Saturday, February 4, 2012

Tweet of the Day



Neiko Johnson
I've been working my butt off the past 2 months but I always feel I have more room to work harder.....it's just called being 

Happy Birthday - 2/4

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today ~

OF Al Javier (58)
Played in 8 games for Houston in 1976

C/1B Chris Coste (39)
Played in 43 games for Houston in 2009
(How quickly we forget about some of these players ~ at least I do)

No Announced Roster Moves Today

Friday, February 3, 2012

Roster Moves and Other News

The Astros signed 33-year old IF Mike Hessman to a minor league only deal.  Zachary Levine has the story which also includes the details of a mini-camp for seven of the Astros minor league pitchers and updates on Vincent Velasquez (good news) and Chia-Jen Lo (bad news).  The seven pitchers invited to mini-camp are:

Jake Buchanan
Jarred Cosart
Mike Foltynewicz
Brett Oberholtzer
Ross Seaton
Jason Stoffel
Josh Zeid

In other news, Free Agent LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith has signed a minor league contract with the Cubs.

Tweet of the Day



Garen L. Wright
Don't think there's one part of my body that isn't sore right now..

Happy Birthday - 2/3

No future Astros, only one former Astro with a birthday today

LHP Rich Scheid (47)
Pitched in 7 games for Houston in 1992
Came to Houston in a trade with the White Sox for Eric Yelding

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Happy Birthday - 2/2

RHP Adrian Houser (19)
Houser was the Astros 2nd Round draft pick in 2011.  As a senior at Locust Grove HS in Oklahoma, he was 10-1 with an 0.62 ERA, 125SO:28BB in 62 innings pitched.  In 6 games with the GCL Astros, he had a 4.03 ERA, a 1.522 WHIP and 10.1 SO/9.  In 6 games with the Greeneville Astros, he had a 4.56 ERA, a 1.558 WHIP and a 6.7 SO/9.  In case you missed it, here is my interview with Adrian from last week.

Former Astros with birthdays today ~

SS Adam Everett (35)
Adam Everett was a joy to watch at short during his time here in Houston.  From 2001 to 2007, Everett played in 649 games for the Houston hitting .248/.299/.357/.656.  He won Summer Olympics gold, along with Roy Oswalt, in Sydney in 2000 and was named best shortstop by the Fielding Bible in 2006.  Adam retired in January and was hired by Cleveland as a special assistant to baseball operations.

RHP Don Wilson (died January 5, 1975 at 29)
Wilson pitched for Houston from 1966 to 1974.  In 266 games, he was 104-92 with a 3.15 ERA and a 1.212 WHIP.  In 1971, his only All-Star season, he was 16-10 with a 2.45 ERA, 1.022 WHIP and 18 complete games in 268 innings pitched.  He is the only Astros pitcher to have ever pitched two no-hitters for the team.  His number 40 was retired in 1976, the year after death.  For more, check out his Wikipedia page.

SS/BB Buddy Biancalana (52)
Played in 18 games for Houston in 1987

RHP Jared Fernandez (40)
Pitched in 14 games for Houston in 2003 and 2004

Tweet of the Day


Jason Bourgeois
Thank you Jackie!

Roster Moves - 2/1/12

As I predicted, due to a lack of depth at shortstop at the higher levels of the organization, the Astros re-signed SS Angel Sanchez to a minor league contract after he cleared waivers.  The signing includes an invite to Spring Training.  Steve Campbell has the story here.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Jordan's Journey Continues

[Note from What the Heck:  Jordan Comadena, a catcher in the Astros minor league organization, is going to guest blog for us throughout the season about life in the minor leagues.  If you missed it, his first entry is here.]

This is my second entry of what will be a season long journey with a minor league baseball player.

The calendar reads January 25 and that means I am one month away from getting to Kissimmee Florida.  The Astros minor league pitchers and catchers don’t officially report until March 3 but I always like to get to camp early and get into my routine.  I hate feeling rushed in anything that I do, so settling in to spring training is no different.  Getting down there early allows me to get used to being outside again and seeing the ball against the sky.  Obviously Florida provides a much different atmosphere than being trapped indoors in a batting cage all winter.  There really is a transition period that you have to work through when you get back to being outside.  I will use my time there to take as many fly balls, ground balls and catch as many bullpens as I can.  There will be other players trickling in all week leading up to the report date so it is nice to get a jump start on catching some bullpens and getting used to seeing a variety of different stuff.  Another highlight is getting to take batting practice on the field and actually seeing where the balls you are hitting are going.  I really like to feel as game ready as I can on the first day of camp.  I find it extremely beneficial, especially coming from a cold weather climate, to get to camp early and get settled in.
In addition to preparing physically for the season, this time of the year is also used to finalize all your equipment needs for the start of the year.  Players all over the country are keeping in touch with their agents and finalizing what exactly they will need.  It’s always exciting to get new equipment whether it’s shipped to your offseason home or directly to the spring training facility.  It is like another Christmas morning in a way; new shoes, cleats, bats, batting gloves, fielding gloves and for me, catchers gear.  All the new gear really makes me want to get to camp and get going.
These next 4 weeks will go very quickly in anticipation of spring training 2012.  I plan on continuing to make the most of every day.

Jordan Comadena

Link to Interview with Brandon Culbreth

Here's a link to a bonus interview with RHP Brandon Culbreth courtesy of the Grand Old Game blog.  Read it to see why Brandon needs to brush up on his Spanish!

Happy Birthday - 2/1

Happy Birthday to Mike Barnett, Astros hitting coach, who turns 53 today.

No future Astros, only former Astros with birthdays today

C Hal King (68)
Played in 42 games for Houston in 1967 and 1968

IF Juan Guerrero (45)
Played in 79 games for Houston in 1992

C Tom Wieghaus (55)
Played in 6 games for Houston in 1984

RHP Ernie Camacho (57)
Pitched in 13 games for Houston in 1988

Tweet of the Day


Garen L. Wright
Woke up sore this mornin..! But that's a good thing..!

Bonus Tweet of the Day



Erik Castro
pic.twitter.com/Ra0SSRTH

Roster Moves - 1/31/12

The Astros signed RHP Livan Hernandez to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training.  Here's Zachary Levine's story on the signing and here's your updated list of non-roster invitees.  It's going to be a Florida free-for-all.  May the best men win!!!!  Seriously, I like the signing.  Luhnow is looking for low risk and high reward, as well as veterans to bridge the gap until the younger players are ready, and that is precisely what he's getting.

If you missed it, I have started a master list of all the off-season comings and goings and I will keep that updated and in the "links" section on the front page.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Final Winter League Recap

DOMINICAN WINTER LEAGUE FINALS

Escogido over Aguilas 6-5 to win the Championship
Aneury Rodriguez pitched 3.2 innings in relief in game nine of this best of nine series.  He gave up three hits, no runs, no walks and had three strikeouts to end the playoffs with a 1.29 ERA.  And he gets bragging rights at Spring Training, along with the Arizona Fall League Astros who won their championship, and Jimmy VanOstrand who won a gold medal in the Pan-Am games. 

Other good playoff appearances by pitchers ~
Enerio del Rosario - 10 games with an 0.00 ERA
Sergio Escalona - 5 games with an 0.00 ERA
Arcenio Leon - 4 games with a 2.45 ERA
Gabriel Garcia - 7 games without giving up a run, before getting hit in the 8th game to end with a 4.91 ERA

In case you missed my wrap up on how your Astros did in the regular season of the fall and winter leagues, here are my notes on the Arizona Fall League, the Dominican League, Venezuelan League, and the Puerto Rican League.  Cumulative stats for all Astros for the regular season in the fall and winter leagues can be found here.

An Interview with Brandon Barnes

Brandon Barnes was the 6th round pick for the Astros in 2005.  In 2011, he split his time between Corpus Christi and Oklahoma City.  In 54 games at Corpus, he batted .286/.335/.453/.788 and in 71 games at Oklahoma City, he batted .197/.294/.402/.696.  He had a total of 26 doubles, five triples and 15 home runs for the season.

Playing for Sydney this winter, Brandon seemed to find his groove.  In 29 games, he hit .322/.382/.534/.916 with seven doubles, six home runs and 30 RBI’s.  Interestingly enough, he only hit .250 with the bases empty, but .379 with runners on and .389 with RISP.  He came back to the U.S. before the ABL finals to get ready for Spring Training.

WTH:  First of all, I'd like to hear more about how the Australian Baseball League differs from American Baseball. Is baseball gaining in popularity in Australia?  Are there many American and other foreign players participating?

BB:  The Aussie baseball league is awesome to start off. There is not much that differs from Aussie ball to American ball. It's all baseball where men go to compete and win. Baseball is growing for sure in Australia.  You see kids playing catch in the street and in the parks. It's not as big as it needs to be but it's getting there with the help of the ABL. There are many different ethnicities out here like Americans, Koreans, Japanese and, of course, your local Aussies.

WTH:  How did playing in the ABL come about?  Were you able to bring your wife and baby daughter along? Were you able to play tourist a bit?  Can you just give me a general impression of Australia and Sydney from your viewpoint?

BB:  I was looking for a job in the winter and everything was full so my agent made a call to the ABL and got me out here. I was not able to bring my daughter and wife with me but was able to fly home for Christmas. I have played tourist on many occasions - beaches, landmarks and even the zoo. I had to see a kangaroo before I left Sydney. Australia is beautiful and filled with great people that love their country. The people are relaxed and just living life. Sydney is a beautiful city with so much to offer. You can just walk around in amazement.

WTH:  You earned Player of the Week honors in Round 8, hitting .375 with four home runs, seven runs scored and 15 RBI's in 5 games.  Have you ever had a streak like that before?  Can you bottle that and bring it home with you?

BB:  I don't think I have had a stretch like that but I am learning what I can hit and what I can not. I learn more about my swing the more at bats I get. I'm going to bring everything I have learned here and bring it back for sure.

WTH:  Looking at last season for the Astros, you had been making steady progress up through the system and then hit a little bump in the road in Oklahoma City in which you weren't quite as successful.  What did you take away from your time in OKC and what are you working on to get back there and be successful?

BB:  Everybody hits a bump in the road sooner or later, and there is always something to take away from failure. I have learned a lot about mental preparation at the plate and that your mind plays a big part in this game. If I just play my game and don't try to do too much I will be successful.  It's when I put pressure on myself to play good is when things go wrong. Wherever I end up this year I will make sure people know who I am.

WTH:  You've always had pretty decent power numbers.  How do the Corpus Christi and Oklahoma City ballparks compare for a power hitter?

BB:  Corpus Christi is a more hitter friendly park but I feel if I put a good swing on the ball I can hit it out of any park. They are both beautiful stadiums.

WTH:  What will you be trying to accomplish in Spring Training?

BB:  I want to learn as much as possible while in camp and of course try everything I can to help the team get better. Get better in every aspect of the game.

WTH:  Finally, can you tell me something about yourself that most people don't know (and might be surprised to hear)?  It doesn't have to be baseball-related.

BB:  If you have ever seen me you could tell I have tattoos but I also have tattooed myself, friends and family members. I have been tattooing for about 5 years and I'm intrigued by art.

pic.twitter.com/sZGLOKlQ
Brandon at Bondi Beach near Sydney, Australia

Happy Birthday - 1/31

No future Astros, only one former Astro with a birthday today (you may have heard of him)

RHP Nolan Ryan (65)
Lynn Nolan Ryan (aka the Ryan Express) was drafted in the 12th round in 1965 by the Mets and signed as a free agent with Houston in November of 1979 where he pitched from 1980 to 1988.  Despite pitching for 27 seasons with a lifetime ERA of 3.19 and WHIP of 1.247, striking out 5714 batters, throwing 7 no-hitters and appearing in 8 All-Star games, he never once won the Cy Young Award.  He was, however, elected to the Hall of Fame in 1999 in his first year of eligibility with a whopping 98.8% of the vote.

Tweet of the Day

Less than a month and I'll be back with my boys. Championship season baby!

Bonus Tweet of the Day



Neiko Johnson
I am so glad they didn't change the name of the ....any other name wouldn't have sound right

Monday, January 30, 2012

Off-Season Roster Moves - 2011/2012

UPDATED 4/1/12 - Since I haven't updated this in a while, I may very well have missed something.  Please let me know if I have!

OFF-SEASON ACQUISITIONS
(40-Man Roster in Bold)
UT Brian Bixler - Waiver claim
OF Jordan Brown - FA - Released
OF Travis Buck - FA
LHP Kevin Chapman - Acquired via trade
RHP Hector Corpas - FA
RHP Rhiner Cruz - Rule 5
OF Jack Cust - FA - Released
LHP Zach Duke - FA - Released
C Jair Fernandez - FA
RHP Adalberto Flores - FA
SS Marwin Gonzalez - Rule 5
RHP Angel Heredia - FA (Currently on restricted list for PED's)
3B Diory Hernandez - FA
RHP Livan Hernandez - FA - Released
IF Mike Hessman
2B Jordan Kreke - FA
RHP Tomas Lopez - Dominican FA
SS Jed Lowrie - Acquired via trade
OF Fernando Martinez - Waiver claim
2B Jose Martinez - FA
IF Scott Moore - FA
C Landon Powell - FA
OF Justin Ruggiano - FA
OF Edward Santana - Dominican FA
OF Brad Snyder - FA
C Chris Snyder - FA
OF/1B Nick Stavinhoa - Granted release to play in Japan
C Craig Tatum - Waiver claim; Claimed by Diamondbacks
IF Joe Thurston - FA - Released
RHP Carlos Vasquez - Dominican FA
RHP Kyle Weiland - Acquired via trade

RE-SIGNED
RHP Erick Abreu
RHP Alberto Arias - Released
RHP Jonnathan Aristil
OF Brandon Barnes
LHP Xavier Cedeno
C Carlos Corporan
LHP Lance Pendleton - Released
SS Angel Sanchez
RHP Jose Valdez

RELEASED OR RETIRED
RHP Wander Alvino
RHP Alberto Arias
SS Miguel Arrendell
RHP Joan Belliard
LHP Travis Blankenship
LHP Garrett Bullock
LHP Adam Champion
RHP Ryan Cole
C Jordan Comadena
RHP Danilo del Rio
RHP Robert Donovan
LHP David Duncan
1B David Flores
C Emerson Frostad
RF Jon Gaston
RHP Justin Gill
RHP Pedro Gomez
C Kevin Gonzalez
RHP Kyle Greenwalt
SS Jacke Healey
C Federico Hernandez
RHP Mark Jones
OF Kellen Kiilsgaard
RHP Blake King
OF Bryce Lane
RHP Steve Martin
C Jacob Meskin
RHP Michael Ness
RHP Lance Pendleton
LHP Colton Pitkin
IF Hector Rodriguez
RHP Ebert Rosario
1B Ronald Sanchez
RHP Kelvin Santana
1B Justin Shults
LHP Travis Smink
RHP Matison Smith
OF Devon Torrence
1B Jimmy VanOstrand
OF Jose Vargas
RHP Brandt Walker
C Bubby Williams
LHP Shane Wolf

TRADED
CF Jason Bourgeois
RHP Mark Melancon
C Humberto Quintero

FREE AGENTS WHO SIGNED ELSEWHERE
SS Clint Barmes - Pittsburgh
1B Koby Clemens - Toronto
OF Luis Durango - Braves
C Brian Esposito - Reds
IF Anderson Hernandez - Pirates
OF Drew Locke - Sugarland Skeeters
OF Jason Michaels - Nationals
LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith - Cubs
SS Wladimir Sutil - Diamondbacks
C J. R. Towles - Twins
LHP Andy Van Hekken - Korea
RHP Ross Wolf - Orioles

UNSIGNED FREE AGENTS (FROM 2011)
LHP Kristian Bueno
C Robinson Cancel
RHP Sammy Gervacio
RHP Brad James
IF Jhonny Medrano
IF Oswaldo Navarro
2B Jose Vallejo

WTH 25-Man Roster - Relief Pitcher

As posted over the weekend, the 18th player added to the WTH 25-Man Roster was Utility Infielder Brandon Wikoff.  Also receiving votes were Yonathan Mejia, Luca Martone, Josh Magee, Jean Batista and Jio Mier.  For more information on the WTH Roster, go here.

This week we're going to pick our 5th relief pitcher.  This list is compiled of the top vote getters from all prior rounds of voting for relief pitchers.  This will probably not be a slam dunk pick for most voters, but there are a number of very interesting candidates.  Juan Mojica and Krishawn Holley have the lowest ERA's but it is a small sample size.  Zach Dando and Jorge de Leon had the stingiest WHIP's.  De Leon and Ryan Cole are the save leaders of the group.  Alex Sogard and Xavier Cedeno have added versatility with the ability to spot start or handle long relief (plus we REALLY need another lefty on our roster).  A number of these pitchers have excellent SO/9 and SO/BB ratios ~ I keep coming back to Matison Smith in that regard.  And finally you have wild cards Jack Armstrong, with a high 90's fastball; Chia-Jen Lo who dominated in 2009 before injuries took their toll; and Josh Zeid who could develop into the closer of the future.

With all that said, here are the 2011 stats for the players.  Look them over and vote.

Winter League Update

DOMINICAN LEAGUE FINALS

Aguilas over Escogido 9-2
Still no sign of Aneury Rodriguez as Escogido lost this one to Aguilas to force a 9th and final game for the championship.  He may have pitched in his last game last week so he could have some down time before reporting to spring training three weeks from today!!!

Happy Birthday - 1/30

There are no future or former Astros with birthdays today so I tried to find something or someone Astros-related for this day.  I think that those of us who followed the Astros in the 80's will agree that this individual's history will always be entangled with that of the Astros.

Davey Johnson (69)
Whether you hate him, begrudgingly respect him or even secretly like him, you've got to admit that Davey Johnson's tenure as Manager of the Mets from 1984 to 1990 was memorable for Astros' fans as he propelled the 1986 Mets to the World Series, barely edging out the Astros to get there.  Johnson has other Texas ties in that he went to high school in San Antonio and attended Texas A&M.  Johnson also managed the Reds, Orioles and Dodgers, and after a long hiatus as Manager, became the Manager for the Washington Nationals in 2011.

Tweet of the Day



Joe Witkowski
Exactly one month til I start my trip down south to Florida for spring training...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Roster Moves - 1/29/12

Baseball America reported that the following individuals have been released by the Astros:

LHP Travis Blankenship
LHP Colton Pitkin
LHP Shane Wolf
C Federico Hernandez
SS Hector Rodriquez
OF Kellen Kiilsgaard

The only one of these that I don't get is Travis Blankenship.  He had a 3.90 ERA and a 1.067 WHIP in 2011 at Tri-City with 8.4 SO/9 and a very respectable SO/BB ratio.

In addition, the Astros have signed 2B Jordan Kreke from the Atlanta organization and OF Jordan Brown from the Brewers organization.

The 24-year old Kreke has a .239 minor league career batting average and hit .218/.262/.288/.550 at AA in 2011.  He was drafted by Atlanta in the 13th round in 2009.

The 28-year old Brown was originally drafted by Cleveland in the 4th round in 2005 and played in both the Indians and the Brewers organization in 2011.  He hit .230 in 26 games for Cleveland in 2010.  His career minor league average is .307.  At AAA last season, he hit .311/.346/.466/.812.

WTH 25-Man Roster

The 18th player selected to the What the Heck 25-Man Roster was UTIF Brandon Wikoff.  Also receiving votes were Yonathan Mejia, Luca Martone, Josh Magee, Jean Batista and Jio Mier.  (For more information on the WTH 25-Man Roster, go  here.)

Coming Monday - Let's pick our 5th relief pitcher.

Winter League Update

DOMINICAN LEAGUE FINALS

No sign of Aneury Rodriguez as Escogido won 5-2 over Aguilas to take the series lead 4-3.  I'll keep an eye out to see if he appears in Game 8 today.

Happy Birthday - 1/29

No future Astros, only one former Astro with a birthday today

RHP Brian Meyer (49)
Pitched in 34 games for Houston in 1988-1990
ERA of 2.84 and WHIP of 1.263

Tweet of the Day



J.D. Martinez
Winter time in Florida 
pic.twitter.com/bPH5IEOh

No Announced Roster Moves Today