06/10/10 4:48 PM ET
Astros sign nine Draft selections
By Owen Perkins / Special to MLB.com
Assistant general manager and director of scouting Bobby Heck announced the following have agreed to terms with the Astros organization: Robert Doran, a fourth-round pick from Texas Tech, Jake Buchanan (eighth round, North Carolina State), Thomas Shirley (ninth round, Xavier University), Kyle Redinger (11th round, Cedar Crest (Pa.) High School), James Robinson (12th round, Georgia Tech), Christopher Wallace (16th round, University of Houston), Alexander Sogard (26th round, North Carolina State), Ryan Cole (34th round, St. John's University), and Bryce Lane (41st round, Gulf Coast Community College).
Of the nine new signees, two are from Texas, including Doran, who hails from Flower Mound, and Wallace, who makes his home in Cypress.
Terms of the contracts were not disclosed.
Astros to mark no-no anniversary in NY
DENVER -- When the Astros return to New York for Interleague Play on Friday, it will be seven years to the day that the team carved out a place in the record books by throwing an 8-0 no-hitter against the Yankees while using six different pitchers.
"Any time you play in a no-hitter, history is being made," said Geoff Blum, who played third in the game. "To be a part of it is pretty exciting, especially in old Yankee Stadium. I made the only error, and Roy [Oswalt] left the game after the first inning when he got hurt."
Oswalt came out after warming up before the bottom of the second, having aggravated a groin injury that would ultimately land him on the disabled list. He was followed on the mound by Peter Munro (2 2/3 innings), Kirk Saarloos (1 1/3), Brad Lidge (two), Octavio Dotel (one), and Billy Wagner (one). They combined for 13 strikeouts and three walks.
"At that point, our bullpen was incredible. That was one of the strengths of the team," Lance Berkman said. "Obviously, whenever Roy starts, you want him to pitch, because he's Roy. But I don't remember feeling like, 'Oh man, Roy's out of the game, we have no chance.' The bullpen we had -- with the last three guys especially, Lidge, and Dotel, and Wagner -- it was like there's a great chance once we got through the sixth inning that it was going to be a no-hitter."
Berkman homered off Yankees starter Jeff Weaver in the third inning to make it 4-0 and made a diving, tumbling catch in the fifth inning on a hump-back liner from Alfonso Soriano to preserve a no-hitter that no one realized was happening at that stage.
"It was kind of a weird game, because when there's that many pitchers, you sort of lose [track]," Berkman said. "If there's one guy throwing a no-hitter, everything builds and everybody knows, 'Oh, there's a no-hitter, don't talk to the guy.' But I just remember it kind of dawned on me about the sixth or seventh that hey, the staff has a no-hitter. The pitchers didn't [know]. Even Jimy Williams, who was managing at the time, made a comment that he looked up in the eighth, and he was like, 'Wait a second, we've got a no-hitter going!'"
DH role will offer Astros more chances
DENVER -- As the Astros' lineup continues to heat up at the plate, the upcoming six games in American League parks give manager Brad Mills an excellent opportunity to get his bench players in on the action with the use of the designated hitter.
Mills was not ready Thursday to reveal his plans regarding a specific player or players to slot into the designated-hitter role, but whether it's a chance to give starters a break from the field or simply give his bench players a shot at getting a handful of at-bats in a game in the DH role, the Yankees and Royals series should afford Houston a chance to spread its contagious hitting beyond the everyday players.
"We have talked about some things as a staff that we're going to utilize," Mills said. "We're going to run some ideas by some players. The staff has some ideas, and I've got some ideas, and we'll go from there. What I'm looking forward to is being able to get guys like Jason Michaels and Cory Sullivan and Geoff Blum a couple at-bats."
With a .287 team average in June entering Thursday, second best in the National League, the Astros had surged to win eight of their past 11 games, making it hard for Mills to fix what isn't broke.
"Pedro Feliz is swinging the bat well, Tommy Manzella has come up with some hits the last few days," Mills pointed out. "With Michael Bourn and [Hunter] Pence and [Carlos] Lee in the outfield, it's tough to get these [bench] guys some at-bats. So I'm looking to get another bat in there, but to get these guys specifically some at-bats, because these guys are important to us down the road coming off the bench."
Astros' Sampson edging closer to return
DENVER -- The Astros are putting together a rehabilitation schedule for reliever Chris Sampson, who has been on the disabled list since June 1 with right rotator cuff tendinitis.
Sampson was scheduled to throw a side session Thursday in Colorado, and if all goes well with the session, he'll be a step closer to going out on a rehab assignment.
"We'd like to have him throw a simulated game," said manager Brad Mills. "His first appearance, it's not in stone yet, but I think it's going to wind up being in [Double-A] Corpus Christi, and the second appearance, I think, is going to be in Iowa for [Triple-A] Round Rock. We'll get it ironed out after he throws his side today."
Sampson has pitched in 22 games for the Astros this season, posting a 6.30 ERA over 20 innings. He has struck out 10 while walking seven and posting a .313 opponents' batting average.
Reliever Lopez coming up clutch for Astros
DENVER -- Nearly lost amidst the eight-inning gem by starter Felipe Paulino and the 10th-inning grand slam from Carlos Lee in the Astros' 6-4 win over the Rockies on Wednesday was another clutch outing from reliever Wilton Lopez.
Lopez, who pitched a scoreless 10th inning in the victory, has allowed just one run over his past nine appearances spanning 8 2/3 innings, posting a 1.04 ERA in the stretch. He has stranded all 14 of the runners he's inherited this season and has been a pitcher manager Brad Mills can turn to in virtually any situation.
"He's made for that type of work," Mills said before Thursday's finale of the four-game set in Colorado. "He's got the stuff to be a starter, like they've tried to make him in the past. But in our view, here's a guy that loves to be out there on the mound. He wants to pitch every day, even though his stuff kind of goes down after a couple of days. His velocity drops and his stuff that he's got seems to diminish a little bit.
"So we give him a day off, and he comes back and throws two more innings. He just loves to be out there. When you've got a guy that loves to be out there with the stuff that he has and that power sinker, he fits into that role real well. Knock on wood, it will continue."
Lopez made two starts for the Astros in 2009, and 15 of his 29 appearances at Double-A Corpus Christi last year were starts, but his other 144 professional appearances have all been from the bullpen, and he has embraced the opportunity to come on in the clutch for the Astros.
"He just loves to pitch," Mills said. "He's got a great attitude, a great demeanor about him."
According to Elias, Astros slugger Carlos Lee is the first player in Major League history to hit three career extra-inning grand slams. He has hit two for the Astros, who have a total of four, including one each from Bob Aspromonte in 1963 and Eric Anthony in 1992. ... Wednesday's game-winner was Lee's second extra-inning slam against the Rockies, both coming in games started by Aaron Cook. Lee went deep on Brian Fuentes in the 11th inning on June 28, 2007, to give Houston the win at home. Craig Biggio recorded his 3,000th career hit earlier in the same game.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.