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Tag:Chris Johnson
Posted on: February 8, 2012 12:47 pm
 

Astros will experiment with Wallace at third

Brett Wallace

By C. Trent Rosecrans


Moving to third base is the new black.

Kevin Youkilis did it last year, the Tigers say they'll do it with Miguel Cabrera, the Marlins hope Hanley Ramirez will do it -- and now the Astros want Brett Wallace to move across the infield as well, according to Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle.

Wallace, drafted as a third baseman by the Cardinals in 2008, hasn't played anywhere but first base since coming up with the Astros in 2010. But the Astros have Carlos Lee's $18.5 million contract at first base for one more year before they could actually use him as a designated hitter in their move to the American League. By that time, though, the Wallace experiment at third base will likely have failed and Wallace can play first (or DH) and Lee will be somewhere else making much less money.

Wallace, 25, has hardly lived up to expectations since the Astros traded fellow prospect Anthony Gose to Toronto for the left-handed hitter. Wallace was traded twice in a year and five days, first by the Cardinals to Oakland for Matt Holliday and then to Toronto for Michael Taylor. Since being called up in 2010, Wallace has managed to hit just .248/.323/.354 with seven home runs in 537 plate appearances. Last season he hit .259/.334/.369 with five homers in 115 games.

Wallace hasn't played third base since 2009, when he played 52 games at the position for the Cardinals' Triple-A team in Memphis. Toronto and Houston never used him at third.

Levine writes that Astros general manager Jeff Lunhow, who drafted Wallace for the Cardinals in 2008, said Wallace has been taking ground balls at third base this offseason and will continue to play there in the spring.

The Astros hardly have Mike Schmidt or George Brett in waiting at the hot corner, as the other candidates for third base are Jimmy Paredes and Chris Johnson.

Johnson, 27, started 98 games at third base for the Astros last season, hitting .251/.291/.378 with seven home runs in 107 games and 405 plate appearances. Paredes, 23, played 46 games for Houston last season, hitting .286/.320/.393 with two homers in 179 plate appearances. Paredes hit.270/.300/.426 with 10 home runs in 93 games at Double-A Corpus Christi before being called up to Houston.

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Posted on: December 15, 2011 11:14 am
Edited on: December 15, 2011 12:27 pm
 

Homegrown Team: Houston Astros



By Matt Snyder


What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule/past entries of this feature, click here.

The most interesting thing about our latest installment in this series is that I believe this would have been one of the better teams in the majors had we done the exercise three or four years ago. How good would a Johan Santana, Roy Oswalt, Freddy Garcia top three in the rotation have been a handful of years ago -- along with Lance Berkman, Hunter Pence and Bobby Abreu leading the offense? Alas, we're doing it now and some of that sounds far less enticing. Still, let's check it out.

Lineup

1. Hunter Pence, CF
2. Jose Altuve, 2B
3. Ben Zobrist, RF
4. Lance Berkman, LF
5. Bobby Abreu, 1B
6. Chris Johnson, 3B
7. John Buck, C
8. Aaron Miles, SS

Starting Rotation

1. Johan Santana
2. Roy Oswalt
3. Wandy Rodriguez
4. Bud Norris
5. Jordan Lyles

Bullpen

Closer - Brad Lidge
Set up - Chad Qualls, Matt Albers, Troy Patton, Fernando Abad,
Long - Felipe Paulino, Freddy Garcia

Notable Bench Players

Ramon Castro, Carlos Guillen, Drew Sutton, Brooks Conrad, Brian Bogusevic

What's Good?

The trio of Pence, Zobrist and Berkman makes the front part of the offense look really attractive and Abreu offers decent protection for the Puma. Fitting in that two-hole would also do wonders for the development of the young Altuve. Can we assume health in this exercise, considering it's for fun? Sure, I will. So the starting rotation looks pretty good -- albeit not dominant anymore -- with Johan as the ace and Oswalt a good number two (remember, back issues hampered him last year). If Lyles isn't ready yet, we can plug in Garcia or Paulino as the five.

What's Not?

Lidge and Qualls aren't bad, but there is nothing in front of them worth much except two starting pitchers -- and, again, we may need one of the two in the rotation. The bottom part of the batting order isn't very good either and the bench is thin. But let's focus on what is really bad: The defense. I fought back and forth with whether to put Abreu or Berkman in LF, but either one is a bad choice. I just feel like Berkman can move better at this point. I also had to shift Pence to center, even though he's better suited in right. Miles is much better used at second base and he's not even really good there.

Comparison to real 2011

Well, the 2011 Astros were the worst team in the majors and in franchise history. This team isn't particularly good, but it's better than that. With that rotation, a decent back-end of the bullpen and some offense, these Astros should be able to work close to the 75-win range. One thing is for sure, they wouldn't be the worst team in the NL Central. I also feel like the best news for Astros fans is there would actually be some name players here to root for, after having seen the likes of Oswalt, Berkman, Pence and Michael Bourn traded over the past two real seasons. Still, you can't help but think that there are enough pieces here that the Astros could have properly built a real-life team that was still in contention in 2011 -- had they made the right moves.

Next: Los Angeles Dodgers

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Posted on: September 16, 2011 6:41 pm
Edited on: September 16, 2011 7:02 pm
 

Cubs-Astros ending shows need for more replay

By C. Trent Rosecrans

It was a meaningless game at Wrigley Field on Friday, but it highlighted once again the need for expanded replay.

Here's the scene, bases loaded, one out in the 12th inning. Chicago's Marlon Byrd hits a chopper down the third-base line, a charging Chris Johnson looks to field the ball, but it bounces off his glove just after taking a short hop apparently in foul territory. Third-base umpire David Rackley is on the line and has the best view of the play, calling it a fair ball.

Watch the play here. 

If Johnson touches the ball in fair territory, Starlin Castro scores and the game is over. If it's in foul territory, Astros reliever David Carpenter has a 1-1 count on Byrd. Rackley called the ball fair, although on the replay there's at least reason to question it. 

There wasn't a great camera angle on the play, but it seems like it bounced foul -- and was going foul -- just before it hit Johnson's glove. Expanded replay could add more cameras to the field, especially on the foul lines, there's certainly money for it in MLB and can even add to the telecasts. Or you could even use the technology that tennis uses in the majors that can help decide close line calls.

In the end, the most important thing is getting the call right -- and once again it appears MLB umpires didn't. Let it be noted, though, it was an incredibly tough call and I see what Rackley saw (chalk coming up on its previous bounce). I'm not blaming him. It's as tough of a call as there is out there, but he should have the chance to make the correct call with every tool at his disposal.

Part of the blame should go to Johnson, who wasn't going to get Castro at home, nor Byrd at first. If he lets the ball go, it likely rolls foul. But like with Rackley, it was a bang-bang play and a very quick decision was needed, it's just that an umpire's call can be reversed and made right, a player's error is part of the game. In the end, there is a chance to make everything right, and we're at the point that technology allows that and we should use it.

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Posted on: September 3, 2011 2:20 pm
 

Wallace, Johnson back with Astros, won't start

Wallace

By Evan Brunell

The Opening Day starters at first and third base for the Astros are back after being demoted to Triple-A, but Chris Johnson and Brett Wallace (pictured) aren't reclaiming their starting spots, as Carlos Lee and Jimmy Paredes have impressed in the interim.

“Those guys have been playing pretty well,” manager Brad Mills told the Houston Chronicle. “They deserve to get the bulk of the time. That’s not saying that CJ and Wally aren’t going to play. At the same time, those guys are doing a real good job.”

Johnson, son of Red Sox first base coach Ron Johnson, grabbed the third base job in Houston on the strength of a strong 2010 but couldn't keep the good times going this year, struggling with a .245/.286/.373 line before being demoted. Johnson wasn't a heralded prospect prior to his ascension to the majors, but expected more of himself after slashing .308/.337/.481 with 11 homers in 362 plate appearances last season.

“It was the first time of my life getting sent down playing baseball,” Johnson said. “It was definitely tough. I just basically told myself I’m not going to let this one bump in the road ruin my career. So I got back on the horse, worked hard, worked on some of the things I needed to work on, and now I’m back.”

In lieu of Johnson, Paredes is the man at third. A former Yankee who came over with Mark Melancon in the Lance Berkman deal, the 22-year-old is hitting .308/.348/.452 in 113 plate appearances. He wasn't a highly-regarded prospect, but is playing like it so far.

Meanwhile, Wallace, who was hitting .318 at the end of May before sinking to .268 prior to demotion, won't regain his job with Carlos Lee anchoring first. Lee can play left field, but the Astros have a J.D. Martinez - Jordan Schafer - Jason Bourgeois trio they aren't eager to switch up. That leaves first base for Lee and his bloated contract, which isn't up until after 2012. It says a lot of what the Astros think of Brett Wallace that they're allowing Lee and a motley crew of outfielders to stand in the way.

Wallace was a former first-round pick who was traded once upon a time for both Matt Holliday (St. Louis to Oakland) and then to Toronto as part of a satellite deal when Roy Halladay was dealt to Philadelphia. He was part of another satellite deal in Toronto that landed him in Houston as part of the Roy Oswalt move to Philly. Throughout all this, Wallace was considered a good hitter for average with solid pop, but he hasn't come close to reaching his potential in the majors. Wallace is staying patient, though, and hoping his chance will eventually come again.

“As a competitor you want to be out there every day,” Wallace said. “I think my job is just be prepared whether they need me late in the game defensively or to pinch-hit or a spot start or whatever they might need. I can’t control how much I play or how many at-bats I get. I’m just going to work hard and be ready to go when I get called.”

As part of the September callups, catcher J.R. Towles, outfielder J.B Shuck and pitchers righthanders Jordan Lyles, Lucas Harrell and Enerio Del Rosario were called up. Harrell made his Astros debut on Friday in an eventual loss.

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Posted on: May 18, 2011 10:39 pm
 

Holliday, Berkman leave game with injuries

Lance Berman

By C. Trent Rosecrans


You see that picture above? It's obviously not from tonight, because the guy on the right missed his fourth straight game because of injury and then the other two left the game with injuries.

Center fielder Colby Rasmus wasn't in the lineup to begin the game, as an abdominal muscle pull has kept him from playing since Saturday. Then Matt Holliday left after the second inning, complaining of tightness in his left quadriceps. In the sixfth, right fielder Lance Berkman left the game with right wrist "discomfort."

Berkman made a diving catch to rob Chris Johnson in the fifth and was removed from the game for a pinch hitter in the sixth inning with the wrist injury. No word yet on the severity of either injury.

Holliday was replaced by Matt Hamilton, who was then replaced by Tyler Greene, who came in to play second base (and later right field). Berkman was replaced by Pete Kozma, who hits an RBI double in his first career at-bat.

Holliday is having as good of a season as anyone not named Jose Bautista, hitting .357/.444/.557 with five homers so far this season. Berkman may be baseball's biggest surprise, hitting .349/.455/.683 with 11 homers, in his first year with the Cardinals and his first year primarily in the outfield since 2005.

Rasmus is hitting .305/.393/.461 for St. Louis, as the three make up the best offensive outfield in the league (defense, well… that's another mater). But if they're on the bench, it may not matter.

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Posted on: April 14, 2011 10:34 am
 

Pepper: McGwire only one to dodge steroid fallout

McGwire

By Evan Brunell

DODGING THE BULLET: The steroid era continues to haunt baseball, as Barry Bonds' obstruction of justice charge is far from the end of the saga.

While Bonds is the posterboy for the whole mess, the former face of baseball has somehow survived a Congressional inquiry, years of self-imposed exile, a much-awaited admission and apology and returned to the game as a coach.

No one could have guessed this when Mark McGwire was stumbling over ways to avoid the past in front of Congress, but he's the only star to avoid any lasting damage, unless one counts his failed bids to make the Hall of Fame. It does really seem as if his lawyers gave him the right information all the way back in 2003 as he avoided lying to Congress and then hid away until it benefited him to come clean to avoid prosecution and get back into the game.

Look, there's no defending McGwire, both for his actions juicing up and for waiting until it behooved him best to admit using steroids, but in his second season as Cardinals hitting coach, there is no paparazzi stalking him and no controversy. At this point, McGwire is just another coach with a long history in the game. That's an impressive feat to pull off. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

BASEBALL TODAY: Can Cliff Lee get back on track tonight? Will Phil Hughes lower his ERA? Matt Snyder joins Lauren Shehadi to answer those questions and more.

STRASBURG BEHIND: Stephen Strasburg has yet to throw off a mound in his return from Tommy John surgery. That places him behind Jordan Zimmermann's own schedule last season, but the Nationals have cautioned everyone rehabs at their own pace and there is no rush. Strasburg has a shot to pitch in September for Washington, but given he has yet to step on a mound, that shot has suddenly become a long one. (Washington Post)

MANNY WHO? The Rays have already found a solution for replacing Manny Ramirez's bobblehead night on May 29. In his place, the club will give away a cape dedicated to Sam Fuld, who was a one-man wrecking crew in the abbreviated two-game series against the Red Sox. Click the link to check out the cape, which is pretty cool. (Tampa Tribune)

GOING CRAZY: Well, that didn't take long. Skipper Terry Collins reportedly went "ballistic" after Wednesday's stinker. A player said Collins didn't single anyone out, but made it clear he wasn't happy with how New York was responding to its recent slide, having lost six of seven. (New York Post)

PANIC ALERT: At the outset of the 2011 season, one keeps hearing how it's too early to draw any conclusions from the play of teams or players. But for one certain writer, it's never too early as he encourages you to go right ahead and panic. Something about how it's healthy and fun to panic. Me? I'd prefer to stay even-keeled, thanks. (Sports Illustrated)

SHORTSTOP PAINS: The Brewers are incredibly thin at shortstop, both at the major-league and minor-league level. Luiz Cruz left the organization to sign with the Rangers despite Milwaukee telling him he would be the first option up to the majors if needed. Then, Triple-A third baseman/shortstop Zelous Wheeler got injured, leaving journeyman Anderson Machado as the first line of defense at short. And if your first line of defense is Machado, you've got serious problems. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

TILLMAN BOMBED: Chris Tillman was smacked around by the Yankees on Wednesday, and manager Buck Showalter made it clear after the game that it was unacceptable. "You just can’t let them get away from you and keep the team in the game," he said, also declining to confirm Tillman would make his next start Monday. (Baltimore Sun)

UBALDO RETURNING: Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez had a strong rehab outing Wednesday and should make his return to the majors on Monday. (MLB.com)

BACK TO THE ROTATION? Jeff Samardzija has shuttled back and forth between the rotation and bullpen in his fledgling career and may be settling into a niche as a reliever. However, when the team needs a fifth starter again next week, manager Mike Quade says he'll be forced to consider Samardzija along with a host of other options. (Chicago Sun-Times)

MEETING THE PRESIDENT: A select number of Houston Astros coaches and players had lunch with former president George H.W. Bush, an invitation that occurs once a year. "I was a little star-struck when I saw him," third baseman Chris Johnson said. "You see athletes all the time. That’s totally different. It’s totally on another level." (Houston Chronicle)

HAPPY 70, CHARLIE HUSTLE: Pete Rose turns 70 on Thursday, an unthinkable thought to those who grew up idolozing Rose and the Big Red Machine. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

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Posted on: October 14, 2010 7:21 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2010 11:57 am
 

R.I.P. Astros: Moving on

As the sports world waits for the crowning of a champion, 22 other teams are busy preparing for spring training. What went wrong for these teams, and what does 2011 hold? MLB Facts and Rumors here at CBS Sports will be answering those questions through all of October. Now: the Houston Astros.

Few teams were as bad as the Astros were in the first part of the season, and then few teams were as good as the Astros in the second half of the season.

Carlos Lee WHAT WENT WRONG

When I see Carlos Lee (pictured), I sometimes I think of the line in "Major League" when Charlie Donovan says, "I forgot about Dorn, because he's jolly high-priced." Lee owed $37 million through the next two seasons.

Lee didn't hit a homer in the season's first month, entered June with a .206 batting average and finished the season hitting .246/.291/.417 with 24 homers and 89 RBI. He's a below-average designated hitter that plays in the National League.

It's not to say Lee was all that was wrong with the Astros. Others struggled, such as Lance Berkman and Pedro Felice.

What may have been more devastating was seeing prospects the team had been counting on, such Tommy Manzella, Jason Castro and J.R. Towles struggle.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Brad Mills A lot of credit has to go to first-year manager Brad Mills. The team went 40-59 in their first 99 games of the season before finishing 36-27 the rest of the way. Mills also did it without some of his high-priced talent, as the team jettisoned Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman and Pedro Feliz.

Third baseman Chris Johnson had a good season, going .308/.337/.481 with 11 homers. Hunter Pence cashed in on the promise he'd shown early in his career, hitting .282/.325/.461 with 25 home runs, 91 RBI and 18 stolen bases.

The team relied on good starting pitching during its good streak from Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, Bud Norris and J.A. Happ, and all four of those starters return for 2011.

HELP ON THE WAY

Ugh. Not really. That's the problem with cutting your losses and going young -- you need young players to replace the old ones. It's cheaper, but the Astros have one of the worst farm systems in the majors.

EXPECTATIONS FOR 2011

The second half of the season raised the bar for the Astros, so fans will be expecting at least a .500 team, if not a run at the NL Central title.

SUGGESTIONS FOR 2011

The Astros took the right direction during the season, trading Berkman and Oswalt.

Houston has Berkan, Oswalt, Feliz and Kaz Matsui off the books, but there's not a whole to to spend that money on in free agency.

Although Berkman had hinted that he wanted to return to Houston, the teams needs to resist nostalgia and give Brett Wallace a chance at first base.

2011 PREDICTION

The optimism from the last part of 2010 will be gone by the All-Star break and the team will finish ahead of the Pirates in the National League Central, but won't be challenging for a title.

Check out the rest of the R.I.P. reports here.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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Posted on: September 21, 2010 10:56 am
 

Maple bat reaction coming in

We've got a full news cycle since Tyler Colvin was impaled by a shattered maple bat, so there's been plenty of time for response, including MLB's .

Here's a sampling of some more reaction, starting with Oakland reliever Brad Ziegler, who was cut by a maple bat earlier this season.

Ziegler (via the San Francisco Chronicle ):
"A little higher and it could have struck him in the throat," Ziegler said. "I'm worried there won't be interest in doing anything until it's too late and it takes a lawsuit when a player or fan gets hurt."

Maple bats now must meet stricter standards to be approved, but, Ziegler said, "Until they are eliminated, the danger is still there. ... This is like having a 2-pound tomahawk flying through the air."
Boston's Mike Cameron (via the Boston Globe ):
“I don’t think that’s the problem,’’ said Mike Cameron, who uses both maple and ash. “I think the problem is the weight of the bats, the way they’re designed. All maple bats don’t break like that.

“I think the maple bats are something that can be very dangerous when guys get really light ones, really thin handles. They don’t have any give in them. I’ve had some ash bats that do the same thing. I don’t think that it’s as violent because of the bend in the bats. But probably the biggest thing is when they break, they leave these points. The impact from the ball and a major league player and a bat is going to make a dangerous impact.’’
Astros third baseman Chris Johnson (via the Houston Chronicle ):
"I'm pretty close and if bats break I have to be on the lookout, but I think that's part of the game," Johnson said. "Pitchers are trying to do that — pitchers are trying to break bats - and bats are going to go flying whether they're maple or ash." And Astros general manager Ed Wade:
"I think we have to continue to conduct the studies that have been ongoing," Astros general manager Ed Wade said. "When bats become spears or projectiles, it's of concern. They have implemented some changes over the course of the last year or so, and sometimes these things will continue to happen no matter how many safeguards you build into it." -- C. Trent Rosecrans

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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