04/22/2013 2:59 PM ET
Prospects helping Astros through rotation woes
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow admitted Monday that the inability of the team's starting pitchers to work deeper into games in the last week has taken its toll throughout the organization, including Triple-A Oklahoma City, which has shuffled starters to Houston in recent days to provide long relief.
"We can't take too many more hits before we have to go out and make some moves," Luhnow said.
Entering Monday's game against the Mariners, only one Astros starter had pitched into the sixth inning in the team's last six games, with three starters not even surviving the first inning. As a result, Dallas Keuchel, Paul Clemens, Brett Oberholtzer and Jose Cisnero -- each of whom was being used as a tandem starter at Oklahoma City -- have been called up to Houston to provide long relief.
"The Minor Leagues know they're here to support the big league team, and when something happens like what happens to us last week -- that is very unusual where we have three starters who don't get out of the first inning, and that wreaks havoc in the entire system, and the repercussions are felt all the way down," Luhnow said. "Fortunately, having eight starters at Triple-A has actually helped us get through this more easily."
The Astros have been using tandem starters in the Minor Leagues, meaning one starter will begin the game and be followed by another "starting" pitcher. Left-hander Wes Musick and right-hander Ross Seaton have moved into the tandem rotation at Oklahoma City, and Keuchel and Oberholtzer were sent back last weekend after stints in Houston.
"This is unprecedented territory we're in as far as using the bullpen, and we need to dig ourselves out of this hole, and we don't have a day off for a while," Luhnow said. "It's unfortunate Obie couldn't stay longer, but he did what we needed him to do, and we needed somebody that was available for today's game, and so that's why Jose is here.
"It's great these guys get a chance to come up and experience it, and in the case of Paul Clemens, come up and experience it and have success and stay. That's the way you hope the script works. I have a feeling we're going to have a revolving door of starters going back and forth and into our bullpen all year."
Dominguez not in lineup Monday as precaution
HOUSTON -- Astros third baseman Matt Dominguez was given the day off Monday as a precaution. He was hit on the left elbow by a Chris Perez pitch in the ninth inning Sunday and had to be removed from the game.
Dominguez underwent an X-ray Monday which showed no fracture, and that was a huge relief for Dominguez considering he suffered a hairline fracture in the same elbow when he was hit by a pitch on the final day of Spring Training in 2011.
"The elbow's been through a lot, so I'll probably start wearing a pad," Dominguez said. "We'll see what they've got in there. They have stuff to protect me. We'll see."
Dominguez, who's hitting .230 in 61 at-bats this year, was available to pinch-hit and should return to the lineup Tuesday.
"Dominguez is fine," manager Bo Porter said. "I talked to the trainers, and they're going to give him a day. I asked him, and he said he was fine and he can play, but when you take a ball square to the elbow like he took, it's better to be safe than sorry to allow him to get treatment all day."
Porter batting lefty Martinez second against righties
HOUSTON -- Astros manager Bo Porter had outfielder Fernando Martinez hitting second in the batting order Monday for the second game in a row, moving Justin Maxwell -- who had hit second in the 12 games prior to Sunday -- down in the order. He batted seventh Monday.
Porter said he likes to have a left-handed bat in the No. 2 spot against right-handed pitchers. That's because Jose Altuve has been getting on base at such a high clip (.425), and a left-handed stick has a huge hole on the right side of the infield when Altuve is being held on first base.
"Then you have an opportunity to have a lefty who has an opportunity to hook that hole, so you can go from first to third more," he said. "And we're getting Justin into position -- he can drive in runs. That's more so against right-handed pitchers than it would be against left-handed pitchers."
The two spot fits Martinez well because he pulls the ball and is a good fastball hitter. He began the year on the disabled list, but homered on his first swing of the season Sunday, shooting an opposite-field jack into the Crawford Boxes.
Luhnow, scouts considering options for No. 1 Draft pick
HOUSTON -- With a little more than six weeks remaining before the Astros make the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, the team has been sending scouts and members of the front office from coast to coast to see potential top picks.
Like last year, when the Astros took 17-year-old Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa with the top pick, there is no consensus No. 1 overall. The Astros are considering a handful of names, including Stanford pitcher Mark Appel, Oklahoma pitcher Jonathan Gray, Indiana State lefty Sean Manaea and University of San Diego outfielder/third baseman Kris Bryant.
Former Astros players Enos Cabell and Roger Clemens, both of whom serve in an advisory role to the general manager, have been going out to scout players at the request of director of amateur scouting Mike Elias.
"Elias has done a terrific job," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "We're involving not only our entire scouting staff, but different people from the front office. I'll be going out, too. At the end of the day, I'll have seen between nine and 10 of the guys that go in the first round. ... We've been getting a lot of different views, lots of different opinions, and we'll put it all together. It's a decent Draft. There are some good players that are available."
Astros call up righty Cisnero from Triple-A
HOUSTON -- In an effort to have fresh arms in the bullpen capable of working multiple innings, the Astros on Monday recalled right-hander Jose Cisnero from Triple-A Oklahoma City and optioned left-hander Brett Oberholtzer back down after a brief stay on the Major League roster.
Oberholtzer was called up Sunday and made his debut against the Indians, throwing two innings while allowing two home runs. He was recalled after long relievers Paul Clemens (3 1/3 innings) and Dallas Keuchel (2 2/3 innings) worked multiple innings in Saturday's 19-6 loss to Cleveland. Keuchel was sent down after the game.
Cisnero has appeared in three games, making one start, for the RedHawks, going 1-1 with a 9.35 ERA in 8 2/3 innings. He last pitched Thursday, throwing three innings against Round Rock. Cisnero had a terrific year in 2012, going 14-7 with a 3.70 ERA in 20 starts at Double-A Corpus Christi and eight at Oklahoma City.
"When you're looking at your available arms, the last thing you want to do is know that you're short and not do anything about it," manager Bo Porter said. "Cisnero was scheduled to start today at Oklahoma City, so it gives us a guy who's built up as a starter and can be in the bullpen tonight."
Cisnero is expected to provide support in long relief for a bullpen that has had to eat up a lot of innings in the last week. Only one Astros starting pitcher has pitched into the sixth inning in the team's last six games, including three starters who didn't make it out of the first.
"It's my first time in the big leagues and I'm excited," Cisnero said.
• Right-hander Josh Fields threw 30 pitches in the bullpen Monday in Kissimmee, Fla., at about 90 percent intensity. He's increasing his intensity every session and will be facing live hitters for the first time in a couple of days.
• Right-hander John Ely, who began the year in the rotation at Triple-A Oklahoma City before being injured, will undergo Tommy John surgery on Wednesday. It will be performed by Dr. James Andrews, who performed the same surgery on Alex White earlier this month.