Friday, March 11, 2011

Carlos Lee's shoulder is just tired

Zach Levine got the scoop on Carlos Lee's shoulder:

"It’s just a little fatigue; it’s not like I’m hurt. We’ve just done a lot of throwing, so I was a little sore today."

Bill Hall might rather be at 3B

Sporting News' Stan McNeal talked to Bill Hall, and finds he's more comfortable at 3B.

"I got really good at third base for the two years I was there. I feel I can be a plus at second base. I still am athletic. I can move around and make some exciting plays there. It's a position I'm excited to be at. Any time you can have athleticism at second base with some power, it's a plus for your team. That's what I'm looking to add here."

Eyes up, Chris Johnson.

While we don't necessarily care for his tone, the Common Man is right

Over on the ESPN's Sweet Spot Network, The Common Man takes a gander at the Astros' pursuit of another catcher.

The Astros are terrible. According to Dan Szymborski’s projections, they have just two hitters and two pitchers capable of being above average. Baseball Prospectus thinks they’ll be worse than the Pirates. This is a team with absolutely no chance of going anywhere in 2011. Ninety-plus losses is a virtual certainty. That’s going to happen whether Houston picks up Jesus Flores, or Ryan Doumit, or even if they manage to kidnap Joe Mauer. They can’t actually think they’re going anywhere, can they? If they do, well, they could be poised to make themselves even worse in the long run...

...Really, the only smart play for the Astros is to sit on their hands. If they get worse, they improve their draft spot, which would allow them to take some truly talented players in 2012. If Towles finds the talent that once made him a prospect, he can be dealt to a team desperate for catching help and bring in talent that way. There is simply no upside to expending resources to win a game or two more this year.

Like we said, we don't appreciate the insolence, but we agree.

Lee dealing with shoulder soreness

Zach Levine says that Carlos Lee has been moved to DH for today's game, after dealing with some shoulder soreness.

No further information is available, but presumably, it will be later. The good news, I suppose, is that he hasn't been scratched from the lineup.

Astros wanted something the Twins had

With a captip to MLBTR, the Astros were after Twins' catching prospect Drew Butera, according to Peter Gammons:

Astros first choice for C to replace Castro was Twins' Drew Butera, but Twins won't trade him.

If Gammons is right, and there's no reason to think he wouldn't know something like this, then that kind of goes against Castro's replacement being a short-term solution.

Crawfish Boxes are mad as hell at Gene Coleman

And it makes sense as to why.

Apparently, Gene Coleman has the Astros doing squats on the machine, and not with free weights. If I was even in the 10th percentile of being in shape, this might mean something to me. But the outrage displayed by David Coleman sounds right to me.

And Deputy Jason, who is the closest thing we have to a centaur on earth, says:
Free weight squats are the one exercize all of our players should be doing. There is no better full body lift, period.

Bad form (get it?) by the Astros.

Keppinger gets the boot off

Zach Levine noted this morning that Jeff Keppinger had his ski-boot removed. He can now walk, but has absolutely no idea when he'll be able to do anything other than that.

Boom - The Constable's first actual post at the Chronicle

So The Constable has his first post up at the Chronicle, on attendance in 2011.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Meat Wagon Updates

Zach Levine has your injury updates:

Michaels feels better.

Arias played catch today and feels good.

Click the link for the long version.

Lee to 1B is still a possibility, and Wallace knows it

McTaggart has an article up in which the Astros could give Carlos Lee some time at 1B after the rosters get trimmed. What does Brett Wallace think about this?

Brad Mills on that very question:
"We've talked to Brett about that. He's aware of it. He's a confident kid. He's confident in his ability and he knows the whole situation. If he goes out and plays like he's capable of playing, he doesn't have to worry about anything else. Just do what you can do and you'll be fine...

...He's got confidence in his ability, and quite frankly, so do we."

Can we go ahead and talk about what a terrible idea this is? How much practice does Carlos Lee need? Wallace mayhave all the confidence in the world, but it doesn't make any sense to see how strong that confidence is by letting the guy who everyone knows will take his job if he continues to not hit take some reps. Turrble.

Maybe not Pudge, but Nix?'s Bill Ladson says that the Astros are cooling off on Jesus Flores, but lefty outfielder Laynce Nix.

Meanwhile, with manager Jim Riggleman saying that outfielder Laynce Nix has an uphill battle to make the team, the Astros may have interest in the left-handed-hitting outfielder, according to the source. Houston would like to add a left-handed hitter off the bench.

I'm not sure what to make of this. You know who could be a lefty outfielder off the bench? Brian Bogusevic. Either there's something in the works, or the source is to be questioned.

Jeebus - the Astros might want Pudge back?

MASN's Phil Wood is reporting from Spring Training, and has an interesting note about the Mets/Nationals game for today:

An Astros' scout is here - they're still interested in finding a catcher - and as I said last week, I think they're more interested in Pudge Rodriguez than Jesus Flores. They don't necessarily want another young catching prospect - they don't have much to offer in exchange. Flores, whose throwing arm is still not 100%, would be considered more of a project. Their priority is a catch-and-throw guy, and any offense would be a bonus.

Oh, no.

Brett Wallace vs. Zack Cox

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Derrick Goold has an exceedingly long comparison of the Cardinals' Zack Cox and the Astros' Brett Wallace.

T.J. Steele could have been be a contendah

Steve Campbell has a post up about T.J. Steele, who has five tools - and one of those might be a stethoscope.

Fred Nelson, on the oft-injured Steele:
“You talk about a guy who ventures on the term of a five-tool player (run, throw, field, hit, hit for power). He’s very talented. He can drive the ball. The ball comes off his bat very well. He’s a guy who’s going to have range, can throw, can run. He basically has all the ingredients you look for in a quality player at the major league level. We just need to keep him on the field.

What kind of hitter are you, Steele?
“I’m honestly not sure what kind of hitter I am yet. I need to learn. I need to figure that out. That will come with some at-bats.”

Oh yeah, that announcement

So the pleasing announcement from yesterday is that The Constable sold out and joined the Chronicle's blog team. Some questions, answered:

What does this mean for him?
It means that he'll be even more of an insufferable prick.

What does this mean for Astros County?
Not a single thing. He'll be providing some commentary a couple of times a week over at the Chronicle, and we'll link to it.

What does this mean for the Chronicle?
Personally, the rest of us think that the Chronicle has made a serious mistake. They don't know what they've gotten themselves in to. Keep watching, because the train is about to crash. Or maybe we're jealous. Oh well - he started the blog, he should be responsible for its demise.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Meat Wagon update

McTaggart provided the analysis and reaction to ST13, and we even get an update on Michaels and Norris.

Michaels: Is fine. Will be back in the lineup tomorrow.

Norris: Also fine. Threw off the mound with no complications.

All you Yankees fans, shut up about your pitching. Because it's all set.

With a captip to MLBTR, the Yankees aren't exploring any trades regarding their pitching situation.

So shut up about Myers (or whatever variation of the spelling of his name you prefer) or Wandy.

From the Office of the County Clerk - ST13: Astros v. Mets

So the Astros dropped to 3-10 today, losing 7-2 to the Mets.

Notably, J.D. Martinez and Matt Downs both hit homers today. For Martinez, that was his first of the Spring, while Downs connected on his second homer.

Angel Sanchez had your lone multi-hit game of the season, going 2x4 with a double.

Ryan Rowland-Smith got your start, throwing 3IP, allowing 1H/2ER, 1K:3BB, and a homer to Josh Thole.

Jordan Lyles allowed 5H/2ER in 3IP, with 2K:0BB; Fernando Abad gave up 2H/2ER in 1IP, and Enerio Del Rosario stays earned-runless with 1H/1R (0ER), 1K:1BB.

Notably, or not, Brian Esposito was 0x2 (and a CS on Josh Thole) while Carlos Corporan was 0x1 with a K. Towles didn't play.

Three of the Astros' six hits were for extra-bases, while the Astros struck out eight times (two from Clemens, one each from Wallace, Locke, Corporan, Gaston, Downs, and Esposito), and didn't draw a walk.

Lyles struck out Jason Bay and Lucas Duda in the 4th for his first two Ks of the Spring.

Nice little announcement coming

Astros County is pleased to announce the following:

There will be a pleasing announcement to come - maybe at some point today.

Nice piece on Bogusevic

The Crawfish Boxes have a nice piece on the development of Brian Bogusevic:

Your close:
He is not done developing, and heading into what many consider the prime years of a player he has an opportunity to really surprise some people.

After all, we said the same thing about Chris Johnson a year ago.

Maybe it's been the leg-kick

Clint Barmes has been trying out a leg kick. Said leg kick has not been working (.167/.231/.250).

"The last couple of days I'm working on going back to keeping it simple and eliminated the leg kick. I gave it a shot. I believed it was something that could help me. The timing was off, and I wasn't able to either pull the trigger on some pitches, or I was either too early or too late to swing. I'm kind of going back to keeping it simple and being able to control the bat, especially hitting second [in the order]."

We are in full agreement that he should knock that crap off.

Would you trade Hunter Pence for Kenshin Kawakami

Hell no, you wouldn't. But Tomahawk Take would. Of course they would.

The Astros are probably the best fit. They came to camp with Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Meyers, and 29 other pitchers hoping to fill the last three starting spots.The club is for sale and are in a major rebuilding period while trying not to spend any money so the payroll is small enough to be attractive to say Mark Cuban. They lost their arbitration case to Hunter Pence and are saddled with Carlos Lee’s huge contract full of diminishing returns. The NL Central looks to be the Reds, Brewers and everyone else. KK would start every fifth day, keep the ball in the ballpark and put up ok numbers. Ideally we’d get Pence in return...

The Astros would save $600K and gain a pitcher. Maybe we throw in a Brent Cleven or other minor leaguer as well (not a ranked prospect) to make it sweeter.

Jeebus. The Cards don't even apparently have a prayer, and apparently J.A. Happ and Bud Norris aren't locks for the rotation.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Astros sign a catcher

Jon Heyman tweeted that the Astros have signed catcher Robinson Cancel to a minor-league contract.

Who is this Robinson Cancel? Well, he...

*Will be 35 in May.
*Was drafted by the Brewers in the 16th Round of the 1994 Draft.
*Has played 43 Major-League games: 15 for Milwaukee in 1999, 27 for the Mets in 2008, and one for the Mets in 2009 - posted a .547 career OPS (42 OPS+).
*Spent 2007-2010 in the Mets' organization, mainly with the Triple-A team. In seven Triple-A seasons, he has hit .267/.318/.388, with 162K:67BB in 288 games.
*Has a career 40% CS rate in 16 minor-league seasons.

We can look at this a couple of ways:

1. We already have a career minor-league catcher in his 30s, and Brian Esposito is younger than Cancel.

2. At least Wade didn't trade anybody for a stop-gap catcher.

Heyman said this:
The Astros are at a catching deficit with Castro out. Cancel gives them another option.

So I don't know how worked up we should get about this signing. It's only a minor-league deal, but it would indicate (to my uninformed opinion) that the Astros are - for now - out on Jesus Flores, Ryan Doumit, or any other catcher. Could Ed Wade go out and get another catcher? Of course he could. Don't screw this up, Towles.

UPDATE: Brian McTaggart says Cancel will be in minor-league camp. So stay tuned...

UPDATED UPDATE: Steve Campbell notes that Cancel is not seen as a candidate to replace Jason Castro. It's simply to boost minor-league depth.

Catchers in Eddie's Farm (with ages), minus Castro, with their 2010 level (short-season ball not included):

Robinson Cancel (36)
Brian Esposito (32) - AAA
Humberto Quintero (31) - MLB
Lou Santangelo (28) - AA/AAA
Carlos Corporan (27) - AAA
J.R. Towles (27) - AA/MLB
John Curtis (26) - AA
Jon Fixler (25) - AA/A
Jordan Comadena (25) - AA/A
Federico Hernandez (23) - A+
Ben Heath (22) - AA/A
Bubby Williams (22) - A

So. Barring another trade, adding another 30-something catcher would indicate that he'll see some time in Oklahoma City, while the Astros will carry Quintero and someone else on the Opening Day roster. If Towles was going back to the minors, where the heck would he play? So I realize that this is a "depth move," but bringing in another catcher after signing Cancel just seems like a bizarre move to me.
Rene Garcia (21) - A

Castro still the future C1

It's not like the Astros are moving on from Jason Castro, as Mark Berman reports.

Quoting Ed Wade:
"We know that we are going to have to navigate most of, if not all of the season without Jason. Anything we do will be designed to continue to have the environment where he is the number one catcher."

Jason Michaels out with back spasms

Alyson Footer tweeted that Jason Michaels has been scratched with back spasms, that he experienced during BP.

"It's a spasm, just a little stiff. I don't think it's serious, but we decided to play it safe."

Lyles' fastball is kind of referred to as our Lord and Savior

Steve Campbell has an article on Jordan Lyles, and how easy he makes everything look. It's quite complimentary.

But Burt Hooton had this to say about Lyles' fastball:
“It’s an easy, live fastball. It has what I call a second coming. He’s got such an easy delivery that the hitters see it well and they think they’re on it, but when it gets to the plate, it gets on them a little bit quicker. A second coming.”

“I can’t really control what clubhouse I start in. I can control the mindset I bring to the field every day. That’s really how I am. I’m just trying to get better. Wherever I go, I’ll try to get myself better. Whenever that time comes, I’ll be ready.”

Update on Norris

Brian McTaggart has an update on Bud Norris, and his hamstring.

"I overextended a little bit and I felt a little tweak in my right hammy. I've never really had that before in my career. I'm not really worried about it. It's just a slight one. [Trainer] Nate [Lucero] did some tests on me and it's going to be fine. We're just going to see how it goes the next couple of days and take care of it."

It's never comforting to know that the other team is desperate to move a player

The Nats Blog talks about the potential deal with Houston for Jesus Flores:

It's not clear what Flores could bring in return for the Nationals, but if he is traded it will bring a quiet end to what once seemed to be a promising beginning. With two seasons under his belt before the age of 24, many were hopeful that in 2009 Flores could take the next step with his solid gap power and decent bat control. The backstop had a decent arm, averaging about 30% caught stealing, and blocked the plate well. However, as we all know, he couldn't stay healthy enough to take the step into broader relavency.

Attention former Rangers fans who happen to live in Central Oklahoma

RedHawks single-game tickets go on sale next Tuesday.

This includes the March 29 exhibition game between the RedHawks and Astros:

Tickets for the RedHawks-Astros game range from $20 for club seats to $10 for lawn seats. Field and bleacher seats in the lower bowl are available for $16, and upper-deck terrace seats along the third-base line are $12.

“They’re a little more than regular RedHawks tickets, but it’s still not bad for a major league baseball team,” RedHawks director of media relations and broadcasting J.P. Shadrick said.

Joel Roza on Lyles' readiness

Joel Roza has a good take on Jordan Lyles, saying that maybe the Astros should pump the brakes a bit on anointing Lyles 2011's SP5:

What leads me to believe that Lyles isn’t quite ready is that in his two appearances (2 IP against NYY, 3 IP against STL), while he’s putting zeros on the board; he’s not putting any Ks in the scorecard. Sounds trivial, but for a guy who averaged over 9 strikeouts per 9 innings in his minor league career, it tells me that he needs to get comfortable attacking hitters again. He’s not being knocked around now, but his straight-forward approach, minus the strikeouts, would almost certainly be a disaster at the big league level.

Great. This Jesus Flores thing might actually happen.

Apparently, it's getting more serious. MASN's Byron Kerr, in a story about some other catcher, referred to the Astros:

The Houston Astros were looking at Jesus Flores so Norris was limited to one at bat yesterday, but thinks he might be back in the lineup some time later in the week.

It's a throw-away line for Nationals fans, but it's a pretty decent indication that the Astros are thinking about moving on Flores.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Nice piece on Jose Carlos Thompson

Want to know more about Cuban-born Jose Carlos Thompson? So did the Astros.

Wade, on Manager of Latin American Operations Felix Francisco:
"Felix talked about the plus bat speed, and we've seen that. Felix saw him at shortstop and thought he profiled more as a second baseman. He's shown good hands and pretty good range and seems to run pretty well. It's all short snippets. It's all pretty much drills we're looking at. We've liked what we've seen so far, and it certainly looks like he'll go to the other side [Minor League camp], and we'll pay a lot of attention to him going forward."

Because I was a fan of The Darkness, I will not honor this request

Farmstros has a little post on what various future Astros like to be called.

You can click for yourself, but the one we will not take note of is Shuck's preference to be called "J.B." Because I liked The Darkness (and, on occasion, still do). They have a song called Black Shuck, which will melt your face, and because Jack Shuck is close enough to that to make me chuckle, Jack Shuck he shall be.

Astros interested in Jesus Flores?

The Examiner's Stephen Goff references a MASN report that the Astros are interested in Nationals catch Jesus Flores.

Goessling reports the Astros may scout Flores over the course of this week; however, Bill Ladson of states that Houston remains concerned about the condition of his right shoulder.

Flores is 26, but is 3rd on the depth chart. Just so we're clear, the Astros may be checking out the Nationals' 3rd-string catcher to be Houston's C1a.

Everyone can take a deep breath

Bud Norris left his start today being helped off the mound by the training staff. But don't worry, it seems as though he tweaked his hamstring, and Mills was satisfied with what he had seen from Norris.

"It's more like a tweak that grabbed him. There was no reason to push him. He had already thrown two innings."

Lyles makes a case, and cuts are coming

Jordan Lyles is making things difficult for the Astros, with another solid outing over the weekend.

"He looked real comfortable, and that's really exciting to see out of a 20-year-old. That's pretty impressive. I had talked to people in the organization, and this was the first two times I had seen him throw. Nothing bothers him... If he continues to be around the zone and continues to hit on one of his two or both of his breaking balls and his changeup, he can pitch in the big leagues right away."


And cuts are coming in the next few days. Ed Wade:
"But I don't know when it's going to happen. As you know, we don't telegraph that stuff. The extenuating circumstances are these split-squad games. We might be slower than normal because we added the Boston split games later in the schedule, [on Tuesday and 13]. We have to navigate those and see where we're at before we start sending bodies over [to Minor League camp]. We had been supplementing our unit over here with the [Minor League] mini-camp guys."

Astros still not sure what to do about the catcher situation

Steve Campbell's post on C1 has some interesting nuggets, as Drayton and Easy Eddie met to re-evaluate payroll.

“It’s hard to make a trade now. Most teams are assessing where they are. But at the end of spring training, we’re certainly going to look at what we do at the start of the season. That’s what I’ve done for 18 previous years: We adjust as we go.”

“We’re not going to go overboard to chase somebody. But at least it gives me a sense of feel for some of the parameters we’re operating on. Even if there was a guy out there making substantial dollars available, I’m not sure we would be in the mix to be able to go do something like that.”

More Wade, on what Towles/Corporan should do:
“Every opportunity they get to go out there and put their best foot forward, they should take advantage of it. We’re not saying we’re (definitely) going outside to do something.”

So how are they doing? In four Spring Training games, Carlos Corporan is 3x5 with three singles, and J.R. Towles is 2x8 with a double and an RBI. Quintero is 3x7 with two doubles, 3RBI, and a 1.214 OPS (limited sample size implied).

Yankees interested in Myers

Alright, we're just going to pick up where we left off on Saturday morning. Thanks for your messages regarding The Constable's family.

With a captip to Hardball Talk, apparently the Yankees are interested in Brett Myers.

George King:
The consensus in the Yankees' clubhouse following a wind-blown, 10-8 victory was that Myers "knows how to pitch." His fastball was clocked at 90 to 91 mph and he gave up two runs and five hits in three innings in his second spring start.

Apparently it took ten years of Major League experience for the Yankees to decide that Myers knows how to pitch.

Would the Astros trade him? I wouldn't think so, but according to One NL Talent Evaluator:
"You haven't heard his name mentioned yet, but they need players and if they fall out of it I would assume they would listen on everybody."

King's close:
Last July they lost Cliff Lee to the Rangers. You want to bet against them losing the best pitcher on the market this coming July? They have the chips. Chances are they will also have a need.

Doesn't it make you feel good to know that our Ace is the Yankees back-up plan?