Cooper, Ortiz clear the air
Astros manager discusses short outing with veteran
HOUSTON -- Astros manager Cecil Cooper tapped pitcher Russ Ortiz on the shoulder prior to Friday's game and summoned the right-hander to his office. The two talked for about 20 minutes in an attempt to clear the air over Ortiz's critical postgame comments from Thursday.
"Me and Coop talked and talked about everything we needed to," Ortiz said. "Now we're moving forward and are both on the same page. That's it."
Upset at being removed from Thursday's win over Washington after three innings, Ortiz said he wasn't given a good reason why he was taken from the game. He also questioned Cooper's communication skills and wondered why the manager doesn't have more confidence in him.
Both men took steps Friday to put the incident behind them. Cooper tried to convince the media it was no longer newsworthy, saying Ortiz was speaking in frustration. Cooper said Ortiz (3-4, 4.44 ERA) will remain in the rotation following the All-Star break.
"Sometimes you say stuff in the heat of the moment that you wouldn't normally say," Cooper said. "We talked about that a little bit. Russ is in our rotation, and he's a guy we're going to rely on. He was one of the six guys in the rotation, and now he's one of the five guys in the rotation. He's a guy we're going to rely on, and he's pitched some good games for us.
"Last night was a game I thought was going to get away from us and we were struggling, and I thought we had a fresh 'pen and that's what we did. He and I talked about all of it, and that's not an issue."
Astros general manager Ed Wade said he stood by Cooper's decision to pull Ortiz after he gave up six hits, four runs, two walks and hit one batter to put the Astros in a 4-2 hole. The Astros got six scoreless innings from a rested bullpen to come back and beat the Nationals, 9-4.
"He had thrown a lot of pitches  and we're down [two] runs and I understand the move," Wade said. "I fully support the decision Coop made last night. I fully support the decision to take him out of the rotation earlier in the season and fully support the decision to put him back in the rotation. I thought all those were the right decisions."
Ortiz, 35, made the team as a reliever, but entered the rotation on April 16. He won his next two starts April 21 and 26 by throwing five innings each. He then worked primarily out of the bullpen before being put in the rotation June 11 after injuries to Mike Hampton and Felipe Paulino.
"I think [Wade] knows that I'm a veteran guy and that I want the ball and want to be here as long as I can," Ortiz said. "Just because I'm frustrated doesn't mean anything except that I'm frustrated. Everything is not going to be perfectly clean as far as how I view things or anybody else views things. Obviously I was frustrated, but like I said, Coop and I talked and we're good and moving forward."
Ortiz said Thursday that Cooper told him earlier in the year he wasn't his type of pitcher because he wasn't efficient enough and walked too many batters. When asked about those comments Friday, Cooper said he doesn't remember saying that to Ortiz.
"But if he said I did, then I did," Cooper said. "I'm the type of manager I like guys to throw strike one, and Russ understands that and he's tried to make an adjustment to that."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.