9/18/2013 8:10 P.M. ET
Once refined, Carter's raw talent can shine bright
By Gene Duffey / Special to MLB.com
HOUSTON -- Astros outfielder Chris Carter smiled and talked politely with reporters Wednesday afternoon about how he has hit better on the road than at home this season and what it meant to him to play every day for the first time in the Majors.
But he knew the question was coming. Why has Chris Carter struck out 200 times this year? He tries not to think about it, but he knows he can't avoid the subject.
"Everybody's talking about it, but I just try to have good at-bats," he said.
To put Carter's struggles in perspective, he shattered Houston's club record of 145 strikeouts in a season set by Lee May in 1972.
Carter has struck out more than anyone in the Majors this season, leading Chris Davis of Baltimore by 16 and Adam Dunn of the White Sox by 20. Pedro Alvarez of Pittsburgh leads the National League with 177 whiffs.
Some of Carter's other numbers are more respectable: 27 home runs, 77 RBIs and a team-best 64 walks. He knows his .218 batting average needs to be better.
"I don't want to be a guy who either strikes out or hits a home run," he said. "I want to be around .290. I want to be a complete hitter. I've got to get the strikeouts down and the average up."
The Astros wanted Carter for his power when they acquired him in February in a trade with Oakland.
The 6-4, 240-pound Carter hit 16 homers with 39 RBIs in 67 games for the A's last season.
"No one ever said you're the home-run hitter, or anything like that to me," Carter said of joining the Astros. "I try to hit line drives and whatever happens, happens."
Astros manager Bo Porter knows he has a raw talent in Carter.
"If you ask him to go up to the plate and just put the ball in play, would that take away from his raw power?" Porter said. "It's almost like you want to find some kind of balance in between. Do we want him to cut down on the strikeouts? Yes. That's hitting the fastball in the strike zone. If he's able to make that one adjustment, the strikeouts will greatly go down."
Carter has played left field, first base and designated hitter this season, playing in 137 games.
"I'm happier to be playing every day," he said after being used primarily against left-handers with the A's. "I'm trying to make the best of the [opportunity] and be consistent."
Carter, 26, was thrust into a veteran's role with the young Astros.
"At Oakland I was a rookie, one of the younger guys on the team," he said. "Here everybody's younger than me by three or four years. People ask me questions. I try my best to help out when I can."
"You look at this as his first opportunity to play every day," Porter said. "You have to take the good and look at the good. If he's able to finish the season with 30 home runs and 80 RBIs, you say here's a guy who did this in his first full season. But you also see if you have information that you can present to him that will help cut down on the strikeouts.
"Don't change anything with your swing. Don't change anything in your attack of the ball. Just straighten out a couple of aspects of your approach and you may have a 40-home run, 100-RBI guy. He's already a guy who walks."
Martinez admits being nervous in Tuesday's return
HOUSTON -- J.D. Martinez said the fastballs looked as if they were coming in at 100 mph.
The Astros outfielder pinch-hit in the seventh inning of Tuesday night's 10-0 loss to Cincinnati, his first at-bat since being placed on the disabled list with a left wrist sprain on July 26.
Martinez remained in the game in left field and batted again in the ninth inning, flying out to right both times.
"It's been a while since I saw live pitching," he said. "I took a strike in both my at-bats. I wanted to see something. The hardest part is the ball is moving so fast it's tough determining whether it's going to be a ball or a strike.
"I felt a lot better than I thought I would feel. I wasn't nervous. I was confident. The hand didn't hurt at all."
Martinez admitted he was nervous when he took his position in left field for the top of the eighth.
"I felt lost," he said. "Am I supposed to be here? I was nervous on routine fly balls. I was very limited [defensively during rehab]. It was pretty much me and the trainer. We got the machine and took some fly balls, but it's not the same."
It was important to Martinez to get back before the season ended, to show the Astros he can still play.
Martinez is hitting .255 with seven homers and 36 RBIs entering play Wednesday.
"Just to show I'm healthy and ready to go," he said. "Any time you go in the offseason with an injury, there's a lot of questions. 'Will he be ready to play next year?' Just getting at-bats is what's going to matter."
Unfortunately, the Astros have only 11 games left and have seven outfielders on their expanded roster.
"It was good to get him in there (Tuesday), give him an opportunity to get two at-bats and get him out in the field," manager Bo Porter said of Martinez.
How much will he play the rest of the way?
"It all depends on the matchups and who the other team is pitching," Porter said.
Timing with his bat will be the most important thing for Martinez to regain.
"Before, I left I felt like I was hitting the ball in slow motion," he said. "Now, it's kind of a blur. It will come. It's tough to take two months off and get back in there.
"It feels great in the cage. I feel like I'm hitting the ball a lot harder than I was early in the year. I'm antsy to get out there and see if it's going to work. I want to show people I can still make an impact."
Martinez said he will play winter ball for the first time to get the at-bats he lost the last two months, probably in Venezuela or the Dominican Republic.
"Given my situation, I always feel like I have something to prove," he said. "I don't feel like I'm established yet here. I definitely feel I've got what it takes, not that I've proven it."
DeShields' father supports outfield move
HOUSTON -- Delino DeShields, the father of the Astros prospect of the same name, stopped in Houston this week with the visiting Cincinnati Reds.
The senior DeShields managed the Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos in the Southern League this season and will finish the year as a coach for the Reds.
The younger DeShields, Houston's No. 7 prospect and No. 73 overall prospect, played mostly second base in three-plus seasons in the Astros organization, but will be moved to the outfield in the Arizona Fall League.
"He's excited about it, a little more than I am," the elder DeShields said. "He's put a lot of time and hard work into being a second baseman.
"Seeing the process, he was really raw learning a new position. Seeing the hard work he put in. He was just becoming a pretty good second baseman. Ultimately, the goal is to play in the big leagues, whatever position that might be. So, to the outfield we go."
DeShields Jr. played center field in high school, but was moved to second base by the Astros organization after drafting him in the first round in 2010.
"Now, it's whatever is going to get him to the big leagues," his father said. "His offense is what's going to get him there. We all know they signed [Jose] Altuve to a multi-year deal. I don't want to say that sealed his fate. But, you don't want to be sitting behind that guy for another three or four years."
DeShields Jr. hit .316 this season for Class A Lancaster with 25 doubles and 47 stolen bases.
"Whatever is the quickest route to the big leagues," DeShields Sr. said. "I feel like he can play here, especially offensively."
DeShields Sr. played mostly second base with five teams in his 13-year Major League career that ended after the 2002 season. He hit .295 for Montreal in 1993 and stole 56 bases with the Expos in 2001.
Father and son spend part of every offseason working out with his father in Atlanta.
"It's a little different [coaching your son] than one might think." DeShields said. "I'm probably harder on the [other] kids I work with. I still have to be Daddy with him. I can't be all business. I haven't had to force him to do anything. He has a great work ethic. It's been easy."
They talk every day, either by text or phone call. The first thing Dad does in the morning during the season is check the boxscore and see how his son did. It's a daily thing.
"It's definitely harder to watch him play," DeShields Sr. said. "With me, things happened so fast. I didn't have time to think about a lot of things."
DeShields Sr. knows the Astros own an outstanding center fielder in Triple-A named George Springer. That could make DeShields a left fielder. Wherever there's an opening in the Majors is fine with dad.
Gene Duffey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.