Tag:Astros
Posted on: July 19, 2011 6:52 pm
Edited on: July 20, 2011 5:34 pm
 

Giants acquire Keppinger; Astros call for Altuve

Keppinger

By Evan Brunell

The Giants acquired middle infielder Jeff Keppinger in an attempt to shore up the infield, which has been a point of contention for the defending World Series champions, Houston announced.

In return for giving up Keppinger, the 'Stros received relievers Henry Sosa and Jason Stoffel, while also tabbing infielder Jose Altuve as Keppinger's replacement.

Shortstop has been an issue in San Francisco all season long with the artist formerly known as Miguel Tejada passing the time at short with a .242/.274/.334 line in 322 plate appearances. To his credit, he's run up a .902 OPS in July but 45 plate appearances hardly means much. Rookie Brandon Crawford has also received playing time on the value of his glove as he's hitting an unimpressive .197/.281/.277 in 154 PA. Emmanuel Burriss and Mike Fontenot have also seen some time at short although they're occupied these days will playing second base as Freddy Sanchez is lost to injury.

Keppinger won't lack for playing time between second and shortstop, but could also spell Pablo Sandoval at third. That's the value of Keppinger: he can play all over the infield and has even made appearances in left and right field despite not being an exceptional fielder. He's hitting .307/.320/.436 on the season, racking up 169 PA for Houston, missing the first two months of the year due to left foot surgery. Last season, as a full-time player, he hit .288/.351/.393, so there's offense to be had.

The Giants also called up first baseman Brandon Belt and put him in the lineup for Tuesday night's game at first base. Belt lost his active-roster spot earlier when he went on the disabled list and was then optioned to Triple-A after starting the year with a .211/.328/.281 line in 67 PA. He's back after knocking seven home runs in 43 games for Triple-A, hitting a cool .324/.462/.549, with third catcher Hector Sanchez losing his roster spot. CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler reports that the Giants may wait to see how Keppinger and Belt help the offense before deciding what price to pay for Carlos Beltran of the Mets, who could immediately inject a bopper into the middle of the lineup. Belt could be that bopper with the ability to move around from first base to left and right field, but won't get much time before July 31 to deliver.

From Houston's end, the deal made sense. Keppinger is appealing to San Francisco because of his $2.3 million contract plus the ability to retain him during the player's final year of arbitration in 2012. But Keppinger wasn't a vital part of the rebuilding process underway, while Jose Altuve, 5-foot-7 (that's listed height, so knock two-to-three inches off for real height) offers a brighter future. Altuve impressed many with his turn at the Futures Game during the All-Star festivities and will immediately start at second base in lieu of Keppinger after hitting .361/.388/.569 for Double-A. at age 21. He has 10 homers combined between Double-A and high-Class A. He still needs to refine his basestealing as he's been caught 14 times already but does have a set of wheels, with 24 stolen bases on the season.

The return for Keppinger was solid -- they acquire Henry Sosa, a live-armed 25-year-old who had recently been promoted to Triple-A and enjoyed a rude awakening. He did punch out 36 batters in 40 1/3 innings at Double-A and 21 in 23 1/3 Triple-A innings, so there is some potential there. Stoffel is the more impressive catch, as the 22-year-old has a future as a setup man. He's currently in Double-A, where he's posted a 3.98 ERA in 31 2/3 innings.

For such a marginal trade, there are quite a few ramifications here for each teams, which could signal a selling process for Houston, represents a gambit by San Francisco and takes some chess pieces off the board.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed. Also, check out Danny Knobler's trade deadline news and rumors.

Posted on: July 18, 2011 12:57 pm
Edited on: July 18, 2011 2:39 pm
 

Pence to Pirates is hot new trade rumor

By Matt Snyder

As the Ubaldo Jimenez speculation fire continues to burn, we now have our next hot trade rumor: The Pirates have scouted Hunter Pence (PittsburghLive.com). Pence is hitting .321 with 11 homers, 61 RBI and an .852 OPS. He also has a great throwing arm, as we saw in the All-Star Game.

Now, just as with the Jimenez talk, let's not get carried away here. Scouting a player doesn't mean the teams have exchanged names or will ever talk about a trade. It's just the first of many steps. Still, this could make sense for both teams.

The best argument for the Astros to keep Pence is that they need to rebuild around someone and he's their obvious best player. You can say he's young, but he's 28. The Astros aren't anywhere near contention, so he could be 31 (or older) before they're ready to make a run at the NL Central again. Why not deal him and get a big prospect package back? I feel like that would make more sense, because the likes of Carlos Lee and Brett Myers aren't landing much in return at this point. Pence and Wandy Rodriguez are the ones who need to be moved in an effort to start the rebuilding process.

As for the Pirates, first of all, it's pretty cool to see them as buyers. Variety can be good and the Pirates fans have suffered for quite a while. But let's talk baseball.

There are more pressing needs than right field for the Pirates. Shortstop and third base are weak -- unless Pedro Alvarez all of a sudden is promoted and explodes -- and Lyle Overbay could be upgraded at first. A catcher upgrade would help, though there aren't really many, if any, good ones available. Some extra help in middle relief couldn't hurt either. But if the Pirates could get a star like Pence, it would enable them to move Garrett Jones to first and it does strengthen the lineup as a whole in a pretty big way. Plus, Pence still has a decent chunk of his prime left and the Pirates' cornerstones would be a duo of outfield stars with Pence and Andrew McCutchen.

So, yes, this feels like a move that could benefit both teams, but that doesn't mean it's going to happen or is in the works. Just a rumor, for now.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: July 17, 2011 12:07 pm
Edited on: July 17, 2011 7:04 pm
 

On Deck: Rookie looks to keep Indians on top

OD

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Jeanmar GomezFILLING IN, HOLDING ON: The Indians called up right-hander Jeanmar Gomez to take the place of Mitch Talbot, who was put on the disabled list after the All-Star break. Gomez has made three starts for Cleveland this year in late April and early May, getting better each time out. He allowed five earned runs in his first start, three in his second and one in his last start, a 5 1/3 inning stint against the A's on May 5 in a no decision. At Triple-A Columbus, the 23-year-old Venezuelan is 9-3 with a 2.40 ERA. His opposite number, Mitch Atkins, has made starts in three levels of the minors and two starts in the big leagues, allowing one run in six innings in his first start, but six runs on seven hits in just 1 2/3 innings against the Red Sox on Sunday. Indians at Orioles, 1:35 p.m. ET (Watch live)

Kevin CorreiaLOOKING TO REBOUND: Pittsburgh starter Kevin Correia went to the All-Star Game last week, but he was coming off his worst performance of the season, allowing five runs in just 3 2/3 innings in a loss to the Cubs. In his last start, Astros starter Wandy Rodrgiez gave up five runs in 5 2/3 innings with five walks in a loss to the Marlins. Pittsburgh started Saturday in first place, only to lose to the Astros and see the Cardinals beat the Reds to regain the top spot in the NL Central. Pirates at Astros, 2:05 p.m. ET (Follow live)

Shaun MarcumHOME WRECKER: While the Brewers have struggled on the road to the tune of a 17-31 record away from Miller Park, Sunday's starter, Shaun Marcum, has been better away from Milwaukee. The right-hander has a 2.26 ERA on the road, but just a 3-2 record. At home his ERA is more than two runs higher at 4.35, but he has a 4-1 record thanks to more run support. The Rockies look to take three of four from Milwaukee behind Aaron Cook, who is 0-4 with a 5.82 ERA this season. Brewers at Rockies, 3:10 p.m. ET (Follow live)

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: July 16, 2011 11:36 am
Edited on: July 16, 2011 1:48 pm
 

Astros have shot at dubious history

By Matt Snyder

While the team tied for first in the NL Central looks to make history in a good way, the team at the bottom of it is so dreadfully bad that there's a chance it joins select company.

A loss Friday night for the Houston Astros marked their fifth straight. They're 7-29 since June 2, 3-18 since June 18 and have only won once in their last 11 games. The overall 30-63 record is the worst in the majors by a couple of series' worth of games and is on a pace to go 52-110. No one has lost more than 105 games in a season since the 2005 Royals. That's pretty awful, but things could easily get worse.

First of all, they're playing far worse baseball than they were earlier in the season. Secondly, the trade deadline is looming, and general managers of teams in contention will certainly be placing calls to the Astros in hopes of landing one of the few good players the Astros have -- such as Hunter Pence, Michael Bourn, Wandy Rodriguez, etc. -- and they're likely to listen.

As I alluded to above, the Astros' current pace is terrible, but it's not yet definitively, historically bad. Dipping below .300 winning percentage -- the current mark is .323 -- would be. Only 21 teams in major-league history have dropped below .300, and it's happened just one time since 1962: The 2003 Tigers. That Tigers team was 43-119. Also, only 11 teams since 1900 have lost 110 times in a season.

So this season's Astros ballclub is threatening to become the second-worst team since the 1962 Mets (an expansion team) and one of the 22 worst of all-time. And the Astros have been playing .194 ball for the past six weeks.

It's certainly something to keep an eye on as we move deeper into the season.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: July 12, 2011 11:28 pm
Edited on: July 12, 2011 11:41 pm
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Under-the-radar All-Star version



By Matt Snyder


PHOENIX - One quick note: We're not going to use Prince Fielder or Roy Halladay as "up" guys because they have separate stories up on them. We'll spread the love a bit.

Hunter Pence, Astros. Pence had a single and scored a run, but that's not why he's here. In the top of the fourth, Adrian Beltre singled to left. Jose Bautista was on second and was sent home to score. Pence apparently didn't like that because he cut Bautista down easily at home with a perfect strike (see above). It didn't even bounce. That throw was the highlight of the night for me.

Heath Bell, Padres. The Padres closer only faced one hitter, but he got his jersey dirty. That's because Bell came sprinting out of the bullpen in Todd Coffey fashion. But when Bell got to the infield, he slid into the infield grass. He even left a huge divot. He was having fun and, dammit, that's what this game is all about. And he did retire the one hitter he faced, too, as Jhonny Peralta popped out.

Starlin Castro, Cubs. The youngest player in the game made his All-Star debut when he pinch-ran at first base for Troy Tulowitzki. Castro made the most of his opportunity, as he stole second and third. It made him the first player to steal two bases in the Midsummer Classic since Kenny Lofton in 1996. We'll just forget about that pesky strikeout and error.



C.J. Wilson, Rangers. The right-hander was tagged with the loss after allowing three hits and three earned runs in his inning. The big blow of the game -- Fielder's go-ahead three-run blast -- came off Wilson, too.

Alex Avila, Tigers. He gave up three stolen bases in one inning. There were Castro's two, and Rickie Weeks also got in on the action. Maybe it was working with an unfamiliar pitcher, but no catcher ever wants to cough up three in one inning.

The fans who booed (which was the majority of the crowd). Now, before I say more, I'll make sure to lay it all out there so there's no misunderstanding. Fans pay to see the game and have every right to boo if they want. I'm not angry about the fact that the fans booed nearly every player that wasn't a Diamondback. I'm shocked. I just don't get it. The All-Star Game is a chance for your city to see all the best players in the league. Instead, the booing was ferocious, even for players where it made absolutely no sense. I'd suggest these fans lighten up and have fun -- like Heath Bell. And no, it's not like that in any other stadium for the All-Star Game. Fans usually just boo rivals and that's it. Of course, I'm sure lots of people think booing is fun -- the same people who think it's awesome to slander people on Twitter and message boards.

For complete All-Star Game coverage, keep up with Eye on Baseball in Phoenix

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Posted on: July 10, 2011 8:09 pm
Edited on: July 10, 2011 8:17 pm
 

Astros prospect plays bigger than 5-7

Jose Altuve

By C. Trent Rosecrans


PHOENIX -- Jose Altuve is easy to miss, and when you do see him, even easier to overlook.

But the Astros' second base prospect is showing he's just more than the short guy. And when I say short, I mean he's about the same height as the squatting umpire. Listed at 5-foot-7, Altuve is even shorter.

"I know everyone talks about my size; it's something that doesn't bother me," Altuve said. "When I go to play, they talk about how I'm short but then they talk about other things after they see me play."

His stature has led many to questions about his future in the game. Even at second base, that's really, really short. His bat, however, is making some believers. The 21-year-old from Venezuela is hitting .353/./382/.551 at Double-A Corpus Christi in 33 games in the Texas League. He started the season in the notoriously hitter-friendly California League in high Class A and hit .408/.451/.606. And get this: He's even hit nine home runs this season -- five in Lancaster and four in Corpus Christi.

For Altuve, just making the Futures Game is evidence that he's changing some minds about whether he can ever play in the big leagues.

"This is something I'm playing here with a lot of guys who have played in the big leagues already and almost everyone will play in the big leagues. It's really good," Altuve said before Sunday's game.

During Sunday's game, Altuve started at second and played second (while wearing No. 2 to top it off). He doubled in his first at-bat and singled in his second, finishing 2 for 3 before being replaced by Jonathan Schoop.

Altuve has already made one move up the Astros' minor-league ladder and could be looking at Triple-A soon.

"I don't think too much about it," he said. "Once something happens, it happens. I just worry about going to field and playing hard. They can do what they want with me."

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Posted on: July 8, 2011 5:03 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 1:05 pm
 

Offense rules in NL Central

By C. Trent Rosecrans
2011 All-Star Game

SEE THE OTHER DIVISION ALL-STARS: AL East | AL Central | AL West | NL East | NL West

The National League Central has the most teams, some of the game's brightest stars and perhaps its best story in the Pittsburgh Pirates. How deep is the talent in the NL Central? The last two men to win the National League MVP are first basemen in the division and neither makes this NL Central All-Star team. The pitching isn't too deep, at least in terms of starters, but this lineup can absolutely mash the ball.

Ramon HernandezC Ramon Hernandez, Reds: This one is a surprise, as Yadier Molina -- perhaps the game's best defensive catcher -- is an All-Star and a deserving one at that. But the nod here goes to the guy Reds manager Dusty Baker calls "Clutch Man Monie." On opening day, his three-run homer gave the Reds a walk-off victory and he's been producing at the plate since, including a ninth-inning homer yesterday against Brewers closer John Axford and the delivered the game's winning hit in the 13th inning Wednesday night in St. Louis. Hernandez's overall line -- .316/.374/.526 -- makes up for the difference between his defense and Molina's. Molina is hitting a respectable .279/.329/.408, but Clutch Man Monie has been money, especially for a player who is still essentially splitting time with Ryan Hanigan.

Prince Fielder1B Joey Votto, Reds: Votto was the National League MVP in 2010, but Prince Fielder's been the league's MVP for the first half of this season. Fielder is hitting .302/.418/.588 with 22 home runs and 71 RBI, tied for the most in the league. Votto's been good as well, but Fielder's power numbers put him over the top. So why is Votto listed here instead of Fielder? Because as I filled out the lineup card, I looked and had Votto as DH and Fielder at first. Anyone who has seen those two with gloves on their hand know you'd rather have Votto (especially with Starlin Castro also in the infield) playing the field. So Fielder wins the spot, but Votto gets the nod, if that makes sense.

Lineup
No. Name Team Pos
1 Andrew McCutchen PIT CF
2 Rickie Weeks MIL 2B
3 Joey Votto CIN 1B
4 Prince Fielder MIL DH
5 Lance Berkman STL RF
6 Ryan Braun MIL LF
7 Aramis Ramirez CHI 3B
8 Ramon Hernandez CIN C
9 Starlin Castro CHI SS

Rickie Weeks2B Rickie Weeks, Brewers: Another Brewer nips a Red. While Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips is far and away a better defensive player, Weeks is having an incredible offensive season so far. Weeks is hitting .275/.345/.476 with 15 home runs. Phillips has 10 more RBI, but that's not all that surprising considering Weeks is used as a leadoff man. 

Aramis Ramirez3B Aramis Ramirez, Cubs: It's easy for Ramirez to get lost among the Cubs' mounting losses, but the 33-year-old is having a solid season, which may be his last with the Cubs. The Cubs hold a $16 million option on Ramirez for 2012, with a $2 million buyout. The Ricketts family may want to find a cheaper option, but Ramirez has produced this year, hitting .298/.346/.495 with 14 home runs and 49 RBI. He's also playing a decent third base, much better than his reputation would suggest. 

Starlin CastroSS Starlin Castro, Cubs: Sure, he's a mess defensively, but the kid can absolutely rake. Castro is hitting .305/.334/.428 with two home runs and 38 RBI, while stealing 10 bags as well. The 21-year-old is the player the Cubs will build around in the future, and for good cause. He also doesn't have a lot of competition in this division. The Pirates' Ronny Cedeno has been good defensively, but lacking offensively. The Cardinals' Ryan Theriot is hitting well, but was a below-average defensive second baseman and now he's playing short and then there's Yuniesky Betancourt, who has been terrible offensively and defensively.

LF Ryan Braun, Brewers: Talk about a stacked offensive division -- in left field you've got Matt Holliday and Braun. Braun, though gets the nod. He's been healthy (of course, Holliday's problems may make his numbers more impressive) and produced, hitting .320/.402/559 with 16 home runs and 62 RBI. He's also stolen 19 bases to boot.

Andrew McCutchenCF Andrew McCutchen, Pirates: If Bruce Bochy doesn't want him, I'll sure as heck take him as my starter in center. A Gold Glove-caliber fielder, plus a .291/.389/.491 slash line and 12 homers and 15 stolen bases. McCutchen should be in the MVP discussion with the season he's had. If it weren't for McCutchen, Michael Bourn would be the pick. Bourn's hitting .288/.350/.399 with 35 stolen bases. Between those two and Cincinnati's Drew Stubbs, you could put together a heck of a relay team.

Lance BerkmanRF Lance Berkman, Cardinals: Sure he's a first baseman playing in the outfield, but who cares because he's made up for his atrocious defense with an offensive rebirth. The Cardinals gambled on Berkman this offseason and have been rewarded to the tune of .287/.399/.598 with a league-leading 23 home runs and 62 RBIs. The division also has Jay Bruce, Corey Hart and Hunter Pence, so it has right fielders to spare (not to mention Jon Jay, who played right field while Berkman was playing first for Albert Pujols.)

Prince FielderDH Prince Fielder, Brewers: This is a bit of a cheat, since I initially picked Fielder at first base. The decision here was between Votto and Holliday, and in a toss-up, I went with the reigning MVP, although either has a good case. Votto's hitting .319/.434/.497 with 12 home runs and 52 RBI, while Holliday is hitting .320/.417/.570 with 13 home runs and 46 RBI. Votto's seen fewer pitches to drive than he did a year ago, but is still producing. And once I was filling out the lineup card, I went with Votto at first base and Fielder as the DH.

Johnny CuetoSP Johnny Cueto, Reds: This division doesn't have a Cy Young candidate in the bunch, but does have several good young pitchers, including the 25-year-old Cueto, who started the season on the disabled list but is 5-3 with a 1.77 ERA in 11 starts this season. The Cardinals' Jaime Garcia is 8-4 with a 3.23 ERA and one of the best young left-handers in the game and Chicago's Matt Garza has been a victim of pitching for the Cubs, going 4-7 with a 4.26 ERA and an xFIP of 2.86.

Sean MarshallRP Sean Marshall, Cubs: The Cubs' left-hander is 5-2 with a 2.40 ERA, striking out 43 in 41 1/3 innings, while walking just nine. His xFIP is 2.27 and he's induced ground balls on 60.4 percent of the balls put in play, a good characteristic for a middle reliever, who will often come into the game with runners on base. Apologies to the Reds' Bill Bray and the Cardinals' Jason Motte.

Joel HanrahanCL Joel Hanrahan, Pirates: Hanrahan leads the division in saves with 25 and hasn't blown a single save this season.  Of the eight runners he's inherited this year, none of scored. He has 33 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings and eight walks. He's allowed just six earned runs (good for a 1.37 ERA). The division has several good starters, including the Reds' Francisco Cordero (17 saves, 1.69 ERA), the Brewers' John Axford (23 saves, 2.90 ERA) and the Cardinals' Fernando Salas (15 saves, 2.41 ERA).

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Posted on: July 6, 2011 4:55 pm
Edited on: July 6, 2011 9:50 pm
 

On Deck: Giants turn to Bumgarner

OD

By Matt Snyder


Wednesday serves as getaway day for some this week, so there are five day games being played, though it still leaves 10 for the evening set. One of the afternoon games was an all-important contest for the NL West race. The Diamondbacks lost to the Brewers, so that opens an opportunity for the Giants.

The Hot Hand: Youngster Madison Bumgarner started 3-9 for the Giants, but had pitched much better than the record showed and only really had a few bad outings. In his last two starts, however, Bumgarner has a 1.26 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 20 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings. This is the type of stuff expected from the 21-year-old left-hander more often as he matures. Wednesday night, he'll look to play streak-stopper for the Giants, as they've lost three straight and entered Wednesday with a one-game lead over the D-Backs in the NL West. The D-Backs loss means the Giants can increase the lead to two with a victory. Bumgarner (4-9, 3.65) will square off against Dustin Moseley (2-8, 3.07) and the Padres, who have won 10 of 13 and have moved comfortably above the Dodgers to stay out of last place in the division. San Diego at San Francisco, 10:15 p.m. ET Follow Live on Gametracker

Hughes Returns: We'll obviously still have Jeter Watch, as the quest for 3,000 hits continues in Cleveland Wednesday night, but there's another reason that game is newsworthy for the Yankees. Phil Hughes (0-1, 13.94) makes his return to the hill from the disabled list. Hughes was an All-Star last season after starting 10-1 with a 3.17 ERA and nearly a strikeout per inning. He had a 5.07 ERA the rest of the way as his velocity and strikeout rate went down. This season, things got worse. His first three starts were a debacle and he was put on the DL with shoulder inflammation. The good news is Hughes' velocity seems to have returned during his minor-league rehab stint, but Wednesday night is still a huge test. He'll face the first-place Indians and underrated starting pitcher Justin Masterson (6-6, 2.85). New York (AL) at Cleveland, 7:05 p.m. ET Follow Live on Gametracker

Break Up the Bucs: Since a four-game losing streak the third week of June, the Pirates have gone 10-4 and are currently riding a three-game winning streak. They're only one game behind the Cardinals in the loss column for first place in the NL Central. So it's possible they'll be just a half-game behind the Cards once play ends Wednesday night. The only thing standing between the Pirates being five games over .500 for the first time of the season is the worst team in baseball: The Astros. Bud Norris (4-6, 3.51) gets the ball for the Astros while Charlie Morton (7-4, 3.63) takes the hill for the Pirates. Houston at Pittsburgh, 7:05 p.m. ET Follow Live on Gametracker

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com