Die Hard The Hunter

The Big Hoopla:

Hunter Pence has certainly opened up many eyes and got many tongues wagging in Kissimmee and Houston this month.  Unfortunately it’s gotten to the point where some fans now believe Pence is the second coming of the Messiah. 

From sports radio hosts to newspaper columnists’ blogs, everyone in Houston is on the Hunter Pence bandwagon.  Phrases such as "a five-tool player like Carlos Beltran", "special player", "phenom", and "next super star" are flying all too wildly around Houston right now.  Granted, Pence is hitting for an unbelievable average of .750 so far this spring.  But, Hunter has also stood in the batter’s box only 12 times so far.  The sample is too small to extrapolate greatness or bust from. 

Too many people, fans and reporters alike, are calling for Pence to get a slot on the 25 man roster based on the 12 at bats in 6 games.  No one is thinking of the pressure this will put on a kid who’s at his first major league spring training camp.  Hunter Pence may be 24 years old and possibly ready to play at the major league level, but, I believe as the Astros management appears to do that he needs at least some seasoning at the AAA level. 

Tim Purpura is publicly saying that they want him to get some exposure to better pitching than he’s seen so far in AA, but, my personal belief is that they remember the DWI incident in Phoenix last year and just want to give the kid some time to mature as a person before thrusting him into the limelight of having to perform at the major league level in Houston.

Houston fans may not be as bad as New York or Philly fans as far as booing their own players is concerned, but just ask Morgan Ensberg, Jason Lane and Brad Lidge how they felt as they went from hero to fall-guy in just a few months as they got booed by the fans at Minute Maid Park in 2006.

My opinion certainly isn’t popular with Astros fans right now, but, I do believe as do Tim Purpura and Phil Garner, that Pence needs to start and play regularly in Round Rock in April instead of riding pine in Houston. 

While Pence is getting all the attention, a few of the minor league and non-roster invitee pitchers are quietly making a very strong case for being inserted into the number 5 slot of the Astros starting rotation.  Paul (pronounced Pah-ool) Estrada (3 innings, 0.00 ERA), Matt Albers (4 innings, 0.00 ERA), and Rick White (4 innings, 0.00 ERA) have not only not given up any earned runs, but they have also looked very sharp with good command of their pitches.

Other Astros Notes:

Roger Clemens was once again pitching batting practice to the minor leaguers in the back fields at Osceola County Stadium today.  One non-minor league batter that he pitched to was none other than Astros owner Drayton McLane.  In other Clemens news, he’s expected to attend the Yankees game tonight to lend moral support to Andy Pettitte.

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8 comments

  1. levelboss@levelboss.com

    “In other Clemens news, he’s expected to attend the Yankees game tonight to lend moral support to Andy Pettitte.”

    hmmmm

  2. Rita

    Don’t read too much into it…he’s just probably going to unwind after a long day of pitching for the Astros and Andy must be feeling pressured if he needs moral support.

    I’d read more into the fact that he pitched BP to the Astros owner. He sure hasn’t offered to pitch BP to George Steinbrenner has he? šŸ™‚

  3. levelboss@levelboss.com

    Torre, Jeter, Pettitte, Posada, and Gator can really pour the Gatorade bucket of schmooze on Clemens

    (lol, i’m not reading into this visit too much.. well, a little)

  4. Rita

    Personally, I believe this is just more of the same from the King of “Yanking the Media Chain”. He pitches to Drayton McLane and then is rumored to go see the Yankees play in the evening.

    He knows all the NYC media will be there asking him the same questions and he will give the same answers and it will make the sports headlines in tomorrow’s NYC area papers.

    After a couple of weeks of not having his name in the headlines, he will get it tomorrow.

    I would find it more interesting if after pitching BP to Drayton McLane he doesn’t go to the Yankees game tonight when Andy is pitching.

  5. hchmprdxjj@aol.com

    Good work so far, Rita. I’m still checking in from time to time.

    You know, these people are a fickle thing. Currently, Morgan Ensberg is tearing the cover off the ball in Spring Training. Another HR vs Washington, for example. After a week, people will be praising him again. If he struggles early in the real season, they’ll want him gone.

    Obivously I haven’t seen Pence play personally, but my opinion is he shouldn’t be on the big league club to to open the season. Spring Training numbers are absolutely, in a word, worthless. Meaningless, meaningless statistics. Luke Scott had an amazing 2005 Spring Training. He hit around .400. I wish people would remember how badly he played during the first two months when the game mattered. Pence is likely going to be Scott 2.0 if he starts from Day One.

    Great ST numbers, average to pitiful

    As far as another topic we covered together…Doggie. Hopefully he finds his stick before the group journey’s back to Houston. I had a hard time believing he’d just easily transition from Winter Ball to facing Big Leaguers without a hitch…The talent level jump, even with these pitchers not even at full steam is large enough. But to expect to continue hitting at a .340+ clip is almost impossible.

  6. royosfan@aol.com

    I agree with you. Too much hype for this kid to deal with is not good at this point in his life. He needs to play everyday, and it won’t happen at MMP. They will send him to RR where he can play everyday. Look what happened to Scott the first time they sent him to MMP. Pence will not suffer from his seasoning at the AAA level at RR, and it will help him develop all areas of his life – his ballgame, and his ability to deal with the hype in a mature way.

  7. walto18@aol.com

    Rita,
    Let’s try to be a little more cordial the next time we share are views on the Astros. If you have not read my reply on Chip’s blog please do so if you get a chance.

    You are a knowledgeable baseball and Astros fan and you have a solid blog. During Hot Stove, I often hit up your blog when I trolling for Astros news.

    Nothing I’ll lose sleep over, but your reply to my comment jumped to conclusions that I did not make-and would not make. My reply to your post in the chronicle should have been a little detailed as to avoid confusion, but don’t assume someone is a ***** due to a diffence of opinion.

    Hey, I know my **** about baseball too, especially the Astros. I read, write and think about baseball whenever I am not sleeping. I know there are a lot idiots blogging about the Astros, but believe me, I am not one of them. Anyways I will try to give you the benefit of the doubt when we exchange views if you return the favor.

    -walt

  8. astrobrit@googlemail.com

    Good post. Sometimes its easy to get carried away in spring training. It will be fun to see Hunter Pence in an Astros uniform, maybe in ’08, but not before then.

    Astacio and Rick White have been very good in relief appearances. White would be a good pick to take over from Springer and be the old head in the bullpen.

    http://astrobrit.tripod.com/baseball

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