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08/18/09 8:34 PM ET
Pudge trade not a white flag for Astros
Club trying to balance competing this season with future
By Jason Grodsky / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- When Roy Oswalt came into the Astros' clubhouse on Tuesday and got word that his batterymate had been traded, the right-hander wasn't exactly sure what to think of the decision to move veteran catcher Ivan Rodriguez. With the Astros 10 games out of first place in the National League Central heading into the series opener with the Florida Marlins, the ace wasn't sure if the transaction was symbolic of packing it in, but he was glad to see the team is looking to find pieces to the puzzle for the future. "I got to the clubhouse and they told me they traded Pudge, and I guess that's the process of trying to build the club for next year," Oswalt said. "That's what I'm hoping they are doing now. There is a time where you have to start rebuilding, and if you wait until the end of the season, you may not get the pieces you need for the next year. I think we still have some dates here where we can get guys that can help us next year, and why not do it now rather than wait and have to go up and bid against somebody in the offseason in a bidding war." The Astros acquired right-hander Matt Nevarez and two players to be named from the Texas Rangers for Rodriguez, a 14-time All-Star. Nevarez is a 6-foot-5, 220-pound flamethrower who, despite a few setbacks due to injuries over the course of his Minor League career, has struck out 126 batters in 107 1/3 career innings at the Minor League level. The 22-year-old owns a 2.83 ERA and nine saves with 50 strikeouts in 34 relief appearances for Class A Hickory. The Astros aren't looking as the move as the first sign of surrender, but rather a good opportunity to stockpile some talent for the future. "This was an unusual deal," Astros owner Drayton McLane said. "If we were interested in changing the total texture of the team, we would have done it before the Trade Deadline ended in July. I think [the players] will understand that if we were trying to change this team, we would have done that back in July." With Rodriguez departed, the Astros will turn to Humberto Quintero and Chris Coste behind the plate. "I think we can climb back into things," general manager Ed Wade said. "We made a trade for a veteran catcher on our club that we felt could provide us with some prospects coming back and at the same point felt we had the coverage from the standpoint of Quintero and Coste and some of the guys down in the Minor League system to cover us." Since moving to within one game of the NL Central lead on June 22, Houston has gone 8-15. "We started sliding a little bit, and we couldn't stop it at all," infielder Geoff Blum said. "It's frustrating, but in the same sense I don't think many people expected us to even be that close to begin with." Still, the team hasn't given up hope on making a final run this season. The Astros have been known for remarkable runs to the postseason in years past. "We're going to miss Pudge, but we've got to keep going," outfielder Hunter Pence said. "I'm not giving up. Crazy things can happen. You never know. Maybe some of the other teams can go into a funk, and we can get hot. Crazier things have happened and we have the talent to do it."
Jason Grodsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.