Posted on: October 8, 2010 12:42 pm
Edited on: October 8, 2010 12:43 pm

Astros picks up 2012 option on Mills

The Astros have exercised the 2012 option on manager Brad Mills and added an option year for 2013, the team announced .

Mills' team went 76-86 this season, finishing fourth in the National League Central. The Astros went 40-33 after the All-Star break, including a 17-12 August.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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Category: MLB
Posted on: October 3, 2010 6:36 pm

Astros to keep Michaels, boot Blum

The Astros have told infielder Geoff Blum that the team won't exercise his option for 2011, he told reporters after the game.

In addition, MLB.com's Brian McTaggert cites sources telling him the team will exercise the $900,000 option for outfielder Jason Michaels.

Blum said he was told after Saturday's game that he wouldn't be back. The team will buyout his contract for $150,000 in lieu of picking up a $1.65 million option.

Blum hit .267/.321/.356 in 93 games for the Astros this season.

According to Taggert, Blum teared up when telling reporters he wouldn't be back.

"I do know that I will not be here," Blum said. "I'll miss being here, trust me. I've had several conversations with people within the organization and my services are not going to be needed here."

Michaels, 34, hit .253/.310/.468 with eight home runs and 26 RBI for the Astros this season.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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Category: MLB
Posted on: October 1, 2010 12:09 pm

Figueroa could stay 'Stros starter

Nelson Figueroa The first time Ed Wade acquired Nelson Figueroa, the GM was with the Phillies and dealt away star pitcher Curt Schilling.

That was back in 2000, when Figueroa joined the Phillies along with Omar Daal, Travis Lee and Vincente Padilla.

Figueroa spent just one year with Philly, being selected off waivers by the Brewers. He bounced around the majors through 2004, then took a three-year hiatus from major-league action before landing with the Mets, where he spent the next two seasons. After being waived by the Mets, the Phillies claimed him only to be waived after 13 games.

At that point, Ed Wade stepped in again, now as GM of the Astros, and placed a claim.

Since joining Houston, Figueroa has made nine starts after moving from the bullpen where he made eight appearances. He has a 3.54 ERA in 61 innings, striking out 50 and walking 23.

"It's been a very pleasant surprise that he's been as consistent as he has been," Wade told the Houston Chronicle . "There have been a couple of starts when he's given up a few runs, but by and large, he's kept us in every game he's pitched in."

Figueroa is eligible for arbitration for the first time after the year, but even a potential raise isn't scaring Wade off from bringing the left-hander back.

"I don't see any reason why we would walk past a guy like that," Wade said. "If at the end of the day he's our fifth starter, I don't have any problem with that being the case."

-- Evan Brunell

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Category: MLB
Posted on: September 28, 2010 11:34 pm
Edited on: September 29, 2010 1:18 am

Bruce delivers walk-off clincher

Jay Bruce CINCINNATI -- I've done it, you've done it. Your team is tied in the ninth and a title is on the line -- everyone dreams of the home run.

Jay Bruce didn't. Or at least he said he hadn't. Until he did it.

On the first pitch he saw from left-hander Tim Byrdak in the ninth inning of a tie game on Tuesday, Bruce hit a solo homer, giving the Cincinnati Reds a 3-2 victory, the National League Central title and their first playoff appearance since 1995.

"I've never even dreamt about this, this is unbelievable," Bruce said.

Bruce entered the at-bat 0 for 3 on the game and 1 for 20 against Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez. It was odd to even see Bruce's name in the lineup against Rodriguez, yet he said he and manager Dusty Baker had talked about it. Baker had faith in the young outfielder.

Bruce did have two hits in six career at-bats against Byrdak, including a homer, so it wasn't too much a stretch to leave him in. He's also improved his average to .260 against lefties this season coming into the game, bettering his career mark of .222.

"I've made big strides against left-handers this year, but I'm not done yet," Bruce said. "I've had ups and downs as a player and this isn't going to be what I am as a player. I expect much better out of myself, but this is only the beginning."

Bruce was called up two years ago to great expectations and has shown flashes of fulfilling his promise as the game's top prospect, but struggled with consistency. Even so, at the age of 23, he already has 65 career home runs -- and none bigger than his 65th.

Bruce knew it immediately -- reliever Nick Masset said he knew before that, calling the shot before the top of the ninth started. In the dugout, starter Homer Bailey said everyone knew the team would win Tuesday to clinch the division, it was just a matter of when. Bruce had barely dropped his bat when he raised his right arm -- "I had a pretty good feeling. Who knows what would have happened had it not gone out," Bruce said.

On deck, Ramon Hernandez was not so sure, he knew Bruce hit it hard, but he worried that he hit it to the exact wrong part of the park -- center field. "I was blowing it out," Hernandez said.

He hadn't need to waste the effort, the breath -- the ball bounced off the batter's eye and Bruce raced around the bases.

"I saw all my guys I'd been working so hard with every single day of the year. I wouldn't be here without my guys," Bruce said afterwards on the field after taking a victory lap with his teammates.

Bruce said he wasn't trying to end the game, he just wanted to hit the ball hard -- get on base and let someone knock him in. Instead, he did it all himself.

"It was unbelievable," Bruce said. "This is the perfect description. Unbelievable ."

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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Posted on: September 25, 2010 9:54 pm
Edited on: September 25, 2010 9:54 pm

Astros extend coaching staff

Jeff Bagwell
Have you taken a look at the Houston Astros lately? After the way they quickly made themselves irrelevant with a poor start to the season, there's no real reason you should have, but there's really a lot to like there.

Since their 17-34 start, the Astros have gone 57-46 (while trading Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman), a winning percentage of .553 that, extended over a full season, would have them at least in the playoff discussion. And much of the credit for that has been given to first-year manager Brad Mills and a coaching staff the players routinely praise.

The Astros want to make sure that group stays together, and announced Saturday they had given two-year contract extensions to the entire coaching staff. The exception is hitting coach Jeff Bagwell (pictured), who was offered the same extension but said that he wanted to discuss his future with his family after the season (Bagwell took over the job at midseason).

It's a pretty extraordinary gesture for a team that will finish with a losing record, but general manager Ed Wade told MLB.com he felt the team was headed in the right direction and wanted to remove any uncertainty.

"I just think the way that they've come together as a unit and the way they've worked with Millsie and the way they've been able to carry the message and the plan out on the field and communicate it with the players has put us in a position where I really think we have a strong, stable staff we'd like to keep together for an extended period of time," Wade said.

"I think we were all caught by surprise that they wanted to do that, but I also know they're looking at the big picture," said third-base coach Dave Clark, who finished last season as interim manager. "This is a good staff they've put together. We do a real good job of working together and complementing each other and we're really feeding off each other."

By all accounts, there's a good vibe in the Houston clubhouse these days, and Wade is wise to recognize that and make a proactive move toward maintaining it.

-- David Andriesen

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Category: MLB
Tags: Astros
Posted on: September 23, 2010 12:54 am

'Most pain ever' for Dunn

Nationals outfielder Adam Dunn said it was "the most pain I've ever had in baseball" when he took a Wandy Rodriguez fastball to the right elbow during Wednesday night's game against the Astros.

Dunn said he lost feeling in his hand, and was removed from the game after a bad throw later in the inning. Manager Jim Riggleman told reporters Dunn is questionable for Thursday, though Dunn thinks he'll be available to play. Then again, Dunn always thinks he can play -- as noted by the Washington Post, he's appeared in more games since 2004 than any player in baseball.

-- David Andriesen

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Posted on: September 17, 2010 7:02 pm
Edited on: September 17, 2010 7:25 pm

Strong interest in former D-Backs pick

Remember Barret Loux?

Loux was the sixth overall pick in June's draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Loux, a right-hander out of Texas A&M, failed his physical and the Diamondbacks decided not to sign him. Instead, Arizona was awarded compensatory draft picks in 2011 and Loux was given free agency.

Anyway, Loux worked out for "about 15" teams in College Station, Texas, on Friday. Among the teams there was Loux's hometown Astros.

"The fact there were 15 teams there today and the fact some clubs didn't sign their first-round [picks] showed there was some interest," Astros director of scouting Bobby Heck told MLB.com . "The fact we have somewhere [shows] our interest is sincere. We'll do our work on it. You have to have balance, not only the evaluation process, but because of the medical circumstances [team medical director] Dr. [David] Lintner becomes part of our process as well as we gauge where we can or can't go on this."

Loux was 11-2 with a  2.83 ERA for the Aggies last season and is currently in school finishing up his degree. According to Heck, Loux and his people aren't in a  rush, they just what something "in place later in the fall and know where their landing place is for spring training."

UPDATE: MLB.com's Brian McTaggart lists the other teams there -- the Dodgers, Twins, Marlins, Reds, Yankees, Pirates, A's, Brewers, Mets, Angels, Blue Jays and Royals.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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Posted on: September 14, 2010 4:12 pm
Edited on: September 14, 2010 4:13 pm

Rangers to announce Triple-A move

In a move expected since Nolan Ryan's group bought the Rangers, the team will enter into an affiliation with the Ryan-owned Round Rock Express of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.

Thursday is the first day teams can announce affiliation changes, and MLB.com reports that Round Rock, located near Austin, will make the announcement then. The Rangers have had their Triple-A team in Oklahoma City since 1983.

The switch will evict the Astros from Round Rock, where they have been since 2005. The Astros could be headed for Nashville, which has an affiliation contract ending with the Brewers.

Ryan also owns the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks, and there had been speculation the Rangers would land there as well, but the Astros just extended their development contract there through 2016.

-- David Andriesen

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Category: MLB
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