8/17/2013 12:42 A.M. ET
Harrell regaining command in long relief
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Right-hander Lucas Harrell, who was the Astros' best pitcher a year ago, appears to be settling into his long-relief role. Harrell pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings Thursday in Oakland and picked up in the win in relief with a scoreless inning Wednesday.
"It's something I needed," Harrell said. "I've been really struggling, I've been missing over the plate a lot with some pitches, and just to get back to what I was doing last year and pitching inside more and working in my other pitches when I need it. I kind of got in a rhythm the other day, and I felt like I was throwing the ball better than I had been in the past month. It was definitely good for me."
Harrell hasn't been a regular fixture in the rotation since July 5 in Arlington, when he allowed seven earned runs in 3 2/3 innings. He made 20 starts for the Astros this year, allowing two or fewer runs 11 times.
"Little by little, I'm getting more used to [pitching out of the bullpen]," Harrell said. "It's one of those things I'm just trying to do what they've asked of me in the role they put me in. I'm getting used to trying help the team out to gap the innings between the starters and the back end [of the bullpen] and hopefully help us win games."
Harrell would like to return to the rotation at some point, but the Astros have been using a six-man rotation for the past two weeks and aren't in need of a starter. Astros starters have posted a 3.65 ERA in the team's 23 games prior to Friday's start by Brad Peacock.
Springer likely to finish out Triple-A season
ANAHEIM -- It's the question Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow gets asked every day: When is top prospect George Springer coming up to the Major Leagues?
Luhnow said for the first time Friday that the outfielder would stay at Triple-A Oklahoma City for the rest of its season, which could include a trip to the playoffs. Whether Springer gets called to Houston afterward remains to be seen, but don't expect him in an Astros uniform anytime soon.
"The most important thing I want everybody to focus on is he's having a great year, he's a guy that unless something changes is going to be in our outfield next year," Luhnow said. "All this discussion about what day is he coming up is really not that relevant right now. What's relevant is a he's a guy we're excited about, he's having a tremendous year, we're going to let him finish his year at Oklahoma City and make a determination after that as far as how much time's left and whether or not is makes sense to bring him up.
"I see him as a guy who's going to come to Spring Training next year competing for our everyday center-fielder job, and I see him as a big part of our team next year. That's really the message I want our fans to focus on, not worry too much about the date he comes up. There's a lot of factors that go into it, and we'll make the best decision for the organization."
Springer, 23, has split time between Double-A Corpus Christi and Oklahoma City, hitting a combined .304 with a Minor League-leading 34 homers and 99 RBIs with 38 stolen bases entering Saturday. He's the first player in the Minors to hit 30 home runs and steal at least 30 bases since former Athletics farmhand Grant Desme in 2009.
"As a general manger, when the fans are asking when your players are coming up because they want to see them in the big leagues, that's a testament to our scouts and player-development people and Springer himself for doing what he's done this year," Luhnow said.
Luhnow plans to travel to Oklahoma City on Saturday to watch Springer play in person and talk with him, as well as the rest of the team.
"I may come back with a very different perspective than I have now," he said. "Right now, those guys are three games up in the Pacific Coast League division and playing well as a unit. It's a good thing we have going on there and I'd like it to continue."
Luhnow happy to see Cardinals call up Wong
ANAHEIM -- Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow was beaming with pride Friday discussing Kolten Wong, one of the Cardinals' top prospects who was called up to the big leagues earlier in the day. Luhnow was the Cardinals' scouting director when they drafted Wong in the first round in 2011.
"I'm not surprised he's getting the call," Luhnow said. "He's a terrific player and is going to be a great big leaguer."
Luhnow scouted Wong heavily and spent a few days in his native Hawaii getting to know him and his family well before the Draft. It wasn't a safe pick, considering 5-foot-9 second basemen aren't typically first-round selections.
"I took some risks taking him as a scouting director, but if there was a player I felt good about taking that kind of risk on, it was Kolten Wong," Luhnow said. "He still has a long way to go to prove us right, but he's taken that next big step, which is getting a chance to play in the big leagues."
In his 107 games with Triple-A Memphis, Wong batted .303 with an on-base percentage of .369. He swiped 20 bases in 21 attempts this season.
"There were some scouts who thought he was too small," Luhnow said. "I felt good about it. I know no matter what, he had the tools play somewhere in the field, whether second or third, and the bat was going to carry him to the big leagues."
• Outfielder Trevor Crowe, who went on the disabled list June 21 with a sprained right shoulder, was activated earlier this week and optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he had been on a Minor League rehab assignment. He entered Friday hitting .441 with five RBIs during a 14-game hitting streak and was hitting .397 over 17 games since rejoining Oklahoma City.
"I think he's a guy who can help us yet in September, if not before," general manager Jeff Luhnow said.