.054), Santangelo (.143), Bourn (.186), Lee (.050), Blum (.069), Quintero (.167), Michaels (.190), Mayonset (.182)

For the pitchers:
Moehler (impressively): 5IP, 4H, 0ER, 1BB, 3K
Sampson: 1IP, 1BB
Norris: 1IP, 1BB, 2K
de la Vara: 1IP, 1H, 1ER
Fulchino: 2IP, 1H, 1BB, 1K
Paronto: 1IP, 1H, 2K

Bourn stole two bases, making that six, and Pence stole his 2nd SB of the Spring. Maysonet had the lone Astros error.

There are times to praise, and there are times to be quiet.

Carlos Lee knows when those times are.

A day after the Pudge made a verbal commitment to the Astros, those self-same Astros were a little more restrained, so as not to make Q fall apart.

Except for Miguel Tejada, who's a short-timer:
“Without trying to discredit our young catchers because they have a lot of talent, but let’s recognize Pudge Rodriguez for who he is. You saw what he did in Florida and you saw what he did in Detroit. Let’s hope he does the same thing here and help change our direction.”

Towles was admirably restrained:
“The Astros are going to have to do something with the catcher’s situation, so that will be interesting to see,” Towles said. “Definitely Pudge is a good guy to have on the team. He’s got a lot of experience. He’s like a 13-time something Gold Glover and a 14-time All-Star or whatever it is. So he’s definitely done some things in his career that a lot of people wish they could do. I think he’ll be definitely a good addition to the team. Hopefully if I’m around him I can learn a little something from him.”

Hunter Pence hurt himself, but doesn't know how

Hunter Pence left in the 4th inning today, but isn't really sure why:

He wasn't sure how he suffered the injury, but he guessed he hit Tigers catcher Matt Treanor's shins and then got his spikes stuck on the ground when he rolled over to score.

Sayonara, Felipe Paulino!

Felipe Paulino has been optioned to minor league camp after allowing seven earned in five innings.

"What Paulino needs more than anything else is innings," Cooper said. "When you miss a whole year you need innings. We sent him over there with the idea he's going to start and just get innings. He'll build up and get innings."

What did Astros County's coverage of the Pudginess look like?

Feb 12: Alyson Footer, Tim Dierkes and I all agree that the Astros are fine trying to settle two catcher spots among four catchers. And $2.5 million is about $2 million too expensive for a catcher, even if it's Pudge.

Feb 13: I would still be very surprised if this happens...

Feb 16: The Marlins and Astros are at their budget (obviously), while Pudge is looking for $3 million. I guess that takes the Astros out of it.

Feb 23: ...unless Pudge comes down to League Minimum, it ain't happening and the Astros will gamble on Quintero and Palmisano paying off.

Mar 13: Did you ever have a friend who smelled bad? But they didn't realize they smelled bad? That's how I feel the sports media is treating the Astros regarding the position that sits behind home plate...

Mar 14: I do wonder if the rest of the Astros' anemic showing so far this spring is what's causing this rumor to simply not die. If everyone else was killing the ball, maybe the Astros would be content to let it ride.

Consistent to the end.

This makes more sense

Alyson Footer is reporting the following:

The 37-year-old Rodriguez is expected to sign with the Astros, pending a physical exam that will be taken upon the completion of Puerto Rico's participation in the World Baseball Classic.

So updating my previous rant, the contract won't become official until Pudge is done with the WBC.

I guess McTaggart has been talking to Justice

In a nice little about-face, Richard Justice is singing a slightly different tune.

It goes as such:
1. Pudge is old.
2. The Astros kind of stink.
3. Drayton got nervous about empty seats.

So is Pudge a Band-Aid for a team with a broke neck? Here's the thing - we don't know how this is going to shake out for a few months. Is it interesting? Sure, because it's better than talking about how the Astros haven't won a Spring Training game since February 25. Is it risky? Of course. There may be a very good reason a Boras client wasn't signed until March 16.

Stone cold locks don't go unsigned until March 16. But we just don't know. If maybe we all take a step back and look at this objectively, who would you rather have behind the plate in 2009: Quintero, Towles or Palmisano? Or Pudge? Castro is clearly the catcher of the future (unless he shows up and goes 1x17 in 2010), so this is obviously just a stop-gap, $1.5 million signing until Bobby Heck's farm system kicks in.

Monday, March 16, 2009

And now a word from the Resident Contrarian

It took a while, but McTaggart weighs in:

An excerpt:
Great, the Astros got even older with the apparent signing of Ivan Rodriguez. I'm sure this is making you fans pretty darn jolly. You guys have been pleading for the signing of Pudge and Pedro Martinez for weeks. Haven't you seen enough of old catchers and pitchers the last few years? Even Brad Ausmus would think Pudge is washed up.

In 96 at-bats with the Yankees in 2008, Pudge hit .219 with two homers and three RBIs. The only reason I know this is because Astros general manager Ed Wade was pointing out these same stats the other day when asked why his club wasn't interested in Pudge. He also said the Astros have faith in their young catchers. So one of those things have happened:

1. The Astros no longer have faith in their young catchers.

2. Drayton McLane was tired of hearing fans demand he sign Pudge and he finally told Wade to do it, unaware of Pudge's putrid numbers with the Yankees.

Whatever the case, I agree that Pudge should be an upgrade at catcher over whichever player was going to hold down the starting job. The problem is the Astros, like any team, are only going to go as far as pitching will take them. Pudge might mean a few extra wins here for a mediocre team, but I don't seem them catching the Cubs in the NL Central or the NY Mets or Philadelphia Phillies for the wild card.

The Astros are first in something

Nice link from CM showing the average age of Major League rosters. Click it. Go on. Now scroll down. Scroll waaay down. There you go, oldest team in the Majors at 29.9 years old.

Basically 30.

Let's break this down. Who is older than 30 on this team?

Matt Kata
Roy Oswalt
Jason Smith

Geoff Geary
Carlos Lee
Jason Michaels

Lance Berkman
Toby Hall
Kaz Matsui
Chad Paronto

Darin Erstad
Russ Ortiz
Miguel Tejada

Geoff Blum
Tim Byrdak
Danny Graves
David Newhan

Aaron Boone
Mike Hampton
LaTroy Hawkins

Ivan Rodriguez

Doug Brocail

See? It's not that bad. There are a lot of guys on this list who will not be on this list come April 6. Let's revisit, shall we?

Saturation, Run-into-the-ground coverage continues at Astros County

You know what I was thinking? Apparently the Astros are allowing Pudge to finish up the WBC. Are you kidding me? Get that guy to Kissimmee before he blows out his knee.

Projecting Pudge

Over at Rodriguez's FanGraphs page you can find how five baseball prognosticators project the 2009 season. Let's see for Pudge (and remember, I doubt this has been updated to the NL Central). I'm showing two of my preferred guys:

Bill James: 126H, 26 2B, 2 3B, 11 HR, 53 R, 52 RBI, .283/.320/.425 Avg/OBP/SLG
CHONE: 118H, 23 2B, 2 3B, 10 HR, 53 R, 46 RBI, .260/.295/.386

Now let's regard Humberto Quintero:

James: 68H, 15 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 25 R, 28 RBI, .256/.288/.365
CHONE: 71H, 15 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 29 R, 31 RBI, .245/.287/.355

Of course, Pudge is projected to play 120-130 games. Q was projected at 75-90.

What do some of your fellow Astros fans think?

Comments from the Chronicle's coverage of the Pudge signing. These people share your team.

I can see it now. "There's a bunt halfway down the third base line. Pudge and Boone are chasing it. They're still chasing it. Still. Still. Ohhhhh, their walkers got tangled up together. No throw. Runner safe at third."

Humphh. He's 37 and ready for pasture, and probably just tested for 'roids. Those are the two qualifications that Wade looks for.

Also, the oldest roster in the major leagues just got a little older.
(Shouting theirs)

Oh yea, sign a 37 year old catcher who brings almost nothing to the pathetic offense the team has. Nice going Drayton.

Wait a minute. It isn't April Fool's Day is it? Did I sleep an extra two weeks last night? I can't believe McLame would actually open his wallet this year! Of course, I wouldn't trust Scott Boras as for as I could throw him.

So are they going to wheel him out to home plate? Good lord, he'll need an assited living nurse to help him put on his catcher's gear.

Nothing against Pudge but the stros are not a playoff team with or without him. Uncle Fetus save dole and cut beer prices instead. Surveys has showed attendance will increase with cheaper beer prices.

Now we just need a picture to throw to the catcher (that's sic'ed, friends).

Pudge and Towles

A little later, when I can find a little more time, we'll look at the projections for Pudge over Q and Towles. However, faithful Citizen Spruce had this to say:

"I think I like this move. I hope it injects a little life into what seems to be a lifeless team. I wasn't truly excited about any of the four C options coming into camp, so sending them off in different directions doesn't bother me a whole lot.

I do have a question about Towles. If Castro is our guy of the future, what does that mean for JR? Does he become our career Round Rock starter? That sounds thrilling."

I honestly have no idea what it means for Towles. If Quintero struggles, maybe there's a switch. But I think between Quintero and Towles, Towles gets the C3. I do think Easy Eddie couldn't have been happy with his four catchers coming in. It clearly wasn't a best-case scenario. And who I thought would get the C1, Toby Hall, jacked up his arm within 30 seconds of coming to camp.

I do think this means Palmisano is headed back to Baltimore. Remember, because of his Rule 5 status, if he doesn't make the 25-man roster all season long, he goes back to his original team.

I'm with Spruce in that I'm interested in the impact the Pudge signing will have on the Astros. Tomorrow's game will be interesting. If they come out swinging and throw 10 on the board, maybe this is exactly what they needed.

Roy said this:
"It’s going to help us out for sure. Hopefully we can work together a little bit at the end of spring and get going. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. The guy’s got a lot of experience and I think it will work out pretty well for us."

Quintero is back to C2, but at least will not likely be sent to Round Rock, where Towles and Esposito/Santangelo seem to have C3 and C4/C5 on lock-down until Castro (C3a) makes his way through. The fact that the Astros drafted Castro last June shows that they were probably hedging their bets on Towles. At the very least, they've given both Quintero and Castro another year to develop and learn. And honestly, if the difference between a .220-hitting catcher and a .280 hitting catcher is $1.5 million, why the heck not? It's not our money.

And bringing it around to Spruce's question - What does it mean for Towles? Is he trade-bait? I don't know. I doubt it, because clubs wouldn't exactly be buying high. Is his standing within the organization diminished? Absolutely it is. But he'll be the first called up if Pudge or Q gets hurt. It's not an ideal situation for him, but keep in mind, had any of three catchers stepped up and hit some baseballs far and/or at least often, there's no way Pudge signs.

This certainly puts a dent in the "Drayton McLane only wants to make money" argument. Although, if the Astros cut Backe by 2pm April 1, there's your $1.5 million - robbing Brandon to pay Pudge.

It's almost done

Alyson Footer is reporting that the Pudge signing is almost a done deal. This would be for $1.5 guaranteed and an additional $1.5m in bonuses.
I have to admit: I'm very surprised by this turn of events. Should this go through, what does it mean? Probably that Quintero is C2, Towles heads to Round Rock and Palmisano heads back to Baltimore.

Seeing as how there's a holding pattern until Castro is ready in 2010, Pudge is your bridge and Roy likes throwing to Q.

I need some more time to digest this. What are your thoughts?

Rumors swirl...

Nice heads up from Citizen Aaron with a link to a story that the Astros are "in serious talks" with Pudge . More later.

Roy is "gutsy" - as if you didn't know

Roy got the win vs. the Netherlands last night, who were starting to look like the 75-76 Reds. It was a "gutsy" performance, as if there are other words to describe SP1.

So the final line last night: 4IP, 5H, 0ER. Faced 17 batters, got 12 out - 4 groundouts, 3 flyouts, 5 strikeouts. 70 pitches, 49 for strikes.

It's also worth noting his fastball touched 93 in the first inning and in the 2nd he threw a 67 mph curve with a 17" break (according to MLB Gameday). Nasty.

Hampton is not a horse

PIn an interview between Alyson Footer and Cecil Cooper, Cooper had some things to say about the 2009 season - not so much the 2009 Astros Spring Training.

-"Brandon [Backe's] kind of a big concern, but other than Brandon, I am pretty happy with the health of everybody. But let's hope it continues. We have to get through the next three weeks first."

On having Roy Oswalt in the rotation:
-"I'm very happy to have that one horse that you can count on. It would be great if we had two or three, but it is a good feeling knowing you have that, you've got that one anchor you can go to."

-Mike Hampton is the biggest key for Coop.

-Defense and veteran leadership are the two biggest strengths.

On the offseason:
-I kept hoping we'd find some money somewhere, to reach out to these guys. It didn't happen and we know why it didn't happen. It was definitely a roller coaster for me. One day, I thought there was a good chance late in the year, the early part of the offseason, that there was a chance we'd pick a couple guys. There were some names thrown around -- [Ben] Sheets, [Derek] Lowe, some of those names thrown around -- then all of a sudden, there was one guy [Randy Wolf], then, nobody. Am I disappointed? A little bit. But you've got to deal with the cards you've been dealt."

Sunday, March 15, 2009

In not-quite-a-stunner...

I think we all saw this coming, but Clay Hensley is officially out of the running for SP5 and is now a Bullpen candidate. And given that the bullpen is pretty much set, it's not looking good for Hensley.

More Sayonara!

Some guys were sent to minor-league camp today. So sayonara (and see you later) to:

IFs: Drew Sutton, Mark Saccomanno
Ps: Polin Trinidad, Tyler Lumsden, Sam Gervacio
OF: Yordany Ramirez

Coming from JJO, who did an excellent job in this one, reported on what Coop said about each of those players sent down...

Lumsden (who is shifting to the Bullpen)
"We like his stuff. We just need him to be more consistent and trust his stuff in the strike zone."

"He's going to go hopefully in the rotation and we'll give him a chance to start at Round Rock and see where he goes."

"It's as good as you can get at the major league level from that sidearm-type delivery. He's going to be a bullpen guy for us. It might be sooner rather than later."

"We know he can play the outfield and we know he can run. ... There's not many guys that can defend as good as him. He needs to work on making more contact and using his legs, putting the ball on the ground and bunting more. Just work on making better contact."

Sutton (who will focus on playing 2B)
"I was impressed with his patience at the plate and his idea of the strike zone, which is what I thought coming in."

Someone just...make it stop

Another day, another L - that's how we do. This time, though at least we had a lead, but lost it in the 8th inning, and lost to the Braves 3-2.

A couple of positives: Jose Capellan threw 4.2 scoreless and gave up four hits. That runs his ER-less streak to 9.2 innings this spring. JJO says SP5 is now between Russ Ortiz and Jose Capellan.

After today, here's how the stats stand:
Ortiz: 0-1, 11.1IP, 13H, 7ER, 7BB, 10K, 5.56 ERA, 1.77 WHIP, .432 SLGA, .396 OBA
Capellan: 0-0, 9.2IP, 7H, 0ER, 0BB, 7K, 0.00 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, .235 SLGA, .229 OBA

Back to today's loss, Tejada and Erstad had two hits each while Santangelo and Capellan added one each.

In addition to Capellan's strong outing...
Paulino: 1IP, 1H
Graves: 1IP, 0H
Byrdak: 1IP, 4H, 3ER (and the L)
Wright: .1IP, 1H