HOUSTON -- The decision to get rid of outfielders Rick Ankiel and Fernando Martinez on Monday had more to do with their lack of offensive production -- and high strikeout rates -- than anything else, but the Astros' outfield has gotten more athletic in the process.
Even with Justin Maxwell on the disabled list with a broken bone in his hand, the Astros had some athleticism with Robbie Grossman and Brandon Barnes, but the addition of Jimmy Paredes and Trevor Crowe give manager Bo Porter plenty of options in the outfield. Grossman, Paredes and Crowe are all switch-hitters.
Grossman started in left, Barnes in center and Paredes in right on Tuesday against the Angels.
"I think that was something we set out to do," Porter said. "We went out to get more athletic, get more guys who have the ability to mishit the ball and still have a possibility of getting on base because of their athletic ability. We set out to cut down on strikeouts and find guys that were going to put the ball in play more."
Paredes played right field and third base at Triple-A Oklahoma City and was hitting .366 with nine doubles, three triples, three homers and 15 RBIs. He's played all over the infield and outfield in his time with Houston, but Porter said he'll play primarily right field. The Astros are just hoping he can hit.
"When you talk to [RedHawks manager] Tony [DeFrancesco] and some of the scouts I know and that have been scouting our team and scouting the league, they say he's the most exciting player they've seen," Porter said. "You look at the skills and say, 'If this guy's turned the corner, let's find out right now in the big leagues.'"
Porter holds Ankiel in high regard
HOUSTON -- The decision to part ways with Rick Ankiel on Monday was a difficult one for manager Bo Porter, who was with Ankiel last year in Washington and has tons of respect for the way the veteran carried himself.
Ankiel and fellow outfielder Fernando Martinez were designated for assignment Monday, likely bringing an end to their tenure in Houston. Ankiel hit just .194 in 25 games with five homers, 11 RBIs and a whopping 35 strikeouts in 62 at-bats. The Astros couldn't live with the strikeouts anymore.
"It was real difficult because of the professional Rick Ankiel is and all the things he was able to do for us from the moment we signed him, and he did a tremendous job of mentoring a lot of the young guys and adding a veteran presence that was very much needed in our ballclub," Porter said. "At the same time, it was something [general manager] Jeff [Luhnow] and I talked about and something that needed to be done."
The Astros brought Ankiel to Minute Maid Park on Monday to inform him of the decision in person, which was a definite show of respect.
"Rick is a professional and he understands the game," Porter said. "He's been around the game a long time. His reaction was, 'Thanks for the opportunity.' He wished us well, we wished him well and that was pretty much it."
Fellow veteran Carlos Pena considers Ankiel a friend and was sorry to see him go.
"Everybody loved him," he said. "He is a very dear friend of mine and not to have him around is definitely something that hurt, but it was good to see him in good spirits and positive like he's always been. He's a warrior."
Carter looking at more time at first base, DH
HOUSTON -- The Astros plan to give Chris Carter most of his playing time at designated hitter and first base now that they have so many versatile outfield options with the addition of Trevor Crowe and Jimmy Paredes.
Carter is hitting just .207 and ranks first in the Major Leagues in strikeouts, but he leads the team with six homers and has 14 RBIs. He's made 15 starts in left field, one at first base and was in the lineup at DH for the 14th time on Tuesday against the Angels.
"Having Robbie Grossman, Brandon Barnes and now J.D. Martinez back off the disabled list and Paredes here, it gives us some options to have better defensive options out there on a regular basis," manager Bo Porter said. "But at the same time, you want to have Carter's bat in the lineup. He's a guy who can change the game with one swing."
Following a six-game stretch in which he hit .462 with four homers and seven RBIs, Carter entered Tuesday hitting .152 with two homers and seven RBIs in his last 20 games. He had struck out 33 times in his past 66 at-bats.
Maxwell has cast removed
HOUSTON -- Astros outfielder Justin Maxwell, who's been on the disabled list since April 24 with a fractured left hand, underwent X-rays and was cleared to have his removable cast replaced with a splint after an examination by a team doctor on Tuesday.
Maxwell hopes to start doing some hand-strengthening exercises with putty and maybe hold a bat next week. He's still supposed to be out another month or so.
"He said the X-rays look really good and that I seem to be progressing well," Maxwell said of his visit with the physician. "He said to keep taking my vitamin C and calcium and keep using my bone stimulator. It's all pretty positive."
Maxwell admits it's been frustrating watching the team struggle and not being able to help. The team has only won twice since he was injured.
"All the guys in here, we realize that it's a long season and we're all staying positive," he said. "We're all here in the big leagues for a reason, and we all know we can play well and right the ship."