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Crane: Astros trying to trade for starter

BOSTON -- Astros owner Jim Crane, who's in town for the team's series against the Red Sox, said in an exclusive interview Saturday with the club is prepared to pull the trigger on a trade to land a starting pitcher if they can find the right deal. The Astros are likely to acquire a starter, which is not surprising, and Crane said the club is working hard at doing so.

Among the starting pitchers the Astros have checked in on are Scott Kazmir, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake and Jeff Samardzija. Houston's deep farm system puts it in prime position to make a run at landing a starter to bolster a rotation anchored by Dallas Keuchel.

"If we can get the right move, I'm sure [general manager] Jeff [Luhnow] will pull the trigger," Crane said. "He has the ability to do that if he wants to do it. It will depend on what kind of contract it is and how long it is and who it is and what we need, but I know it's something a lot of teams are looking at right now. I'm sure they're working hard at it."

The Astros have been the biggest surprise story in baseball the first half of the season, entering Saturday riding a five-game winning streak and with the best record in the American League. They led the AL West by five games. Crane admitted the team has probably played above his expectations.

"They're believing they can win," he said. "It seems like when we get an injury, the next guy comes in and plays. [Alex] Presley had a couple of hits [Friday] night. I think they're playing as a unit and having fun and everybody is enjoying the streak and where we're at, and hopefully we can continue that."

The team's rise to the top of the standings after suffering 416 losses in the previous four seasons is extremely gratifying for Crane, who took the bold step to tear down the Major League club when he purchased the team and focused on rebuilding the Minor League system for the future.

"As you look back on it, we had a tough decision to make," Crane said. "The ball team was bad and the Minor League system was bad, and to really fix it for the long term and to keep it stocked like we've done, to keep that depth in the system will keep you effective.

"We can't play the full free-agent game like some of the other guys. We can fill the holes like we did this year and bring in a few guys, but we've got to have that farm system deep to be able to compete, and it's working right now."

The Astros, who just started a 10-game road trip that will take them to the All-Star break, won't play again at Minute Maid Park until they face the Rangers on July 17, and Crane is ready to see Houston embrace the Astros in the second half.

"We'd love to get more people out there," he said. "In the Yankees series [last week], we had a bunch of people come out, and we'd like to get more fans out to see how good we are. We'll turn the corner. We've got a few guys hurt and hopefully we'll get those guys back. As we hit the end of the season, we'll get a little stronger with those guys coming back. Hopefully we can hang in there.

"On the Trade Deadline, we're looking at a lot of different options. It's no secret we'd like to get a little deeper on the starting pitching side. The bullpen is solid. We'll get our guys healthy and hopefully make a run."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.
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