7/2/2014 1:49 A.M. ET
Astros plan to be 'aggressive' internationally
By Brian McTaggart and Mike Vernon / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- Astros director of international Oz Ocampo will be in Venezuela on Wednesday for the start of the international signing period. He will then head to the Dominican Republic with hopes of signing some young talent, general manager Jeff Luhnow said.
The Astros once again have the largest pool of money to spend internationally at $5,015,400, and Luhnow says his club plans to be "reasonably aggressive."
"We're hoping he comes back from both of those locations with agreements with several of what we believe will be the top players in this year's class," Luhnow said. "It's a good class. It's deep and has got pitchers, position players. I'm excited about it. I think we're going to add a lot of depth to our system this year."
A 16-year-old international player is eligible to sign with a Major League team between Wednesday and June 15, 2015, if the prospect turns 17 before Sept. 1 or by the completion of his first Minor League season. Additionally, any prospect who is already 17 or older and has not previously signed a Major or Minor League contract; resides outside the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico; and has not been enrolled in a high school or college in the U.S., Canada or Puerto Rico within the previous year is eligible to sign during the period.
There are also specific signing guidelines each team must follow, including penalties for exceeding spending limits.
Luhnow said offers will be made beginning Wednesday, and agreements could be reached quickly in what has been described previously as a free-for-all.
"Once you sign them, it's a matter of submitting it to Major League Baseball," Luhnow said. "There are some kids that can't sign until they turn 16, and that would be in later July or August, for the most part. The ones that are 16, you'll see a lot of the top guys signed on July 2 or July 3, or right around then. We plan to be a part of that this year."
Bass closing in on return to Astros' bullpen
HOUSTON -- Anthony Bass is back in Houston after his rehab stint at Class A Quad Cities.
Bass, a right-handed reliever, has been on the disabled list since May 11 with a right intercostal strain. He threw two rehab innings for Quad Cities on Sunday, allowing two hits and two runs, and his return to the Astros is imminent.
"He's here with us, he's ready to go," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "It's just a matter of right now we feel the extra lefty is more important. Bass was not able to pitch today anyway given that he was able to pitch two days ago. The soonest we'd be able to activate him would be tomorrow, but again, I think having three lefties in the bullpen for this series is more important for us."
Bass had appeared in 15 games for the Astros this year, going 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA in 18 innings. He allowed 17 hits and nine earned runs with five walks.
Altuve hoping latest hot streak boosts ASG totals
HOUSTON -- Jose Altuve will send his cleats to Cooperstown as the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum asked for the pair he wore on Sunday when he registered his fourth consecutive multi-steal game.
Altuve was the third player to ever accomplish the feat, with the most recent being Ray Chapman in 1917, and Bill Dahlen was first in 1904.
"I couldn't believe it," Altuve said. "It's an honor for me. Maybe one day I can see my shoes there."
While Altuve talked about the honor, he also answered questions about his slightly-swollen elbow after it was hit by a pitch in Monday night's game. The seam imprints were still visible on his arm, but he said he was good to go for Tuesday's game.
The toughness and history boosted him in the All-Star voting, as Altuve was fourth in the American League voting for a second basemen, behind Robinson Cano of the Mariners (2,474,924), Ian Kinsler of the Tigers (1,603,185) and Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox (1,477,800).
Altuve lead the Major Leagues with 116 hits and the American League with 37 stolen bases and a batting average of .344 entering Tuesday's game.
Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- online or on a mobile device -- using the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian until Thursday, July 3, at 10:59 p.m. CT. The 2014 All-Star Game will be played at Target Field on Tuesday, July 15.
Fans may submit up to 25 online ballots, but they can also earn a one-time bonus of 10 additional online ballots. To access these additional online ballots, you must be logged into your MLB.com account when you submit any online ballot. If you do not have an MLB.com account, register on the site in accordance with the enrollment instructions for a free MLB.com account.
Fans this year once again can participate in the Home Run Derby Fan Poll. Fans will have the opportunity to select three players in each league who they would most like to see participate in the Gillette Home Run Derby. The 2014 Home Run Derby will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN HD, ESPN Deportes and ESPN Radio in the United States beginning at 7 p.m. CT on Monday, July 14.
The 2014 American League and National League All-Star teams will be unveiled on the Taco Bell All-Star Selection Show on Sunday, July 6, beginning at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN, with further details to follow on MLB.com. Immediately following the announcement of the AL and NL All-Star rosters, fans can begin voting to select the final player for each league's 34-man roster via the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote Sponsored by Experian. Fans will cast their votes from a list of five players from each league over the balloting period.
And the voting doesn't end there. The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote Sponsored by Pepsi, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the overall vote that determines the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 85th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
Fowler placed on 15-day DL with intercostal strain
HOUSTON -- After missing four games with a right intercostal strain, the Astros placed outfielder Dexter Fowler on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday.
Manager Bo Porter has emphasized that he didn't want or expect to Fowler to go on the disabled list, but the team decided it was the best move to make Tuesday. General manager Jeff Luhnow said Fowler met with the doctor Monday night, and the team realized the team needed to be more careful with the injury than they originally thought.
Anthony Bass has been out since May 11 with a similar injury.
"It was going to be another seven days before he was going to be able to even have a chance to play in a game," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "Add that to the four days we already had, you're talking very close to 15 days."
Fowler had started 75 of Houston's first 80 games this season prior to the back issue, however, this is his second extended absence of the season after a stomach issue kept him out for four games back in April.
He was batting .270 with six homers and 24 RBIs this season.
Astros call up Hernandez to bolster infield
HOUSTON -- One night after knocking in four runs for Triple-A Oklahoma City, Enrique Hernandez ditched the RedHawks uniform for the Major League variety.
Hernandez was called up along with outfielder Domingo Santana and left-handed reliever Kevin Chapman for Tuesday's Astros game against the Mariners. On Monday night, the Astros optioned struggling shortstop Jonathan Villar to Triple-A Oklahoma City and Hernandez' was the corresponding move.
The 22-year-old utility infielder who goes by Kiké, short for Enrique, went 3-for-5 with a home run, two doubles and four RBIs in Oklahoma City's 10-6 win over Colorado Springs. He's hitting .337 with eight homers and 31 RBIs in 67 games for the RedHawks.
"Kiké has been one of our best hitters in the Minor Leagues," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "He sees himself as a super utility, we see him as a super utility."
Hernandez is from Puerto Rico, but that didn't stop his family from catching a flight to Houston for Tuesday's game.
Hernandez was able to deliver in front of his family, knocking the first two hits of his career -- an RBI double and a single in Tuesday's 13-2 loss.
"As soon as I got to second and turned around and saw that my family was on the big screen," Hernandez said, "and those faces, the emotions that they were showing, that's the moment that I'll never forget about."
After being called up, Santana makes first start
HOUSTON -- As Domingo Santana stood in the dugout before the Astros started to stretch, his former Triple-A Oklahoma City teammates wouldn't let it slide. This wasn't about him crying last night, either.
"Take your cleats off," George Springer barked over and over.
Jon Singleton and L.J. Hoes stood watching Springer call out Santana for wearing the wrong kind of shoes for the afternoon warm up.
"You don't have turf shoes?" they asked.
From noon on, Tuesday felt more like a reunion than your typical pregame routine of batting and fielding practice. Santana, the 21-year-old slugging outfield prospect, is the third top prospect the Astros have called up since-mid April. The other two, Springer and Singleton, were the guys ribbing him for wearing the wrong shoes to warm up.
Santana was called up when center fielder Dexter Fowler went on the 15-day disabled list with a right intercostal strain. Fowler's time on the DL is retroactive to June 27, when he was originally scratched from Houston's lineup. His replacement, Santana, was hitting .304 with 13 homers and 51 RBIs through 84 games for the Redhawks. He started in left field Tuesday and hit eighth between Chris Carter and Marwin Gonzalez.
"When those opportunities are available, it's nice to reward a player who has been playing well," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "If we're going to bring him up, let's give him a chance to play. He'll get some at-bats. That's the idea. We didn't really bring him up to put him on the bench."
The Astros flew Santana in, along with infielder Enrique Hernandez and left-handed reliever Kevin Chapman. The plane carrying the three Astros prospects landed at noon and delivered an additional glimpse of Houston's future.
Hernandez replaced infielder Jonathan Villar, who was optioned to Triple-A, and Chapman was called up to replace Jerome Williams, who was designated for assignment.
After Oklahoma City's game last night, RedHawks manager Tony DeFrancesco called the team together for what appeared to be a routine meeting. Then he decided to let the three players know they would leave to play in the Major Leagues the next morning.
"He just started pointing at people, and I was one of them," Santana said. "I couldn't believe it. I thought he was joking around."
Only this was no joke. Santana was soon on the phone with his parents, including his crying mother and jubilant father. That's when the emotion took hold.
"There were just tears coming out of my eyes," Santana said. "They were all crying and I started crying too. I didn't know it was going to come this soon."
Santana, one of four players acquired from the Phillies in the 2011 blockbuster deal that sent Hunter Pence to Philadelphia, had been playing right field and is the last of those four players to reach the Majors.
In Tuesday night's 13-2 loss, Santana came up empty at the plate, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. He reached base once on an error.
"It was a tough game for me, but I really enjoyed playing on a different stage," Santana said after the game. "It felt great."
Astros sign Fisher, Draft's No. 37 overall pick
HOUSTON -- The Astros announced the signing of outfielder Derek Fisher, the No. 37 overall pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, on Tuesday.
He was introduced at a press conference later in the afternoon before taking batting practice with the team. He'll primarily be a left fielder at short-season Tri-City.
"This is something I've been waiting for," Fisher said. "I'm excited to get started."
Fisher was a Competitive Balance Round A selection for the Astros out of Virginia, where he was the Cavaliers' No. 5 hitter on a team that went to the College World Series finals. The 20-year-old Fisher hit .281 with 30 doubles, 12 triples, 17 homers and 127 RBIs in three years at Virginia. MLB.com ranked the left-handed hitter as the No. 26 overall prospect in the 2014 Draft class.
MLB.com's Jim Callis reported that Fisher's bonus is $1,534,100, which is the full value for pick No. 37.
For the Harwich Mariners of the Cape Cod League last summer, Fisher hit .333 with 13 steals, 25 walks and 19 strikeouts in 36 games.
"Derek brings to our organization a hard-to-find blend of major college track record and physical upside," Astros scouting director Mike Elias said in a statement. "He's a big, strong kid with a good swing, outstanding bat speed and a plus running tool. His accomplishments at Virginia and on the Cape Cod League speak to his hitting ability, and we think his power-speed combo will continue to blossom in the pro game. He's a potential middle-of-the-order left-handed bat."
The Astros have signed 36 of their 41 selections from the Draft, but the No. 1 overall selection, Brady Aiken, remains unsigned.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. Mike Vernon is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.