CHICAGO -- With the Seattle Mariners announcing Tuesday they were bringing in the fences at Safeco Field, the American League West -- the Astros' new home next year -- has become a little more hitter friendly. But could the Astros follow suit and bring in their fences, too?
As of now, there are no plans to change the Minute Maid Park configuration or remove Tal's Hill, the embankment in center field that leads up to the center-field wall, which is 436 feet away from home plate. Astros owner Jim Crane has said previously the team is considering removing the hill, but it's not clear if the fences would be brought in if the hill is gone.
"With all the rebranding stuff, we have our hands full and that's going to be the focus of what we're doing," said Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, referring to the changes being made at the ballpark in advance of the unveiling a new logo, color schemes and uniforms on Nov. 2.
Luhnow said so few balls are hit to the hill that it doesn't come into play too much.
"We have a deep center field and to change that we would have to bring in the fences fairly dramatically," he said. "I think our pitchers like being in a ballpark where there's a deep center field. Between [Brandon] Barnes and [Justin] Maxwell, we have some outfielders that can cover some ground out there, and that's really been a strength of ours."
Luhnow comfortable with Lopez in closer's role
CHICAGO -- Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Tuesday he would be comfortable with Wilton Lopez handling the team's closing duties next season. Lopez took over as closer after Brett Myers was traded and saved nine games, including seven consecutive successful chances entering Tuesday.
"Lopez said, 'Hey, I can do this. Count on me next year,'" Luhnow said.
Lopez, named the team's Pitcher of the Year by the Houston chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, is 6-3 with a 2.20 ERA. Entering Tuesday, he had posted a 1.59 ERA in his last 27 appearances, with three wins, nine saves, three walks and 25 strikeouts.
"If we have an opportunity to improve our bullpen we're going to take it, but I feel extremely comfortable with Lopez finishing games," Luhnow said. "He's a strike-thrower. I love that."
Lopez has the lowest walks-per-nine innings pitched ratio among all Major League relievers with a 0.96 mark (seven walks in 65 1/3 innings). He has issued just three walks since June 1.
Laird looks forward to watching brother in playoffs
CHICAGO -- Astros infielder Brandon Laird will be watching the playoffs a little more closely than the rest of his teammates. Laird's older brother, Gerald, plays for the Tigers, who clinched the American League Central division title on Monday.
In fact, Gerald Laird hit a three-run double in the sixth inning that broke open Detroit's 6-3 win.
"I knew last night he was going to be celebrating, so I haven't talked to him, but I saw the highlights and I saw when he got the bases-loaded double," Brandon said. "It's exciting. Unfortunately, when I got home after the season, we usually go on a fishing trip every year, and the last two years he hasn't been able to do that because he has been in the postseason. That's a good reason to miss."
The older Laird, a 10-year Major league veteran, won a championship ring last year with the Cardinals, and Brandon watched the first two games of the World Series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Laird plans to watch his brother play again this year.
"When I go home, I'm going to see what's gone on and definitely go out there with my family," he said. "They have a good team, so we'll see what happens."