Archive for spring training

Lucky Seven!

Posted in Houston Astros with tags , , , , , on March 27, 2009 by Cabeza De Vaca

The Astros held on to beat the defending champs today, making it seven wins in a row. This team has been all about streaks in recent years, with extreme highs, extreme lows, and little in-between. The emotional rollercoaster looks set for another wild ride this year.

The big news going into this game was Roy Oswalt’s return to the team, after America collectively shrugged at the WBC. Another day, another quality start from Roy: six innings, three earned runs. Most impressive were his six strikeouts and no walks. Roy is so aggressive attacking the strikezone that I expect the low walk rate, but the strikeout per inning is unusual. I wonder if the home plate umpire called a big strike zone, or if Roy shied away from pitching to contact. The latter is a possibility because the box score suggests he was having trouble keeping the ball down. He induced 8 flyouts and only 3 groundouts. I’m sure he’ll try to flip those numbers around because we all know how his home park treats fly ball pitchers. In contrast, LaTroy Hawkins induced groundouts to all three batters he faced, and Chris Sampson also got three ground ball outs in two innings. So, it’s unlikely the Phillies were all swinging like Mark McGwire.

Chris Sampson got a two-inning save today, though he allowed his first two earned runs of the Spring. He has only pitched seven innings, so it’s too early to get excited about a 2.57 ERA. Still, I’m hopeful. My feelings about Sampson are similar to how I feel about Wandy: I’m crossing my fingers that he can stay healthy and find some consistency, because I see a really good pitcher there. Sampson will likely have the difficult job of being the team’s most versatile pitcher. He can fit in so many places in the bullpen, that depending on injuries, we could see him fill almost any role. Hopefully his ability to pitch multiple innings doesn’t relegate him to mop-up duty. I see that as more of a Geoff Geary role. If our offense is good enough to keep the team in games when the starters struggle, we could see Sampson step into a lot of close games in the 4th or 5th inning.

Other not-so-noteworthy stuff: My favorite still-active ex-Astro, Eric Bruntlett, went 2-for-5, with an RBI double, and a caught-stealing (go Pudge!). Bruntlett is batting .350 this spring. Oh, how nice it would be to have the often overlooked, valuable piece of the Brad Lidge-for-Michael Bourn trade as our super-utility man. Brunty, I forgive you for being pissed off when I got your autograph and told you “best double-play in Astros history, NLCS.” After all, you had just spent the afternoon wasting away at first base in a pathetic Round Rock express game. Hunter Pence committed two errors, not counting the video portrait of him pretending to use a bat as a sword and pool cue. I couldn’t believe everyone else wanted that loser’s autograph.


Posted in Houston Astros with tags , , , , on March 24, 2009 by Cabeza De Vaca

Man, for some reason, a good outing from Wandy gets me so pumped! Yesterday, Wandy led the Astros to their fifth consecutive win. He allowed two hits, two walks, and struck out two in four scoreless innings.

A healthy four innings out of Wandy is enough to make any Astros fan breathe a tremendous sigh of relief… But four scoreless innings? Wandy, you’ve got me light headed.

I hope this isn’t the highlight of Wandy’s year, because he’s teased us before. I tend to think that if he can stay healthy, we’ll see 12 wins and a 3.94 ERA out of the Magic Wand, making for a great pairing with the Wizard.

Obviously, I realize I shouldn’t get too worked up about Spring wins or losses. Everyone who says that it’s all about individual results in Spring Training is correct. However, typically, good individual performances go hand in hand with wins. Last year, it seemed like however Miggy went, the Stros went. Yesterday, big individual performances from Blum and Wandy led to Houston scoring eight runs while shutting out the other side.

It’s fun to see the bats start to wake up. Pudge hit a long ball to left field that sure would look good from the Crawford Boxes. Bourn (.213), Blum (.178), and Matsui (.111) all had hits yesterday. They had to stumble onto some hits sooner or later. Baseball is all about the law of averages, and the Astros players knew it when they lost 15 consecutive games (not counting ties). They all just saw the losing spell as proof that a winning one would come. It appears they were right, now let’s just hope they keep it going into the games that count.

Astros win 4th straight!

Posted in Houston Astros with tags , , , , , , on March 24, 2009 by Cabeza De Vaca

I know it might seem like I relish in the Astros’ failures, but I swear I really don’t.  My love for the team is complicated.  I know I was posting more when the boys were losing, but SXSW and it’s aftermath of cold-like symptoms have kept me from sharing my delight about the recent victories.  I know the wins don’t count, but it’s good to see us put some runs on the board, even if we have very close to our starting line-up out on the field.  

The best part to me, however, has been the pitching.  Mike Hampton pitched five innings, allowing 3 runs, which might not sound great, but that’s a solid spring training outing.  Russ Ortiz continues to exceed expectations.  Three scoreless innings from Moehler, and scoreless frames from Brocail and Valverde are encouraging.  Jose Capellan had a rough outing, but it was only a matter of time.  Besides, according to, he was pitching against… the Astros?

Astros against Astros

Good thing he didn't pitch well. Astros win!

I guess it did look like the ‘Stros had been beating themselves.  Now, though, Houston has five spring training victories.  That’s the same number as the Padres.  And hey, the Diamondbacks, Tigers, and Indians only have eight wins apiece.  Meanwhile, the Royals and Pirates each have 13 victories. All is well.

Astros Place Fernando Nieve on Waivers

Posted in Houston Astros with tags , , , , on March 13, 2009 by Cabeza De Vaca

In an interesting story about how bad the Astros have been this spring, Fanhouse reported today that the Astros have placed Fernando Nieve on waivers.  So, another team can claim the pitcher.   If no one picks him up, he’ll be sent to start the year in Round Rock.

If someone picks him up, it’s because he still has potential (and a mid 90s fastball) and his negative feelings about this organization caused him to stop trying. Or, if no one picks him up, it’s because he sucks, and won’t get back to what he showed us he could be early on. Either way it’s a loss for the Astros.

In 2006, Nieve pitched 96 innings, struck out 70, walked 41, and had a 4.20 ERA. He was wildly inconsistent, but definitely showed flashes of brilliance.  I remember when Roy Oswalt was scratched from a start at the last minute due to injury, and Nieve stepped in to start on a moment’s notice. He allowed only 2 runs.  At that point, I thought he had it figured out.  His time as a starter hadn’t gone well prior to that, and he was really putting it together as a reliever, being projected as a future closer.  He wasn’t happy about that move to the bullpen, though, and indicated that he thought he was being treated unfairly.

His dissatisfaction grew over the next couple of years of being called up and sent down, and then there’s the little issue of having to undergo Tommy John surgery in May of 2007.

All in all, I don’t blame the guy if he has quit on us.  Purpura and the gang weren’t exactly great with how they handled him, but the great potential with mixed results made things tough.

The Padres will probably pick him up, since they’ve been the only team willing to take our leftovers in recent years. He’ll pitch at Petco, look great, and I’ll bitch and moan, forgetting that he would be angrily wasting away in Round Rock with this organization.

Astros Lose by Only Two Runs!

Posted in Houston Astros with tags , , , , , on March 9, 2009 by Cabeza De Vaca

On Monday, the Astros lost to the Washington Nationals 8-6, in 10 innings. Wait… 10 innings? What the hell? We should have had another tie ballgame! Anyway, just for the shock value, here are the results so far in Astros Grapefruit League action:

Astros 6, Nationals 3

Braves 8, Astros 7

Nationals 2, Astros 0

Pirates 6, Astros 5

Mets 13, Astros 1

Astros 5, Yankees 5

Rays 12, Astros 2

Braves 13, Astros 0

Cardinals 5, Astros 1

Pirates 11, Astros 4

Nationals 8, Astros 6

Yeah, the Strosies have been outscored 86 – 37. Hey, things are looking up, though. Pence and Quintero went yard. Prior to that, Pence was hitting .150, and, well, Quintero was hitting an even .000.

I know, I know. These games don’t count. I know. Roy, Carlos and Miggy are all playing in the World Baseball Classic. I know. Lance Berkman isn’t doing a whole lot of playing. I know, but the same is true of every team’s
best players. So what does that mean? Everyone’s scrubs are better than our scrubs? Not to worry, scrubs, help is on the way.

The only reassurance I can give myself is that the Astros have always been horrible in Spring Training. This realization actually makes me feel a great deal better. Of course, I don’t know of anywhere to look up past Grapefruit League standings, but I am pretty sure the Astros have been horrible every Spring Training of my entire life. Why should this year be any different?

Frack! Sorry I’m late to spring training.

Posted in Houston Astros with tags , , , , , , on March 6, 2009 by Astropolithecus


 I’m sorry I’m so late to spring training.  I had no idea it had even started. I must have had the times wrong. I’ve been hanging out in Panama, drinking guava daiquiris. Lee told me the report date was toda- hey, where’s Randy Wolf?

Anyway, I’m like totally sorry.

Um, Why does Miggy’s locker have yellow tape wrapped around it?

Berkman’s not sulking-I’m getting really frackin’ freaked  out –??!! Holy crap, who’s the old guy with a beard and taped wrapped all  around his torso?! Is he pitching, is he a new pitching coach?! No one told me-WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?

 Whoa, Baseball Projection ranked us where?

No, I just can’t do this right now, no , just, just STOP!!     Look, I’m gonna grab some brunch with M-Lo and my new boy T-Hall to settle my stomach. I’ll see you guys at  Brad A’s annual spring meeting where he roasts all the new young free agents. At least that’ll cheer me up.  



Astros 5, Venezuela 5

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on March 5, 2009 by Cabeza De Vaca

They say a tie game is like kissing your sister.  In the Astros’ case, I think it’s a supermodel step-sister, because this sure feels like a win to me.

In the past four games, the Astros have tied two and lost two.  When the alternative is losing 12-2 (Rays) or 13-1 (Mets), you have to appreciate anything other than a punch in the face. 

Jose Capellan threw 3 innings of shutout ball, allowing only a hit and a walk.  Rule 5 lefty Gilbert De La Vara shut Venezuela out for 2 innings, striking out one batter and allowing a hit.  It will be interesting to see how the pitching situation shapes up.  With Backe unable to throw breaking balls, and looking characteristically command-less, we could have a nice little competition on our hands. 

More so than most GMs, Wade seems committed to hanging on to Rule 5 picks.  The strategy of taking a lefty pitcher is probably a good one.  As we saw last year with Wesley Wright, it’s not hard to find a spot in the bullpen for a lefty.  With Byrdak and Wright, it might be tougher for De La Vara this year, but Wright is probably not a lock to make the team. 

On the other hand, Lou Palmisano, who I would have put money on to make the team to fill the gaping hole at our back-up catcher spot, has no hits or walks this spring in five at bats.  However, this is a tiny sample size, obviously, and the fact that he hasn’t struck out is encouraging.

Rays 12, Astros 2

Posted in Houston Astros with tags , , , , on March 3, 2009 by Cabeza De Vaca

According to, the highlight of today’s game was Michael Bourn stealing two bases. Nevermind the fact that pitchers are working on their delivery and mechanics right now and couldn’t care less if a guy swipes a bag. Stealing a base during a spring training game is like getting away with a public intoxication during Mardi Gras.

How about the fact that the Rays scored 12 runs on 9 hits?

The third inning looked like a company softball game. Three Astros pitchers teamed up for six consecutive walks. Gee, I wonder if that seventh guy is sitting on a fastball. Oops, two-run double.

Best news of the inning was that the Home Run Brandon Backe gave up was against the leadoff spot.

Glad the guys were able to “get their work in.”

Brad James goes all Chuck Knoblauch on us.

Posted in Houston Astros with tags , , , , , on February 27, 2009 by Cabeza De Vaca

Alyson Footer had a piece the other day about Brad James catching a case of the “yips,” also known as “Steve Blass Disease.”  Turns out he was scared he would hit one of his own teammates, then he started thinking too much, and then he hit Humberto Quintero.  He started throwing away from the hitter instead of pitching to the catcher.  

This might just be a little thing he goes through, but I see this having huge potential for disaster.  If the Astros’ top pitching prospect is battling his own thoughts, doubts, insecurities like this, look out.  He is the next Jason Lane.  Lane’s potential was never realized because he was so scared of failure.  He kept trying not to mess up, and when you do that, you start to mess up, and on comes the vicious circle.  

Footer quoted Cecil Cooper as saying: “We know he’s got a lot of ability. Sometimes he’s doubting himself a little bit, not feeling good about himself. We’re talking to him, trying to work through it.”  

They had better keep it light and be careful not to give this kid too much to think about, or it will make matters worse.  I suggest they watch the movie “Swingers” for inspiration.

Coop: “You’re so money and you don’t even know it!”

Brad: “That was humiliating.”

Coop: “You don’t look at the things that you have, you only look at the stuff that you don’t have.  Those guys are right about you – you’re money.”

Brad: “I hit Q, is he okay?”

Coop: “That was so fucking money. That was like the Jedi mind-shit.”

Here’s to New Beginnings

Posted in Houston Astros with tags , , , on February 14, 2009 by Cabeza De Vaca

Well, it’s about time for a new start, just ask Mike Hampton, Russ Ortiz and Danny Graves. This blog needs to get rolling. Where have we been? Berkmaniac? Beckeesh? Y’all out there? Because I think we could all use some positive thinking.

I need someone to find a way to convince me that Aaron Boone is worthy of a platoon split at third base, and Jason Michaels is a worthwhile backup corner outfielder. I want someone other than the Houston Chronicle to tell me that taking a chance on Mike Hampton’s health is a good idea. (By the way, I guess the organization forgave him for sleeping with Bagwell’s now-ex wife. Heck, those two guys were on the winter caravan together.) Or maybe someone can show me that Brandon Backe is gonna put it all together this year … on the mound, not at the plate.

The more I look at this roster of David Newhan, Tim Byrdak, Michael Bourne, and four AAA catchers (update: make that three AAA catchers), the more it feels like Berkman, Oswalt and Lee are the big names at a charity softball event. I feel for you guys. Baseball Prospectus says you’re gonna go 70-92. I can’t imagine it being that bad, but I also can’t see our pitchers missing many bats.

Well, at least it’s not the NFL or NBA. Hello again, good guys.