Wandy Rodriguez

Running down the rosters: Houston Astros

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The 2012 Astros are pretty sure bets to lose 100 games, with the big question being whether they’ll top last year’s mark of 106 losses. That achievement will be tied to their ability to move the contracts of Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers and Carlos Lee. Ideally, they’d be able to sell off at least the latter two. Still, as marginal as Myers and Lee have become, they still rank among the team’s better players.

Rotation
Wandy Rodriguez – L
Brett Myers – R
Bud Norris – R
J.A. Happ – L
Livan Hernandez – R

Bullpen
Wilton Lopez – R
David Carpenter – R
Sergio Escalona – L
Wesley Wright – L
Juan Abreu – R
Fernando Rodriguez – R
Rhiner Cruz – R (Rule 5)

Disabled list: Brandon Lyon – R
SP next in line: Jordan Lyles (R), Zach Duke (L), Kyle Weiland (R), Henry Sosa (R), Paul Clemens (R), Lucas Harrell (R)
RP next in line: Fernando Abad (L), Aneury Rodriguez (R), Jose Valdez (R), Enerio Del Rosario (R)

I had Lyles penciled into the rotation before the Hernandez and Duke signings, but unless Rodriguez or Myers is dealt this spring, now it seems likely that he’ll get some additional minor league seasoning. That’s probably for the best. Lyles held his own in the majors last season, but he’s just 21 and he still has some work to do.

The bullpen will be one of the game’s least experienced even if Lyon makes it back from shoulder surgery and contributes this season. I think it’s a long shot that he’ll prove useful, but since he’s making $5.5 million, he’ll probably get a chance to close if he proves healthy. In the meantime, just about anyone could win the job. Lopez has far and away the best track record, but no one seems to buy him as a long-term option as a closer. Carpenter might be the better bet. Abreu has the best stuff of the group, but his control is awful.

I’m giving Cruz a spot initially, though I’m skeptical he’ll be of any use.

Lineup
CF Jordan Schafer – L
2B Jose Altuve – R
SS Jed Lowrie – S
1B Carlos Lee – R
LF J.D. Martinez – R
RF Brian Bogusevic – L
3B Jimmy Paredes – S
C Jason Castro – R

Bench
C Chris Snyder – R
INF Matt Downs – R
INF Marwin Gonzalez – S (Rule 5)
OF Jack Cust – L
OF Jason Bourgeois – R

Next in line: C Humberto Quintero (R), INF Angel Sanchez (R), 3B Chris Johnson (R), 1B Brett Wallace (L), INF-OF Brian Bixler (R), OF Travis Buck (L), OF Fernando Martinez (L), OF J.B. Shuck (L), OF Justin Ruggiano (R)

That’s the lineup of a team that simply doesn’t figure to score many runs. The Astros would probably be better off for 2012 with Downs at third base and Cust in left field, with Martinez sliding to right, but those make for small gains and they might as well see if Paredes and Bogusevic belong in their future plans. I’m not really expecting either to stick.

The more important players here are Schafer, Lowrie and Castro. If they can overcome their injury histories, then they might join Altuve on a competitive Astros team come 2014. No one from the group ever figures to become an All-Star (well, except for the fact that someone will have to represent the Astros in the Midsummer Classic), but they can be solid players at key positions. When the Astros are ready to contend again someday, it’ll be easier to upgrade at the corners than it will be up the middle.

Mets owners get some breathing room on their Bernie Madoff settlement payments

New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon stands on the field before baseball's Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Associated Press
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For years the central fact of life of the New York Mets has been that their owners, the Wilpon family and Saul Katz, lost a ton of money after investing it with friend and business partner Bernard Madoff, perpetrator of the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. It has hampered their payroll and led to huge amounts of borrowing and restructuring that, before last year’s pennant run, seemed like it’d be a millstone on the Mets competitive prospects for years to come.

In addition to losing money, it was later determined that Katz and the Wilpons unfairly gained in some other respects and thus they ended up having their phony earnings clawed back via a settlement with the trustee managing the fallout of the Madoff scandal.  The upshot: the Wilpons and Katz, in addition to their losses, were ordered to pay nearly $60 million dollars back, half payable this week, half payable next year. That’s a lot of money for anyone to fork over and this week’s payment loomed large.

Now, however, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Wilpons and Katz will get some breathing room. Specifically, they have modified their agreement with the trustee and some of the owed money has been deferred. Instead of some $29 million payable this week, they will only have to pay $16 million. The remainder will be paid in four installments — from 2017 through 2020 — with an interest rate of 3.5 percent on the unpaid balance, Rubin says.

Now, there obviously was no promise that the $13 million saved this week be invested in the baseball team, but it’s probably a good thing overall for the Mets if their owners’ debt payments are reduced a bit.

Mike Napoli hit a homer for a fan with cancer

CLEVELAND, OH -  MAY 30: Mike Napoli #26 of the Cleveland Indians rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run during the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Progressive Field on May 30, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Last night a fan named Kathi Heintzelman showed up at Progressive Field in Cleveland with a sign asking Indians first baseman Mike Napoli to hit a home run for her and to give her a hug. But there was a reason beyond her love for Mike Napoli. She’s starting chemotherapy today and the hug and homer would be a nice thing.  Hard to disagree with that, even if everyone knows that ballplayers can’t hit homers on demand.

Well, most players can’t. Mike Napoli did the easy part before the game, giving her a hug. Then in the sixth inning, he went yard:

 

Whether you believe that such things can be fated or if you merely acknowledge that Heintzelman asked Napoli for a homer at a good time — he’s on a hot streak right now and has hit bombs in four of his last 11 games — it’s a great story.

 

The Twins recall Byron Buxton

Byron Buxton
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Byron Buxton has been recalled from Triple-A Rochester by the Twins.

Buxton will replace Danny Santana, who was placed on the disabled list following a hamstring injury. But the bigger picture here is that Buxton will get a fresh go-around to show that he is the future of the Twins like so many assume he will be. The 22-year-old hasn’t hit so far in the majors, but he batted .336/.403/.603 with six homers, four steals, and a 26/11 K/BB ratio over 129 plate appearances after his demotion to Triple-A last month.

At this point the Twins, who stink on ice, need to just put their top young player in the game and let him learn to swim at the big league level rather than try to squeak out a few extra relatively meaningless wins with guys who won’t be part of the next contending Twins team.

92-year-old World War II vet throws a nifty ceremonial first pitch

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 9.04.09 AM
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Think of how many bad ceremonial first pitches you’ve seen. From the worm burners from local business owners and pillars of the community at minor league games to ex-big leaguers who obviously haven’t picked up a ball since they retired to the famous celebrity ones that go viral the next day, there are probably a lot more bad first pitches out there than good ones.

But when the good ones come, they’re really enjoyable. And few are more enjoyable than the one which preceded yesterday’s Padres-Mariners game in Seattle. The pitcher: Burke Waldron, a 92-year-old veteran of World War II. He did it in his dress whites. He ran out onto the field beforehand. And though his catcher didn’t set up the full 60 feet, six inches away from where Waldron threw it, it was still a spiffy pitch. Way better than most: