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Article - Purpura seeks offensive improvement

Discussion in 'Houston Astros' started by TMac#1, Aug 27, 2006.

  1. TMac#1

    TMac#1 Member

    May 31, 2006
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    PITTSBURGH -- Entering play on Sunday, the Astros trailed St. Louis by seven games in the National League Central Division and were five games behind Cincinnati in the NL Wild Card race.
    They are hoping to make a run to grab a playoff spot.

    "The beauty of this game is, you keep going after it every day," Astros general manager Tim Purpura said. "Luckily, no one is running away with our division, and nobody is running away with the Wild Card. We find ourselves here at the end of August, and we still have a chance."

    That said, he is already making plans for 2007, and the offensive struggles of the Astros are very much on his mind.

    "We think that the talent that we have is good," Purpura said. "We think that we've got guys who can hit and should hit, but they just haven't done it in the opportune situations that we need them to do it in."

    Houston should be very active in the offseason pursuing trades and free-agent signings.

    "There is no doubt about it," Purpura said. "Frankly, in the last offseason, we looked at a lot of options and opportunities, and one of the struggles that we had was we were so tight from a payroll point of view, we were really locked into some long-term contracts. People like Jeff Bagwell -- we didn't know whether he'd be able to come back or not.

    "This upcoming offseason, we should have more flexibility, payroll-wise, to do things trade-wise or free agency-wise, and I think that's the primary objective: to upgrade the offense while maintaining and keeping the pitching stable. That's the tough part of any GM's job. You know you just can't focus on one area; you have to look at offense, you have to look at defense and you have to look at pitching.

    "We're going to continue to hopefully be strong, pitching-wise. We've got some good young talent in the organization, if we can develop them and get them on the big stage here to help us out -- guys like Jason Hirsh and Wandy Rodriguez -- and then we can add some key free agents. I think we should continue to contend, and that's our goal. We don't want to be a rebuilding club -- we want to be a club that retools every year add some pieces and continues to get better."

    The rumor mill has the Astros in hot pursuit of potential free agent Carlos Lee, who owns a 100-acre ranch outside of Houston and is believed to be seriously interested in the Astros.

    Lee has decided to stay with his original agent, Adam Katz, but that development likely will have little effect on the Texas Rangers' quest to re-sign him. Rangers officials, in acquiring Lee from the Brewers on July 29, understood that the player would command a significant long-term contract, regardless of who represented him.

    The Orioles, Cubs, Cardinals and Giants are among the other clubs expected to show interest in Lee.

    While not naming names, Purpura indicated offense is the priority.

    "Obviously, I can't talk about players under contract to other organizations," Purpura explained. "But certainly we're going to look at the free-agent market closely and see who's out there and see who fits for us. We need power and production. We've got to drive in runs, and we've got to get guys who can hit the ball out of the ballpark."

    Lidge in the mix: The Astros have been going with closer-by-committee because of the problems Brad Lidge has encountered lately.

    Lidge is among the league leaders with 27 saves, but he's blown five save opportunities and has an ERA of 5.25. He had a 2.29 ERA and 42 saves last year in 70 games. His 89 strikeouts lead all Major League relievers.

    Lidge has shown signs of late of getting back in the groove. He struck out the side on Saturday night for his 27th save, and he has recorded seven strikeouts in his last three outings.

    Astros manager Phil Garner is encouraged by Lidge's recent showings.

    "I think it's location with him," said Garner. "It's getting ahead in the count. He's had several stretches where he's been unhittable. He had a stretch just before the most recent problems that he had where he saved 11 in a row. He's given up a few hits and he's given up some runs, but the balance of the year has been pretty good."

    Garner would not commit to installing Lidge as the primary closer.

    "I would consider it," Garner said. "But let's see how we go."

    Big kids: Lance Berkman and Lidge found a nice diversion on Saturday afternoon in a Pittsburgh sports card and memorabilia shop.

    "I collected cards when I was a kid," Berkman said. "I collect in spurts. Sometimes it's hard, because it's hard to be inconspicuous in a card shop."

    Berkman was able to pick up some nice stuff.

    "Yeah, I got a Mickey Mantle and a few other cards that I've been looking for," Berkman said. "And I had to get the Phil Garner card. He had the big push-broom mustache going, and one of my goals is to get a baseball card of everybody that I've either played with or [who] has managed me."

    Lidge is also a baseball card aficionado. And he made an interesting purchase.

    "I got a Lou Gehrig 1933 Goudey card," Lidge said. "It's kind of my one fun card for the year. I kind of splurged on it a little bit, and maybe I'll do that once a year."

    On deck: The Astros have an off-day on Monday before opening a three-game series at home against Milwaukee. Right-hander Roy Oswalt (10-8, 3.23) will start for the Astros on Tuesday night. The Brewers will counter with righty Tomo Okha (4-3, 4.42).

    George Von Benko is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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