The first half: A look at what’s to come for Astros


So, at 13 games over .500, these Astros are — thus far — exceeding any of our expectations. I’m pretty sure at some point, I said we’d be looking at 83-87 wins. Well, right now the Astros have 47 wins. As long as they play within a game of .500 the rest of the way, the Astros will make that.

Of course, the 81 games left won’t necessarily play out like the first 81. So, here’s what we can look forward to. Maybe …

What Can Go Right
Despite George Springer going on the disabled list for the next six weeks — and hopefully not any longer — the Astros are about to get healthier. When last we saw Jed Lowrie, he was hitting .300 with a .999 OPS, having whiffed 15 times in 60 ABs, but having walked 12 times as well. Jake Marisnick is on his way back as well. He hasn’t been gone long — and his offense has lagged since that first month — but his defense could come in handy.

The other big option the Astros get back is Scott Feldman. With a 4.80 ERA, Feldman has — and probably will again — had good outings and not-so-great ones. These additions through health should be a big boon to the Astros. Eventually, Springer will be that addition, though the Astros will certainly miss him for now.

The other improvement the Astros can see is a second-half surge by some players: Chris Carter, Luis Valbuena, Evan Gattis and Jason Castro are the likely candidates. For Carter, a horrible .160 BA in April only gave way to a .215 and .209 BA in May and June. He’ll have to do better than that to be of real value to the Astros. Though his .832 OPS in June would be helpful for a second-half run. For Gattis, the .164 April BA gave way to better May and June averages. His OPS has been up and down though, but he keeps driving in runs. If Gattis can stay consistent, he can help make the second half look like the first.

Valbuena’s production did pick up some in June, but if he cannot stay productive the Astros have Lowrie to look forward to at 3B. At the very least, the pair can platoon at third. Castro is the poor producer who seems unlikely to change. A good May (.734 OPS) has been his high-water mark.

The other possible path to improvement should be the trade front. It’s no secret the Astros are looking for a top-of-the-rotation starter on a rental basis. Jeff Luhnow has said he’s not looking for the long-term solution (no Cole Hamels), and would rather a rental (Scott Kazmir or Johnny Cueto) that will cost less.

What Should Go Right
As Jose Altuve heads back toward .300, all seems right with the world. Altuve being Altuve and Dallas Keuchel being Keuchel seem like reasonable expectations. Other than a few bad starts, Collin McHugh looks like the second-half McHugh from 2014, and that can only help as well.

One thing to see with the Astros at this point is that — other than Keuchel and maybe Will Harris — no one is having a career year. No one is set up for a fall. In fact, some regression in the positive overall is the likely scenario in the second half.

And while the Astros most likely keep swinging and missing, they’ll also keep hitting it out of the park when they do connect. The power game will miss Springer while he’s gone. But Gattis, Carter, Colby Rasmus, Valbuena and Springer when he returns should keep providing the power.

And the Astros should keep benefiting from their youth movement. Carlos Correa and Lance McCullers Jr. are just part of the contribution from the farm. While we await Springer’s return, Domingo Santana and Jon Singleton will help out. Both have been better than their 2014 versions by far.

What Can Go Wrong
All that said, we can’t read the future. Injuries have hurt the Astros in the first half — Lowrie and Feldman mainly — and will continue to hurt in the second half with Springer out. If anything happened to Keuchel long-term or Altuve — or Correa — this could all go south pretty fast.

Most season, the Astros have played into a little bad luck. Not so far this season. The Astros Pythagorean record is the same as their actual record. The other unforeseen road block to the playoffs could be an error by Luhnow when or if he makes a trade. Trade Valbuena in a package for Cueto, then Lowrie goes down again, and we’re looking at Marwin Gonzalez or Jonathan Villar at 3B. Package Marisnick in a deal, then suddenly Rasmus goes back to his 2014 form, and this is not a plus outfield anymore.

What Should Go Wrong
That said, this is a team that has some flaws already without going and looking for more. The strikeouts are obvious. Houston has nearly 100 Ks than the next biggest whiffer (754 to 660, Tampa Bay).  The Astros are in a 3-way tie for 11th worst batting average. One or two bad days at the plate, and Houston will hold the 14th spot in the AL on its own with ease. But the Astros are a solid 10th in the AL in OBP (.309) and is a respectable fifth in OPS (.736)

The real concern is wins and losses. A 15-7 April was followed by a 16-13 May and a 15-14 June. The margin of error on the Astros’ months has been diminishing. A losing month would give the Angels or whomever a big chance close the gap. A big losing skid to counteract that big winning streak Houston enjoyed early on would decimate the Astros’ lead.

Expect These Numbers

1. Evan Gattis has 49 RBIs thus far. Will he or anyone else top the 100 mark?

2. Right now Jose Altuve is on pace for 174 hits on the season. I’m going to call 185 his over/under. What say you?

3. Dallas Keuchel is on pace for 20 wins. Does he get there? Does Collin McHugh join him?

4. Going into the final 81 games, Valbuena has 19 homers and Carter has 15. Do either top 30?

5. Both Correa and Keuchel have one at least one monthly honor. Do either win Cy Young or Rookie of the Year this season? If so, what will that say about how the Astros’ second half has gone?  Is Correa’s biggest competition for ROY McCullers?

6. Thus far, the Astros are 47-34. To just go .500, they’d have to go 34-47. Do you honestly see that happening? If the Astros play a game under .500 the rest of the way, that’s 87 wins. A game over and it’s 88 wins. Is that enough to make the playoffs? How many wins do they need to win the division? Keep in mind, the closest competitors are the Angels and Rangers at 41 wins apiece.

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91 comments on “The first half: A look at what’s to come for Astros

  1. At this point in the season, with a lead like ours, I think the biggest mistake a team can make is starting to look too far beyond the next at-bat, the next struck ball, and the next inning of the current game. At this stage all I expect are good, smart, controlled, well-planned outings by our pitchers; solid, patient at-bats by our hitters; smart, aggressive defense at all positions; and all-out baserunning, strongly based in the fundamentals, when the time comes. Nobody has to over-perform. Nobody has to worry too much about anyone stealing their position. Just hustle till it hurts, stick to the game plan, make adjustments without panicking, and it should work out fine.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nicely done Brian T – enjoyed your look ahead.
    What can go right?
    – I really expect someone to catch fire in the offense. No one really has – there have been solid times from a number of guys. but not the 5 home runs in a week, 25 RBIs in a month kind of runs that I think can happen.
    – More of the McHugh we saw in his last start would be awesome.

    What could go wrong
    – If injuries keep popping up and if we make a trade or two the team could be in trouble
    – If the bullpen regresses much – that would hurt because their success has been carrying the team forward so far.

    I love what Mr. Bill says above – play it one ball at a time, but of course being a fan I don’t have to do that myself – just expect all those youngsters to do it.
    What the team needs to do is to continue to get the kind of pitching that keeps the team in the games – then continue to be the kind of team that does not let 6 scoreless innings bother it and goes out there and wins the game in the last 3 innings.
    I think I picked them for like 83 wins. I would be disappointed in that after seeing the first half. I want to see them at 90 wins at least and I think that wins this division.

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  3. With Springer out, we need more. We have the players who can give more. Altuve can hit ten points higher. Valbuena is certainly capable of hitting his own career average. Gattis is more than capable of hitting for more power than he has shown recently. Carter has more than he has shown and Castro is hitting way below his career average. This team has the ability to step it up and I think they will.
    The Royals swept Oakland and then got swept by Houston. The Yankees split and they were lucky to get that. The Astros should have a lot of confidence right now and Dan Straily can really help this team out tonight. Let’s see what he and the Astros have to show us at storied Fenway, where, the last time they played, Jake Marisnick knocked in two big runs and got his nickname.
    Preston Tucker and Carlos Correa, a lot of new faces will be seeing you two for the first time this evening. Make it something they won’t soon forget. This is a good stage.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Looking at the pitching match-ups for Lancaster is always fun. Tonight the Jet Hawks throw Evan Grills, sporting an ERA of 6.55, against Inland Empire’s Garrett Nuss, who has an ERA of 8.80. Playing in that California desert air sure does challenge a pitcher’s stats, doesn’t it! And, as Mr. Appel found out recently, Fresno is not a whole lot better.

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  5. Has Tony sipp. Come in one single game this year that he hasn’t given up at least one run?
    Talk about taking the wind outta your sails.

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    • Lefty Riley Ferrell threw two shutout innings for QC in relief last night. I’m just sayin’!
      He came in relief of Francis Martes, who threw 6 shutout innings with 10 strikeouts.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Before the game, starting 3 guys that are not hitting their weight. Bringing up a SP that has not been very effective in AAA ball. Right. No way they win that game. Is this the year that makes up for all those games over the past 5-8 years when we said, “If only he had got a hit, if only the ball was 2 inches to the right, if only the ump had called that 5th pitch a strike, if only, if only…….”

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  7. Marc Kraus, who was traded to the Rays last week, was DFA’d by the Rays this morning.
    Neftali Feliz was DFA’d by the Rangers this morning and will get his $4.13mil salary whether he is claimed on waivers or not. He could end up a free agent and try to restart his career next season. He is only 27.

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  8. Jose Altuve got his third error of the season last night and they are the three weirdest errors you will see.
    1. He throws out a runner and then the runner knocks the ball out of Carter’s glove.
    2. With a runner flying at him with cleats up he misses the bag by a fraction of an inch and gets screwed by the ump.
    3. Stupid Ortiz doesn’t duck on a double play and Altuve’s throw hits him in the helmet and goes into the stands.
    Unbelievable!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Awesome great 4th of July gift. I taped it and fell asleep at 7-7, Sipp’s ship has been sinking a lot lately, Fields is an enigma, and Correa is 20 and skinny and can hit the ball a mile, watch out when he is 21(-: and Oh my Presley gets a couple of knocks. Happy “We love our Country and Astro day everyone”.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Now to answer your questions.
    1. Does Gattis get 100 rbis? It’s a good possibility. When Rasmus and Marisnick return, he goes back to DH. I see him remaining at DH a lot, even in September because he remains healthy and they want him to stay sharp all the way to the playoffs. Having Altuve, Correa and Tucker/Lowrie hitting in front of him might set the table a lot for him. I’m going to guess he gets 95 rbis.
    2. I’m going to predict Altuve falls just shy of the 200 hit mark because he won’t get as many plate appearances because the Astros won’t have to bat in the ninth inning near as many times this season as they did last year and the lineup won’t flip over as much.
    3. I don’t think Keuchel will win 20 because they will try to give him a break late in the year to get him a little rest for the playoffs. He won’t like the rest, but not for the stat reasons. He’s just wants to pitch and win.
    4. Valbuena has a better chance for 30 HR’s than Carter because of Singleton getting some ABs. But what about Lowrie? Maybe nobody gets 30 but the Astros lead the majors in homers without a player being in the top 5.
    5.I think 90 wins would win the division by two games.

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  11. Jake will come off the dl today and probably start tomorrow. My thought is they keep tucker and send santana (or presley) back down. What. A. Game. Last night!! Oh my goodness I thought at least three times we were going to lose!! Excuse me…..I was hard on Tony sipp last night, but I started thinking about it…he was used nearly *every day* last year, because we *had* to!! Now that he rarely pitches…he’s been a little rusty. I’m giving him a pass. Josh fields was getting squeezed last night. Period. Let’s hope the Dr. Can shut these guys down today!! Have a great 4th. You guys!

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  12. Can somebody help me here? Mrs. 1oldpro wants to know why the flag on the Astros’ uniforms has the stars in the top right, rather than the top left. She was offended by that, and I could not give her a satisfactory explanation. Why do they have the flag like that rather than the typical way of displaying it.

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    • I looked this up and this is the accepted way by the military to wear a flag insignia on the right shoulder. It is supposed to look like a flag flying in the breeze as the standard bearer carries it into battle. If you picture it if the standard bearer is marching into battle with the pole in front of him and the flag streaming behind him – this is how it would look if you were to the right of them.

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  13. Unusual game for the Astros – it is very rare when they lose and are not in the game, not fighting their way back into it or whatever.
    It has been 20 games since they lost by more than 3 runs. A listless effort today.

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  14. After last nights emotional win, a bit of a hangover today.

    I think we’re giving McHugh more credit than he deserves. Based on his body of work over half a season, he’s pretty much a back of rotation guy. We really do need another starter.

    Sorry to see Santana go. I feel like he was just a couple of line drives away from settling in. But fair enough. Jake controls his own destiny now. And if he does not hit, I don’t think there would be a hesitation to bringing Santana back. Course Santana might be one of the first guys to go in a deal for a pitcher. Seems like he’s just one more good guy in a dugout full of good guys.

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    • Agree that we need another pitcher, daveb, but disagree with you about McHugh. I still think he is just having a bit of a bump on his way back to a solid # 2-3, and I have far more concern about inconsistency from Feldman.

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      • Hope you’re right Roger, but I gave him half a season before making that remark. Seems he might be heading in a better direction very recently, but his stats at the halfway point are there for all to see. It’s a pretty significant bump. That old fashioned ERA stat is glaring at 4.54. The WHIP of 1.299 is somewhere between middle and back of the rotation. His K’s per nine are down two a game from 2014. Most striking to me is that he gave up a 117 hits in 154.2 innings last year. He’s already given up 112 in 107 innings this year. His 9-4 record is not indicative of his ineffectiveness to date. But one thing we both agree on is that Feldman remains a real concern.

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  15. Straily to get another start. And..Jim crane affirms that the astros are indeed trying to trade for another starting pitcher.

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  16. Today we got aced. What do you say about a guy who poured strikes over the middle of the plate and the stuff was so good we couldn’t hit it. You tip your hat to him and realize how the Royals felt when Keuchel got finished with them earlier this week.
    Then you go out there and try to win the series tomorrow.

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  17. Last night Lancaster lost the game when they refused to use a closer after getting the lead in the top of the ninth. Their back end tandem pitcher had already gone three innings but they put him back out there and left him in while the other team rallied for two runs. He gave up a double and a triple and the winning run scored on a Nottingham error behind the plate.
    In this case, the tandem system was unlike any other baseball program, in that they didn’t use a closer to try and win a game for the team. Their system overrode normal baseball procedures, including that of the Astros themselves, whose own major league club would have put in their closer to preserve the win.

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  18. If you guys haven’t seen this kid pitch with Boston yet…oh boy you’re in for an eye popping performance. This guy has unbelievable stuff. I hope our guys can break through with him, but don’t be surprised if he shuts this team down. I’ve got my rally towel out for this game just in case!!!!

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  19. Thought this was interesting from this weekend’s games. The marlins sent cosart. to triple a after yesterday’s start…and the Os moved norris to the bullpen. I think we talked about norris to the bullpen a couple of years ago, which is where he might find success.
    The fans in Miami have buyer’s remorse, and they was Marisnick and Moran back!!! Oops
    Too bad!! #letshopemccullarsbringshisbeststufftoday.

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  20. McCullers not too accurate so far. Going to be tough for him to get more than 5 IP when he is sitting at 49 pitches thru 2 innings.

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  21. Hard to believe this game is only 1-1 after 5 innings with all the traffic on the bases – both sides. Hope our bullpen beats their bullpen.

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  22. Poor fielding and poor pitching has turned Will Harris into Won’t Harris.
    But then JFSF makes his second big defensive play along with having a clutch hit on the day….

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      • I will say Ramirez hit a ball below his knees for a homer – Sipp’s bigger problem frankly was walking Ortiz after a bunch of pitches. His pitch to Ramirez was not grooved or anything.

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    • The only guys I have confidence in are Harris neshek. And gregerson. Tony sipp has no business in a one run game right now. His numbers are *horrible*. Either he is hurt or
      He’s lost it.

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  23. The bigger issue with the Astros pitching recently is the large number of BBs we are giving up. Our early season success was predicated upon low BBs, great defense and a strong bullpen. This is not the case recently and has to be turned around if the Astros intend to challenge for a playoff spot this year.

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  24. Totally non-baseball note and please don’t take this as political, because it would be just as funny no matter who it was happening to, but had to laugh at the 9 PM news as they were talking about John Kerry threatening to walk away from the North Koreans at the negotiation table. Of course as the newsman was saying these words they were showing Kerry moving across the screen on crutches. Doesn’t any one read the news copy while looking at what is going to be projected?

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      • I saw the replay of Jake ‘ s catch against the green monster…oh my goodness I hope he’s not hurt. He hit that wall going 100 miles an hour!! Jeeze.

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      • I was going to suggest Brian Dozier instead, but wow, Kipnis is having a great year! I don’t have any qualms about Altuve starting, though. His stats are a little down, but he carried our offense early on when we built that lead and JFSF was our only other hitter. Also, I’m a total homer.

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  25. Time for Devinski to make his entrance onto the stage. Need another pitcher until we iron out the trade possibilities.

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  26. Devenski’s stats are pretty gaudy but he is 24 and has never had a season like this before. In 2013 David Martinez was 13-2 at CC and never amounted to much in the show. I certainly can see Devenski getting promoted to Fresno but the leap to the Astros from AA for him is not as high potential as McCullers and Velaszuez.

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    • I’m also hesitant to get too excited about Devenski at this point. But let’s get him up to Fresno. It’s not like there are a bunch of starters there turning heads.

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  27. How can Jacob Nottingham look so good at his age(20)? Can he really be a catcher who can hit? How did he last till the 6th round? What’s the catch?
    How can Brett Maverick Phillips look so good at his age(21)? Is he really that good and that fast? How did he last till the sixth round? What’s the catch?
    How can AJ Reed look so good at his age(22)? Does he really have the power he is showing to go with a .328 batting average and 55 walks? Is he really going to be a bomber first baseman? How did the a guy with this kind of power not get drafted in the top 10? What’s the Catch?

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    • We can hope that these players retain their current level of skills as they move through the minors and eventually on to the major league club.

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    • I ‘catch’ the sarcasm, OP1. And I agree. The catch is there is no catch. I get totally confused by the negativity our prospect-shy Eeyores keep expressing. If they are talking about Teoscar Hernandez or Nolan Fontana, or even Mark Appel, I get it. Those guys have potential, but just aren’t performing in real time. But we are talking about Devenski here – and the guys you mentioned. I personally fail to see the reason for pessimism.

      When we have guys in the minors who truly excel – indeed, dominate at their levels of competition and against guys their age and older – we have every right to be encouraged and even excited. That’s why we have a farm organization in the first place – to develop really talented players and promote those who rise to the occasion. Does success at the MiLB level that mean all those who look good at the lower levels are automatically going to be superstars at the MLB level – or even be better than the guys we are putting on the field now? Not necessarily. There are never any guarantees. But there is certainly a whole lot greater likelihood that a guy who has blown the competition away at the minor league levels will compete well at the MLB level when he gets a chance than there is that the guys who are presently playing will play on forever – or that a guy who hits around the Mendoza line consistently is going to one day wake up and start competing for a batting title, an RBI or HR crown, or an All-star nomination. Every player we have – even Springer, Altuve, Correa, and Keuchel – is eventually going to be replaced by somebody, sometime. Fortunately, guys are constantly coming up from the minors to replace guys on the major league squads. Guys that don’t perform at an excellent level will need to be replaced as soon as somebody who has consistently performed better at the MiLB level comes along. And the ones who come up and do well are usually guys who tore up the leagues they played in along the way. Consider me Tigger, not Eeyore.

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      • Bill, believe it or not, my comment had nothing to do with Devenski or sarcasm. I was looking at the Astros farm boxes from yesterday and after looking up the three players’ individual statistics, I was in awe. Here are three different players from three different draft classes that are all tearing up their leagues for the Astros and all three players appear under rated and under drafted.
        If you went to every major league team’s pipeline, they might have one guy putting up these numbers and they would most likely be high draft picks. We have these three and then we also have Kemp, Tyler White and Heineman who are also outperforming their drafts. It’s pretty amazing.

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    • Then again, Kemmer, 21st round is producing in AA ball. Devenski, 25th round is lights out in AA. White, 33rd round! He’s also producing. You never know!

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  28. So, looking in my twitter feed I see a JJO tweet (someone retweeted…I assure you I do not follow him) saying this morning the Astros FO discussed inviting Carli Lloyd to throw out another first pitch. Look, you can praise them for (hopefully) making everyone else look like fools on the Sheriff, Maverick, and Reed. You can suggest us idiots eat crow on the Cosart trade. However, I can’t drop my cynacism when such an invitation needed to be discussed and wasn’t just extended*. In fact, I think they should give certain people a golden ticket to come down and throw out a first pitch whenever they want.

    * Note – this could simply be caused by poor reporting/writing in 140 char limit

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    • Dan, head scratcher especially since our lefty pen guys have been a bit suspect as of late. Maybe this is the first small transaction leading up to a multi team extravaganza!

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    • dan, awhile back we had a similar transaction and if i recall correctly the money was part of a teams international allotment, making our pool a bit larger. i don’t know if this is the case here, but cash only doesn’t make sense, given his stats. adding to the allotment might. it may be that daveb is right and its just the first domino.

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    • Yes! He was rule V eligible. He doesn’t throw harder than 87 MPH and that won’t work in a major league bullpen. It worked fine in the minors but he wasn’t going to fit into the plan or plans. Somebody wanted to try him out and we got something for him that was better than nothing.

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  29. This just in – the Tigers claimed Mark Krauss on waivers from Tampa Bay to fill in for Miggie for six weeks. I just threw up in my mouth a little.

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