Astros demote Brett Wallace and Chris Johnson to Triple-A

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As if trading away Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn wasn’t enough of a roster shakeup, the Astros also decided to demote first baseman Brett Wallace and third baseman Chris Johnson to Triple-A last night.

They started 91 and 86 of Houston’s first 108 games, but Johnson has struggled all season with a ghastly .286 on-base percentage and .659 OPS and Wallace convinced the Astros he needed more time in the minors by going just 12-for-66 (.182) in July.

Of course, with Pence and Bourn gone Wallace’s overall .720 OPS ranks second on the team behind only Carlos Lee, which isn’t bad from a 24-year-old rookie and makes the demotion based on 66 at-bats an odd one. Even stranger is that Wallace was replaced on the roster by 22-year-old Jimmy Paredes, who was acquired from the Yankees in last year’s Lance Berkman deal and had nearly the same OPS at Double-A (.726) that Wallace did in the majors (.720).

Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle notes that only two of the eight position players in the Opening Day lineup remain starters and apparently the Astros don’t have any patience for 24-year-old rookies with decent overall numbers even when they’re in the midst of a full-scale rebuild and have MLB’s worst record.

Brandon Morrow injured his back taking off his pants

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The Cubs’ bullpen got into trouble in the ninth inning on Tuesday afternoon during the first game of a doubleheader. Justin Wilson started the inning with the Cubs leading 3-2, normally a situation for closer Brandon Morrow. Wilson issued a leadoff walk to Austin Barnes, then gave up a single to Justin Turner. Morrow wasn’t warming up, curiously. Wilson ended up giving up a go-ahead two-run double to pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer and the Cubs went on to lose 4-3.

We now know why Morrow wasn’t available. He says his back tightened up taking off his pants early Monday morning, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reports. Morrow said, “It’s frustrating any time you can’t get out there, especially when you can’t go for something as stupid as taking your pants off.”

Morrow, 33, has been terrific in the closer’s role this season for the Cubs. He owns a 1.59 ERA with a 25/9 K/BB ratio in 22 2/3 innings. He is also not available for the back end of Tuesday’s doubleheader, but it sounds like he won’t need to go on the disabled list.